SIPA Member Profile: Perry Can Manage Books and Write Them as Well

Gail Perry, Editor-in-Chief, AccountingWEB (Sift Media)

SIPA: What was your first job out of college and how did you get into this business?
GAIL: Right out of college, I went to work as a bookkeeper for a large law firm in Washington D.C. I had a degree in journalism, but I had worked my way through college as a bookkeeper, and the opportunities seemed better in the bookkeeping field because I had several years of experience. Once I decided I liked the work and was very good at it, it made sense for me to return to school and study accounting. I became a CPA, worked in public accounting for many years, but eventually found my way back to my journalism roots, combining my love of writing with my knowledge of the accounting profession.

Has there been a defining moment in your career? Perhaps when you knew you were on the right road.
There have been several ah-ha moments in my career when it seems clear that I have made choices that work for me. Each job I have held seems to have led to the next in a proper progression. Each time I have changed jobs, I’ve felt like I couldn’t have gotten that job if I hadn’t done everything that came before. So I think my entire work experience has been one ongoing defining moment.

In brief, describe your business/company.
I work for Sift Media. Here in the states, we are a B-to-B company operating two websites, AccountingWEB.com and GoingConcern.com, which serve the accounting profession. The sites are free to readers, and revenue is generated through advertising and cooperative arrangements. Our parent company is located in Bristol, U.K., and the U.S. company was launched in 1999. I oversee the editorial content on both of our U.S. sites, but I am most actively involved with AccountingWEB as the editor-in-chief. We provide daily news and commentary about the accounting profession, with the goal of offering information and insights that will help our readers do their jobs better.

What are two or three important concepts or rules that have helped you to succeed in business?
– Don’t be afraid to try new things.
– Listen and learn.
– In particular, working in the virtual world affords us opportunities to grow and change quickly, so it’s important to be open to new ideas and willing to learn from others as we all experiment in this genre together.

What is the single most successful thing that your company is doing now?
We give our readers a virtual place to share ideas and learn from their colleagues, and we provide them with information that can truly make a difference in their work life. We believe this is what makes our websites stand out from others that are serving the same profession.

Do you see a trend or path that you have to lock onto as we look to 2012?
We explore all of the opportunities that are around us, but we’re not looking for a path that has already been traveled. Rather we want to set the trends and the paths that others will follow.

What are the key benefits of SIPA membership for you and your team?
I’m new to SIPA, but my impression is that the key benefits come from sharing ideas with others, learning from each other and exploring the landscape of Internet publishing together.

Where did you grow up?
I was raised in the Chicago suburbs—Oak Park throughout my youth, and I went to high school in Palatine. I spent part of each summer in northern Wisconsin (Rhinelander) where my grandparents had a cottage that my grandfather helped build. My childhood was idyllic.

What college did you attend? Is there a moment from that time that stands out?
I studied music and journalism at Indiana University in Bloomington. The friends I made in college were the most important part of the experience for me. One moment that stands out was my decision to stop studying music and switch to journalism. Music, it turns out, felt more like a hobby, and I discovered writing was the passion that I wanted to pursue. Later, I went back to school for accounting at Illinois State University. At ISU I was totally focused on my studies and treated school like a job.

Are you married? Do you have children?
Yes and yes.

What is your favorite hobby and how did it develop in your life?
If I had extra time, which I haven’t had for several years, I would probably spend that time making music. I studied flute and also bluegrass fiddle and would like to get back to both of those instruments. I began playing music at age 6 and played all through school and then off and on for several years after I finished school. But I find that I enjoy my work as much as I enjoyed making music, so for now, I’m content to focus on that. In a way, writing is a hobby as well as an avocation. When I’m not working on the website, I’m writing books or writing training material for the courses I teach.

Is there a book you recently read or movie you saw that you would recommend?
I often keep my reading and movie-watching light because it relaxes me. This summer I read the entire Harry Potter collection along with some Michael Connelly mysteries, Pete Hamill essays, and Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help.” I also read a lot of short stories, magazine articles and blogs that have nothing to do with my work. I love movies and will watch just about anything. Most recently, I saw “Midnight in Paris,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Cowboys & Aliens,” “The Change-Up” and “The Debt.”

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“Exploring the landscape of Internet publishing”
describes one important aspect of
SIPA’s upcoming Fall Publishers Conference.
It takes place Wednesday, October 5, at the
McGraw-Hill Conference Center in New York

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the specialized information publishing business
The conversations are in-depth and confidential.
The meeting is limited to the first 35 people who register.
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