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College of Business

Accounting graduate excited to support Anderson University’s continued growth

Since graduating from the Anderson University College of Business, Andy O’Brien has practiced accounting in several different types of settings, from small firm to manufacturer. Now, as accounting manager for a global plastics company, O’Brien has gotten the chance to build a team and invest in his employees—pretty much the way his AU professors invested in him while he was a student. He also continues to invest in Anderson University as a member of the Alumni Board. 

How did you discover Anderson University? 

I grew up in the Anderson area and went to T.L. Hanna High School. While I was there, I started to take some English college classes at Anderson to try and get ahead. This experience is what really sparked my interest in Anderson—the small classes, the one-on-one attention with professors, the intentionality. That’s what led me to AU.  

What were your favorite parts of your time at Anderson University? 

I originally started out in general business as my major but quickly realized that accounting was really what I was passionate about. The expertise that accounting requires and the more technical aspect in a specific area of study led me to changing my major to a concentration in accounting. It was great because I started with a group of 15 peers who went through the program with me. Having a small, close peer group in the same field has led to connections in my career beyond college. Because we had a small class size, I've been able to keep up with people a little better than with a bigger major class. 

During my time there, I was able to see Anderson grow into something much bigger than it was when I first began. Seeing different aspects of the university began-new buildings like the library being built, the expansion of the dorms across Boulevard, and just the energy of the vision of the university growing made me excited to be a part of something so great.  

The times I’ve been back on campus for some meetings and other opportunities—I’ve been able to witness just how much the campus and school has grown in a short amount of time. It’s obviously a huge attraction in South Carolina now. It would be hard not to consider Anderson as the perfect place for local students as well as anyone looking for that small town family type atmosphere within higher education. 

Last year Jason Rutland approached me to join the Alumni Board, so that’s what got me plugged back all that AU is doing. As I’ve been back to campus for a few meetings, I’ve been able to reconnect with a few people I went to school with, which has been great. 

I still live in Anderson, only 10 minutes away from campus and work in Spartanburg. It’s been really cool to drive by and show my daughter where her mom and dad went to school. I look forward to telling both of my kids more about my time at Anderson and spend some time as a family at different events.

Tell me about your work. 

For the last six years, I’ve been with the same company, a German company, MOCOM Compounds. At MOCOM, we compound plastic resin and use the resin in injection molds to create different materials. We basically take nylon waste in fabrics and melt it down. Pretty much anything that’s got plastic in it comes from these plastic polymers that we or other competitors make. These polymers can go into automotive materials and we’ve made plastic for tourniquets for the Army. Our biggest customer you’re probably familiar with is the outdoor equipment maker, Stihl. The orange and gray polymers for the backpack blowers are made by MOCOM and sent to Stihl’s molders in Virginia.  

As the Accounting Manager at MOCOM, I am responsible for all of the daily functions in finance. I work for the CFO of the Americas and he and I are responsible for monthly reporting, year-end and month-end closing, reports to banks and managing a small staff that works underneath me.  

What have been some highlights of your career? 

For the past 13 years of my career, I’ve experienced a lot in the finance world. I was in public accounting right after graduating from Anderson for almost a year. The work wasn’t what I wanted to continue, but my supervisor there was very hands-on and taught me a lot. We were a small CPA firm. Being a part of an audit firm, we went on site to different companies throughout the Northeast and I really enjoyed my supervisor taking the time to mold me, taking what I’ve learned from school and making more of a foundation to enhance my career, and helping me understand the ins and outs of different things within specifically audit and tax. After making it through the tax season, I realized that was something I didn’t really want to do. I enjoyed the work, but I didn’t really love this aspect of accounting.  

Taking this job at MOCOM in 2017, I had the chance to build up my staff and  figure out where I wanted to plug in as a manager. In creating my staff, I spent a lot of time reflecting on how I wanted to develop people and help them achieve in their careers while also encouraging them to pursue certain career developments in different things—additional schooling, some certification in order to continue growing in financial and accounting concepts. In my role here, I’m able to touch on a lot of those different functions. I enjoy the teaching aspect and the developing of my staff. I take pride in helping them understand what they’re doing and challenging them to be their best. One of my past interns was even from Anderson University one summer!

I really enjoy that piece of my job-being able to shape a career and help mold someone. I will never take for granted the time my supervisors spent helping make me better and I want to pass that on to my staff and interns. Whether they come to MOCOM and realize accounting is nothing they really want to do or choose to stay in accounting in three or four fields that you can actually go into here, I love being the person that helps them figure it all out. That is one reason I love being in a smaller company.  

