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312 interviews since 2018

Misty Sudtelgte

Accountant

Who are you, and what do you do? What do you like to do outside of work?

At the heart of my universe, I’m a full-time single mom, hand-in-hand with my nine-year-old son on our shared adventure through neurodiversity. Our world is vibrant, challenging, and endlessly rewarding, shaping our days with unique perspectives and heartfelt discoveries.

Parallel to this, my life is interwoven with academia’s demanding threads. For the past five years, I’ve navigated the realms of full-time study and part-time work (20–30 hours weekly), all while maintaining a GPA that oscillates between 3.5 and 3.7. This balancing act is more than just juggling—it’s a performance that seems to give potential employers the illusion that I have excellent time management skills. I’m not sure how I manage it all, but I think it’s more about luck than time management!

Nestled in the tri-state area of southwestern Iowa, my roots trace back to a small South Dakota town, a mere ten-minute interstate journey away. I’m an ’80s/’90s kid who grew up in a cul-de-sac with other kids, riding our bikes or rollerblading wherever we wanted, traipsing through our neighbors’ back yards or climbing their fences to get to our friends’. We never checked in with our parents throughout the day, we didn’t have phones or wear trackers, and we had one rule: Come home when the street lights turn on (the super late ones, not the ones at like, 8:00 p.m.). In the winter, it had to snow about thirty feet before school got cancelled (not the case nowadays!). We’d spend the entire day outside building mansion snow forts and tunnels to China. Winter was about nine months long during those days.

From early grade school through my late twenties, I was a dedicated performer as a singer and actor. In my teens, I was even scouted a few times at local establishments for opportunities in professional singing, modeling, and acting. When I was seventeen, I won a competition that gave me the honor of singing at the Tommy Bolin festival. I was the hometown NYC-bound star. Now, I’m an accountant. If you’re scratching your head, wondering how that worked out, don’t worry – I still do that too.

I actually fell in love with accounting when I was fifteen. I’d visit my aunt, an accountant, every summer and stay the length. She’d take me to work with her because I always thought what she did was super exciting. I sometimes even helped her with some of the basics. I thought calculating numbers all day was some kind of magical concept. Plus, tapping all day on an adding machine and getting to shred paper seemed pretty legit.

Now, I don’t wanna burst any bubbles, here, but I gotta tell you – that’s not at all what accounting is like in real life!!

The sudden thrust into single motherhood when my son was just eighteen months old was a major turning point for me. I had shifted away from performing long before that time and anyway, part of growing up is learning a bit more about reality. I utilized every resource I could find and was able to get funded for community college, to get my associate’s degree. I was barely a semester in before I decided I didn’t want any closed doors in this field, so I resolved to get my bachelor’s and CPA. I’m studying for the first part of the CPA exam now. I also learned, in that first semester, that ADHD had been my silent co-star for about five years prior. Getting that under control was pivotal for my educational journey, as well as a lot of other aspects of my personal life.

This is where I use the term “neurodivergent.” When you say you have ADD/ADHD, most people think they have a general idea about it, which is usually super wrong. Using the term “neurodiversity” instead of using diagnoses is, to me, like having an umbrella that actually keeps you dry. Not because it simply “works,” but because it’s covering all the space it should. Neurodiversity for my son looks a lot different than it does for me, but the context is the same. His presents as sensory challenges, social barriers, spectral mannerisms and behavior, and academic advancement. He’s extraordinarily artistically creative, but he’s also very scientific. It’s never uncommon to find his toys taken apart, screws misplaced and parts strewn about. Before I understood this about him, it would make me a little angry, mostly from the financial aspect. I had to tell myself that I needed to learn to accept this about him, and that anything I buy – at any price – is with the knowledge that there is a high likelihood it will be destroyed shortly after ownership. With little or no income at times, on state and federal aid, that was extremely difficult for me. I’ve managed to keep that struggle internalized for the most part, and my reward was that I no longer found the screws and missing parts under his bed. Instead, they’re in plain sight. :/ I do recognize that the true reward is that he feels comfortable sharing with me his discoveries and seeing his open enthusiasm is just…so worth it.

