By Arial Starks
Katie Payne, Finance Director for Bridgestone Americas, graduated from Vanderbilt University in the spring of 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and Spanish. During her senior year, a then-current Vanderbilt Master of Accountancy (MAcc) student came and spoke to her class about the program. Payne had been interested in the industry since she was a young girl living in Mexico City with her dad, who had a career in public accounting.
“My time there made me know, ‘I want to do this again’,” Payne said. “I wanted the opportunity to someday work for an international company; I wanted that experience and exposure of what comes with these multinational organizations.”
Hearing about all of the benefits of Vanderbilt’s program piqued her interest and she decided to apply. In August 2009, she began the MAcc program. While she did not come from a traditional business background, she says the program proved to be attainable for students from any undergraduate major.
“For me, I think I was a bit of an unusual case in that I did not have any business minor or anything like that,” Payne shared. “My very first accounting course was at Owen, during the Master of Accountancy (program). I took all of the finance, econ, tax, and accounting requirements within that one year, but it was an awesome experience.”
During her time in the program, Payne landed an internship with PwC in Nashville, which later turned into a full-time job opportunity. She started with the firm in September 2009 as an Audit Associate, and within 3 years, Payne was promoted to Audit Senior. In July 2015, she left the firm and accepted an Audit Manager position at Deloitte’s Nashville office.
She was promoted to Senior Manager at Deloitte in June of 2018 and held that position for a little over 3 years before ultimately ending her public accounting career. Payne originally had no intention of staying in public accounting for as long as she did, but she says she found the chance to work for multiple global companies rewarding and fun.
“I ended up staying in public accounting for close to 12 years. What I learned was that there’s the technical piece of accounting which is kind of like a math problem or puzzle, which is fun,” she said.” But more than that, when you are working in these professional service firms, there is this element of teamwork and collaboration that really energized me.”
After leaving public accounting, Payne transitioned into a Senior Manager role with the Nashville-based global tire company Bridgestone Americas in October 2021. One year later, she was promoted to her current position of Finance Director, Order to Cash. While she is no longer in an accounting role, Payne says she is still using the skills she gained during her time at Owen and applied during her time in the Big 4.
“I get to come back to my roots of customer service and client service because it is a client-facing role. But also, we are doing a service for the business,” Payne shared. “We’re doing the billing, the invoicing, and collecting, and what’s been cool is I get to use all of those skills that I learned at Deloitte, but also that technical finance and accounting that is my base.”
Click through the timeline below to see Katie Payne’s path to the promotion—from Vanderbilt MAcc to the Big 4 to Bridgestone Americas.