The Harbert College of Business is committed to providing a superior student experience
that produces highly sought-after graduates and cultivates lifelong engagement. Actions
of faculty and staff members such as Colby Lakas prove out that value proposition
When Stacy Sims was a senior at Auburn, she struggled to balance working multiple jobs and single-handedly raising her daughter while also taking a full course load.
After starting college at age 21, while also working three jobs, Scott Lowery “felt completely lost” during his first semester at Auburn.
When Will Ousley decided to change his major from engineering, he didn’t know what to pursue next.
Luckily, Colby Lakas was there to help each of these students navigate their unique paths.
Since 2012, Lakas has served as Director of Recruiting and Professional Development for the School of Accountancy within the Harbert College of Business. She also serves as the Beta Alpha Psi and Financial Leadership Society faculty advisor as well as School of Accountancy Program Champion.
Lakas is just another example of how the Harbert College of Business continues to foster a superior student experience by providing them with quality, highly-connected staff and faculty members to help set them on the right career path.
For many, Lakas has acted as a mentor and advisor, leading students toward a career in accounting. “Colby Lakas is one of the School of Accountancy’s greatest assets – accounting pun intended,” said Lowery. “I remember sitting down with her and telling her my story and how my path was not traditional. She was so understanding and showed me my options to obtain my CPA and assured me that, with the proper amount of hard work and dedication, everything would be alright.”
Auburn School of Accountancy Director Duane Brandon says it is “difficult to exaggerate the impact Colby has on our students and her service to the School of Accountancy.”
Not only does she serve as our recruiting liaison where she works as an effective matchmaker for employers and students, but also advises students throughout their formative years through countless individual meetings..."
“Not only does she serve as our recruiting liaison where she works as an effective matchmaker for employers and students, but also advises students throughout their formative years through countless individual meetings and weekly Beta Alpha Psi and Financial Leadership Society meetings. Colby also teaches our School’s professional development course focusing on different aspects of what it means to be a true professional and how to survive the recruiting process, maintains the SoA blog, and produces a weekly recruiting newsletter for our majors.”
Destined for this Career
Lakas grew up near Greenville, South Carolina, received her undergraduate and graduate accounting degrees from Auburn in 2004 and 2005 respectively, and is now a wife and mother of two young children, Hadley, 3 and Wyatt, 1.
She didn’t realize it at the time, but her experiences as an Auburn student destined her for her career. She was a student recruiter, Camp War Eagle Parent Counselor, served as new member educator for her social sorority, and spent a summer screening and on-boarding temporary employees for a staffing agency all while majoring in accounting.
Lakas attributes her decision to major in accounting to the BUSI 1010 (professional development) course she took during her freshman year.
“Dr. Gary Waters (former accounting professor) touted the versatility and practicality of an accounting degree, and I was sold,” she said. Following graduation from Auburn, Lakas worked as an auditor for two years and then became a recruiter for a Big Four accounting firm, Deloitte.
After five years in this role, a call from her long-time mentor Amy Murphy, Director of Graduate Programs for the School of Accountancy at the time, changed her life, and ultimately the lives of hundreds of students.
“I was the Southeast Campus Recruiting Manager for Deloitte and on a business trip when Amy called me,” Lakas said. “Amy asked, ‘What do you think about coming to work at Auburn?’ I quickly said, ‘Nope, we’re happy in Atlanta. Plus, I don’t think my UGA Bulldog husband will move to the Plains!’”
Looking back, Lakas is grateful that her husband, Scottie, set aside his UGA allegiance, recognized that this was her dream job, and convinced her to reconsider. “Once I had the support of my husband, I knew it was the right next step,” recalls Lakas.
An Amazing Resource
Lakas considers herself a conduit between students and accounting firms. Through events sponsored by the Financial Leadership Society (accounting honorary organization open to freshmen and sophomores) and Beta Alpha Psi (national honorary, professional, and service organization for junior and senior accounting majors with GPAs of 3.0 or higher), students and recruiters meet at professional mixers.
“My role is to get students and recruiters in the same venue. We bring employers to campus for events like Meet the Firms and the students are able to make connections,” said Lakas. “These connections quickly become relationships that lead to job opportunities.”
One of Lakas’ skills is recognizing talent -- and encouraging students, whether during the recruiting process, or simply within the accounting program, is one of her lasting trademarks.
“Colby made such a huge impact on me as a student, person, and aspiring accountant,” said Sims, who first met Lakas while taking her Professional Development in Accountancy class in 2015. “She helped with everything, including study tips, proper professional attire, CPA Exam preparation, and resume building. She even helped me obtain a scholarship so that I could afford the Becker CPA Exam Review.”
Ousley, who earned his Master of Accountancy (MAcc) from Auburn in 2018, said “She was one of my biggest advocates and supporters during the recruiting process. I remember asking what I could do to set myself apart during the recruiting process and she gave me a ton of tips on how to better myself.” Lowery considers Lakas to be one his closest allies on campus.
“Mrs. Lakas showed me exactly how to leverage myself against my peers when it comes to talking with recruiters,” he said. “Having worked in recruiting herself, she is able to give us insider information and it has helped me to confidently present myself to the firms. Her knowledge amazes me.”
Colby made such a huge impact on me as a student, person, and aspiring accountant. She helped with everything, including study tips, proper professional attire, CPA Exam preparation, and resume building."
Playing A Rewarding Role
Lakas said the crowning moment of her job is watching students come full-circle. “I love seeing the student go from a blank slate, not knowing that recruiting is a thing, then matriculating to the internship and transforming into the young professional who is headed into the MAcc program, going to take the CPA Exam, then starting their full-time career," she said.
"It’s incredibly rewarding. I can’t take all of the credit though. We have amazing School of Accountancy faculty. I focus on professional development, but when these students leave Auburn, they’re a force to be reckoned with in a variety of areas. They are professional, but they are also technically sound.”
Today, Sims, who earned her accounting degree from the Harbert College of Business in 2016, is an accounting specialist at Rabren General Contractors in Auburn; Ousley is an Assurance Associate at PwC, one of the world’s largest accounting firms; and Lowery hopes to have an internship lined up for spring 2021.
“Colby is important for today’s business student because is an amazing resource. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without her help and guidance,” said Sims.
Lakas considers herself extremely lucky to be able to come to work every day and make a difference. “I believe I’m really helping these students become who they want to be after graduation,” she added.