I’ve also been able to hone my learning skills. Typing and formatting notes—changing the fonts, colors, arrangement – it not only gives me constant exposure, but I can remember things much easier when I can recall their font and color. This shouldn’t be misinterpreted as a photographic memory, because I definitely do not have that gift! When I need to recall something, my memory can dredge up a general recall of layout, font, and color all squished into one blob, and that will trigger the sparks. Sometimes, it’s remembering if I had the information on the left, right, or middle of the page. Was it in a text box, and what color border did it have? Sometimes I spend hours or days formatting notes only to delete some parts because I know I can remember them without them being in the document. Other times, I feel a need to write. This isn’t often, as the permanent damage from carpal tunnel and De Quervain’s has made this awkward. My handwriting is no longer my own unless I write very slowly, so you can see how having a keyboard capable of magic is extremely helpful in this situation!

I share this in such detail because it’s the core of who I am, how I function, and how I think. I’ve changed into almost a completely new person through my academic journey, and that primarily is due to an acceptance and understanding of myself. I’ve put in a great deal of time and training to accomplish this. I know what I can’t change, I’m comfortable with that, and I’m completely open about this with my employer or in interviews. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed. I know very well that I overcomplicate concepts that are too easy, but wouldn’t you know that constantly being told that by anyone and everyone hasn’t actually changed that? Odd, isn’t it? I’m a thinker. I have to study, observe, and theorize. People assume this means I’m more one side of the brain than the other, but that’s an incorrect assumption. This is where I sum myself up in three words: I’m a hybrid! I’m a split of just about everything you can think of. I need both, want both, prefer both…whatever the thing is, I long ago discovered I’m never one or the other. This should not be taken out of context that I’m greedy—it just means that I have conflicting thoughts about both options, and I don’t think just the one or the other accurately describe me. I’m a Virgo-Libra. Balance is extremely vital to my existence.

I currently work remotely for a state-funded program based out of Nebraska. If you don’t know lots about accounting, there are two kinds: Accounting, and Governmental Accounting. They are two separate universes! That was my second most difficult class, and we all hated it. It was confusing, confounding, and we were all annoyed that very little of the basics of accounting applied. Imagine my shock when I fell into it through a prior internship, and discovered I loved it. It fulfills my need for working and thinking on a complex level. I do lots and lots of budget work, deal with property tax receipts, lease contract analyses, forecasting, do tons of evaluations for the council, etc. And yes, I realize how boring that sounds even as it’s coming out of my mouth, but this is my jam, you guys!

The program helps parents who couldn’t finish high school get their degree. The program’s motto is that if you educate the first generation, they can help the second (their children). It’s all free. They have childcare, they do parenting classes in the evenings, they provide transportation, they have grants for those who want to move to higher education, etc. My Forensic Accounting class taught me that governmental and nonprofit organizations are the most vulnerable to financial fraud. I have deep protective instincts, and with all I’ve seen in this industry, I vowed to only use my powers for good, and that’s what I feel like I’m doing here.

As for hobbies, right now the biggest is carpentry. This started with a need for a small console table, and a refusal to spend $300 on some Wayfair piece of junk. I thought back to my stage time and the forced participation in strike. After the last show, we all had to help dismantle the set and clean. Well, I can definitely tell you I was racing for the dressing rooms so I could be a 1950s cliché, because set deconstruction was boring as heck. But cleaning always went too quickly, and we’d soon find ourselves unwilling participants in strike. I can appreciate the irony, here.

So, I built my console table, and the empowerment and accomplishment I felt after that was roaring. I started diving into more projects, learning from the old dudes at the hardware stores, and my Home Depot people.

