Passion for Inclusivity Propels Alumnus Forward

2.14.2024 Accounting, Alumni News, Article
Photo of people in the article

Aaron Brown (MSA ‘12), audit and assurance senior manager at Deloitte, speaks with School of Business Alumni Council member Molly Rutledge (‘04, MSBA ‘20), about his passion for inclusivity, why it’s important to give back and the importance of treating your job just like a class – “do the research, study and put in the time.”

Molly: Why did you choose the Wake Forest Masters of Accountancy program?

Aaron: Wake Forest has a pristine reputation at Morehouse College – not only Wake Forest itself, but the accounting program, in particular When I was considering what I wanted to do after Morehouse, I talked to some of the accounting students at Wake Forest; they raved about their experience, especially the CPA exam pass rate and how the program really prepares you to start a career in public accounting. Wake Forest participated in a college fair at Morehouse, and in turn, I attended an event on-campus for prospective students to learn about the program and take a tour. I fell in love and met some incredible people.

Molly: Did the MSA degree prepare you for your first role?

Aaron: Absolutely! Wake Forest tailors the courses to be responsive to the current times. My professors did a great job, and continue to do a great job, keeping a pulse of what’s going on and bringing it into the classroom. Topics we discussed in class – business evaluations, tax issues that we were facing, auditing matters, fraud, forensic accounting – were all relevant to the market. When I stepped into my job at Deloitte, I felt very prepared.

Molly: Do you have a favorite Wake Forest memory or experience?

Aaron: I wasn’t fortunate enough to be at Wake Forest when the new business school building (Farrell Hall) opened. I was in the “old” building where we had our own graduate student lounge, which I honestly thought was pretty cool. Hanging out in the lounge and interacting with my fellow MSA classmates is a great memory, as is going to tailgates, football games and program happy hours in downtown Winston-Salem. I definitely have fond memories of socializing and networking with classmates and interacting with graduate students from the Law School and the MBA program. Just being able to interact and engage with intelligent, highly skilled, motivated people from all walks of life and all over the world was pretty impressive.

Molly: What accomplishment, either personal or professional, are you most proud of?

Aaron: I’ll share a personal and a professional one. Personally, I think my greatest accomplishment is being a father. I have a very active, bright, jovial, two and a half year old girl, who’s the pride and joy of my life. You get to see yourself through somebody else’s eyes, including things that you can work on. Parenting is not so much parenting the child – it’s more about parenting yourself, growing and developing as a person. So, it has really stretched me.

Professionally, my greatest accomplishment is passing the CPA exam. Wake Forest played a huge role in that, which is why I’m so fond of WFU. Looking at the statistics of CPAs in the United States demographically, as a Black CPA, there’s not that many in the world. Reflecting on being both a CPA and working at Deloitte, I definitely cherish that accomplishment – I don’t take it for granted. I’m always willing to give back, whether it’s to the Wake Forest community or other communities, and to inspire the next generation of Black CPAs.

Molly: You mentioned that there are not that many Black CPAs. I noticed you’ve been involved in the inclusion management development program at Deloitte and that you’re passionate about fostering a culture of inclusion. Can you talk more about that?

Aaron: I like working with students. Coming to Deloitte, I was passionate about recruiting. I always take advantage of the opportunities to speak to students or help students think about their future. On my teams, I’m really big on inclusivity, working together and collaborating; I always try to lead by example. This passion has propelled me into other opportunities at the firm.

At one time, in addition to being a senior manager at Deloitte, I was also the Chief of Staff to the Chief Inclusion Officer for the audit assurance practice. My role was to develop leadership and inclusion programs for our professionals, support them in their endeavors at the firm and provide connectivity amongst our professionals. For me, being able to pair my passion of inclusion with my day job has been an incredible journey and sense of accomplishment. Some of the things that I experienced at Wake Forest – working with people from different backgrounds who have different thoughts and perspectives, collaborating and coming together [whether it was a project for a class or just sitting and talking about each other’s lives] – if I look back at those experiences and sum it all up, that led to my success at Deloitte.

Molly: What is your best career advice?

Aaron: My best advice is to always view yourself as a student. I tell people when they arrive at Deloitte that they should treat their jobs like they would treat classes. Day one: come in, get the syllabus, review it and learn what the objectives are. If there’s a book or content online – whatever the case may be – do the research, study and put in the time. With that formula, you can never fail. You may have mishaps. You may have delays or setbacks. But at the end of the day, if you keep that mindset and have a desire to learn and keep stepping out there on faith and taking risks, it’s going to pay dividends down the road. As we can see in less than a year, so much has changed – ChatGPT is a good example. You must always be on your toes and learn. If you keep the mindset of continuous learning, you’ll be successful.