One thing I pride myself in is making connections with any and everybody I meet. I quickly realized that in my career, it’s not all about what I’ve learned from professors but also from friends and colleagues along the way. You never know the next time you may need advice or when you may provide advice to others. I’ve learned to be intentional in my relationships, both personal and professional, because having people in your corner as a support system is imperative to a successful career. I wouldn’t be where I am today without so many others who invested in me first. In the past 13 years, I still have people at all my former firms reach out to me for various reasons, just as I have done with others that have given their time to help and develop me. 

It’s interesting… I guess I have that tenure to be asked for advice and so I feel honored. Sometimes people will go back to school and they need a recommendation or they want to change a job and they need an evaluation. I’m definitely honored to receive that call or email or text or whatever it may be. Being a part of someone’s life changing for the better is a great feeling!

What advice would you give someone who is considering accounting or other areas of business? 

If you have any questions, definitely reach out to a professor, someone you may know in the field—even a family member’s friend like one of your dad’s golfing buddies. Somebody is always going to be able to answer those questions. By asking, you have the possibility of advice you can make a decision with-whether it’s going to a school, whether it’s declaring a major, whether it’s going into a specific job field. It never hurts to ask and ask multiple questions. I’m always happy to answer questions and I feel like the people I’ve spoken to about different career moves and professors from different majors remember that. Most people want to help others succeed, so don’t hesitate to reach out to someone in your field! You never know where it may lead. 

What from your Anderson University education has helped you professionally? 

One of my professors who has moved on from his time at Anderson, Kyle Anderson, taught a lot of my accounting classes. Personal Income Tax was one of the first accounting classes I took. I just remember him coming into class and saying “you guys have to learn Excel. You have to let the computer do the work for you. You have to be open-minded to the aspects of technology evolving.” Tax was not my favorite class, but it was interesting and I’ll always remember his advice as I’ve relied on that time and time again in my career. Professor Anderson pretty much threw us into projects to help challenge and push us to learn the content with real life experience. Within the first couple of weeks we were doing tax returns. This was my first time actually doing a return after seeing them many times before in my dad’s surveying business. The first month or so I would say it was sink or swim. He really pushed us out of our comfort zone and I learned so much from that experience. The hands-on learning is something I definitely try to incorporate as I mentor my staff and train them.

In my career, I’ve learned to ask for help when it gets hard or to take the extra time to try to figure out a little bit more before giving up after five minutes. I take that same approach when developing my career and trying to mentor people well. I would say that’s been a lot of help to me. Even going into tax, in that CPA firm, I got my hands on a lot of different things in class that my peers at other universities maybe saw in the last few weeks for an exam while we were doing them from the very beginning.  

That class and Professor Anderson really gave me the shock I needed to realize this field is not easy and not for everybody who goes into it. You always have to be prepared for tough projects in the work environment and tough assignments in class.  

At the end of the day, what really gives you a feeling of accomplishment? 

I just want to come in, do my job and do it well as I lead others to do the same. After working in four different places over the past 13 years, the thing I’ve been most complimented on and proud of is hearing, “We can always depend on Andy to push through and to get the project done. We never have to worry about his team. Everybody pulls their weight.” Leading well leads to different perks, from compensation to bonuses to additional projects to lead. At the end of day, I’m proud that the CEO and CFO for the Americas and even our executive team knows that my US finance team is very capable of any project thrown our way. Even though we’re small, we always get the job done and it’s always done well. 

Do you ever get to travel to Germany?  

I do. We have finance conferences about every other year. I’ve been three different times for some training. It’s a great opportunity to meet other colleagues from all over the world. After traveling to Hamburg several times, I’ve loved seeing how other parts of the company work and how their teams function together. It’s definitely a perk of the job! 

My wife and I both love to travel. We were able to spend about 10 days in Italy last year for a wedding for a couple of colleagues I’ve met by networking within our company at the meetings. We had a lot of fun and met lifelong friends in the end.  

We appreciate you giving back to Anderson University. 

It’s fun for me to be able to give back more, whatever that may look like, to the university. Anderson wasn’t where I was thinking I was going to end up, but it’s been a blessing to see everything work out in my life in the best way possible. My wife and I crossed paths there and my time there is some that I won’t ever forget. It’s awesome to see the growth of the university. It’s something I’m excited about and excited to support!  

Andy OBrien
Andy O’Brien
Graduated from Anderson University: 2010
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Accounting
Title: Accounting Manager at MOCOM Compounds, Duncan, South Carolina