Misty Sudtelgte's shadow box craft
Misty crafted this shadow box that's like a little museum

Which brings me to the 411 on HD (Home Depot): I’m like an unofficial guide at HD, pointing lost souls to the light (or the aisle they can’t seem to find). HD and I have done some serious academic bonding, and their moral compass doesn’t seem to be stuck in the Bermuda Triangle. This is a top reason I’ve been such a diehard loyalist for the past seven years or so. I’m a Pro X customer, and I like to stalk their financial statements and stock prices, so I have EDGAR and WSJ on speed dial in my bookmarks bar.

I could never cover all the things I’ve built, but most notable for me are the numerous variations of a loft bed with a swing underneath for my son, and my 3’ x 4’ ottoman that we call The Island (I tell my son he goes inside that sucker during a tornado, cuz that thing is indestructible!). I’m good at what I do. I brainstorm projects, and I never feel unsure if I can execute them and that confidence feels so nice. Ironically, just the other day at HD, a Gen Z’er associate assumed I needed a husband’s advice on my project. Newsflash: no. And in 2024, are we seriously still speculating about women wielding power tools without a Y chromosome?

For the record, I do rock sparkly cowboy boots, adore dresses, and yes, I’m all about that unicorn and mermaid life. I care a lot about my hair, get jelly over the shoes they make only for little girls, and despite my legit efforts to not be a cliché, pink is indeed my favorite color. So this isn’t a case of masculine feminism or whatever silly label the small-minded people want to place on it. This hobby started with a basic need for something, no money, and a determination to figure out how to get what I needed. Now carpentry isn’t just a hobby; it’s my zen. After my first wrist surgery, the moment I could fire up my sander again was like the grand finale at a rock concert. It’s not just about making stuff; it’s also about the peace and creativity it unleashes. I just happen to find that zen in the buzz of the tools.

I’ve also tackled a couple restoration projects: a wardrobe trunk, c. 1940, a trunk, c. late 1700s, early 1800s, and a mail sorting desk from 1942 that I was extremely lucky to score. Its underside was in pristine condition, so the branding in the wood was easy to read. It’s #124 and it’s from Corbin Cabinet Lock Co in New Britain, CT in 1942. It came from Post Office #2059. I’m pretty proud of how it turned out and that I have such an awesome piece of history in my home. I put in a lot of time and research to learn how to maintain the integrity of whatever I’m trying to revive. I can honestly swear that I’ve never used screws in any of my trunk restorations. Instead, I learned the extremely difficult method of nail clinching, an activity that inspires much cursing.

Misty Sudtelgte's resin-pouring craft
Misty's learning yet another craft: resin pouring

I also sew, craft with broken china and teacups, reinvent or create jewelry, but am still trying to master the bologna of soldering, taught myself Photoshop, and recently started dabbling in Python and learning about APIs. I’m also learning how to pour resin. Over a 3x5’ piece of plexiglass. I’m not sure how it’s going, but I’m still “tinkering” with it. It’s been excruciatingly expensive, time-consuming, and despairing at times, but I am learning. It won’t have straight edges, and there are going to be parts that are messy, but I figure, hey, it’s just like my life right now! :D

Misty Sudtelgte's setup
Misty needs lots and lots of screens

What hardware do you use?

I need a lot of things open to work, and it boils my blood to waste time flipping between tabs, trying to find the app you need. I’m actually contemplating a third 49” monitor to put above the existing two, but that’s still in the decision-making stage. Mounting gets as expensive as the monitor sometimes.

Misty Sudtelgte's desk chair
Misty made her ideal desk chair out of an old one

I made my desk chair from one that was very old, and very, very hard. It has a metal seat. I drilled holes through the metal to create the kind of foundation I needed for my seat, the back is all my own making and rigging, and the canvas material is all glued together rather than sewn. The idea was that I’d sew the cover that was going to go over it. I decided to abandon that idea, because as you can see, the ropes are for keeping the back piece stable and strong, so it can sit upright, or I can loosen the ropes if I want more slack. I sewed little belt loops so the ropes would have a point for tension stability. So that’s my super high-tech chair: homemade, a little messy-looking, but perfectly suited to my exact needs, postures, and ergonomics.

