Lara Sweet, BS Accounting ’97, isn’t the stereotypical accountant. Sweet, who works as the chief accounting officer at Snap Inc., the innovative company behind Snapchat and Bitmoji, has found the perfect balance being artistic, creative, and logical. Sweet is responsible for leading the global accounting and reporting functions.
Sweet grew up in Northern Virginia and jumped at the chance to attend George Mason University. “I was really excited to have the opportunity to go to the same school that my father went to,” she said.
She loved art, writing, and drawing, but once at Mason she thought about the practical applications of an art career and realized she “didn’t have the talent to make that sustainable.” She shifted her focus to another area she excelled in, math, and decided to pursue a business degree with an accounting major.
Her first accounting class showed her the logic behind the process, and she says, “it spoke to me and how my mind worked.” However, Sweet says she knew the way her mind worked was also different from many of the other accountants that she encountered.
During her time in public accounting, Sweet and her colleagues were given the Myers-Briggs personality test, an assessment tool that measures psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. Most everyone scored as an ISTJ (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, and Judgement), also known as the logistician. Sweet scored as an ENFP, (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, and Perception), the exact opposite.
“What I realized was I don’t have to be like everyone around me to succeed, because I think differently and I bring a different skillset to the table,” said Sweet. “I think this is the embodiment of my left brain and right brain working together, where I’m logical, but I’m also very creative and open-minded,” Sweet said. “I really try to dive into understanding a problem and not looking for a solution just because it’s been done that way before. We can do it differently.” This approach to problem solving helped her excel in her career and is a skill she continues to use today.
“When you work for such an innovative product, you have an opportunity to really build a cutting-edge accounting and finance team as well,” she said. “I love the opportunity to build the foundational accounting processes at a fast-paced, high growth company, which is also the thing that challenges me. I need to be thinking five steps ahead when making decisions so I’m implementing things that can grow with the company versus slow it down.”
Sweet said Snap Inc. has continued to inspire her and gives her the “opportunity to not only ask why but also why not?”
This 2017 Prominent Patriot encourages students and recent graduates to ask the same questions in the workforce. “I think that people coming into the workforce now should remember that they own their own fate and they own their future. As they develop, they should be curious and always ask why. But most importantly, don’t wait for others to invite you to ask why,” Sweet said.
That simple question can unlock a world of possibilities, Sweet said. “I love the philosophy of why not?”