Misty Sudtelgte's desk chair, back-view
Not only does Misty's chair fit her perfectly, it's one of a kind

And what software?

My work laptop runs MS, but my school computer is Mac. My docking station doesn’t jibe well with my Mac, so I can only use one of the big monitors when I study. The one thing I cannot abide when I have to be at a computer all day, is not having enough real estate for all the junk I need open. It’s one of those triggers, like how road rage gets people into a boiling rage. I have to have a separate desktop open to access the accounting software as a remote worker, and I can’t drag anything onto that screen. I don’t use it constantly, but frequently enough that it needs its own space. My layout now allows me to use the larger monitors for spreadsheet-palooza and Adobe docs only. I need Teams and Outlook open, which is a hindrance, in my opinion, but that’s usually what I’d shove onto the laptop screen.

Misty Sudtelgte's laptop
When she has to, Misty can get by with just a laptop...as long as she has her spreadsheets

We’re currently researching new accounting software because what we have is antiquated and can’t do a lot of what we need. Thus, the spreadsheets.

What’s your keyboard setup like? Do you use a custom layout or custom keycaps?

I use the Moonlander keyboard, which has been a huge game changer for my pain levels. I had surgery to solve my carpal tunnel and De Quervain’s, but I needed an additional surgery on my left wrist to scrape out inflammation. Tenting the keyboard has sometimes been vital to me even continuing my shift some days.

I haven’t had time to get into the grit of what my keyboard can do yet—I’m extremely interested in the Macros concept—so I only have two layers right now. Sad, I know. It took me a couple weeks to even open the box when I got it, I’m so stupid busy.

What would be your dream setup?

So, here I am, a far cry from daydreams of the stage, but now I use those talents to sing my son to sleep or jam out in the car, where my stage charisma has taught my son to sing with courage and the intent of being heard. I demonstrate with my own strength and determination what it means to be brave, how to problem-solve, and how to have a sense of humor. When he’s down and out about his lack of friendships, I tell him – and I quote: “Don’t worry about those other guys, because you know who’s makin’ a bajillion dollars in this world? The kids who got stuck hangin’ out by themselves because they were too smart for the other kids who thought they were weirdos. So trust me when I tell you, whatever those kids think about you is completely irrelevant to who you are and the awesome s*** you’re gonna do.” And when I walked that stage in May to close this grueling, but triumphant five-year chapter, it was as much his accomplishment as mine. It’s our ticket into the life I dreamed of for us, and we both have a very clear image of what the next chapters are going to look like. But don’t forget, when I’m working numbers, it’s probably in sparkly cowboy boots, because I’ve also vowed that I wasn’t going to be the accountant with the boring shoes.

As for the new dreams: After doing this, I would want a setup where cords either magically vanish, or at the very least, a more strategic method for hiding them. Very, very annoying. Probably my biggest pet peeve after not having enough real estate for spreadsheets.

Misty Sudtelgte's desk cables
Cables: Nobody's favorite desk decor

In my imagination, if I envision two more 49” monitors stacked above the two I already have, that’d be pretty awesome. I’d also want a monitor just for my separate desktop. Oh, and I’d like a chair with my keyboard attached, that reclines and my monitors would be like, above me. If I didn’t feel like reclining, I’d be able to like, IDK, use a remote or something to rearrange my monitors. Like their mounts would be motorized. And my chair would be made specifically for my spinal needs, so my hips would never ever go numb from sitting in it all day. I’d have Dragon, too, to do a lot of my navigating.

I’m probably veering off into fantasyland with that, but that pretty much covers my dream layout if money and space weren’t an object. And inventions, evidently. My desk has legs to raise and lower, so I’m pretty close to my dream layout in ergonomic terms. But I think kickin’ back in a chair with my monitors all right there—that’d be pretty sweet.

Misty Sudtelgte rollerblading
If Misty ever ends up with too many monitors, she can rollerblade between them

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