A member of the North Atlanta High School Class of 2020, Barrett Dougher is my daughter, and other than the day she was born, I cannot think of a time that I have been prouder to be her father than I was as I watched her receive her diploma the other day. As she and I both know, Barrett has persevered through so much to get to this point in her life—she’s like her father in that way, since I too have overcome numerous hurdles to get to where I am today. I like to think that the both of us draw our mutual determination from each other, both dad and daughter pushing another toward achievement through all the good and bad together.
The tough times came back when Barrett was ten years old, at which point I was forced into single parenthood, rendering me the sole custodial parent to her for four years until her mom’s health returned. During that time, I was working as a waiter/bartender/wine steward at Bones Restaurant, a very high-end steakhouse here in Atlanta, but with responsibility of raising a pre-teen daughter alone in the foreseeable near future, I decided to change course. After I enrolled at Kennesaw State University as an accounting major, I lost track of the times that Barrett and I sat at the table together doing homework, trading off quizzing each other question and answers as we prepared for upcoming exams. She graduated the eighth grade at Sutton Middle School as I finished my undergraduate in accounting at Kennesaw State.
"I began my career as an IT auditor, with Barrett right there alongside me"
With my new degree, I proceeded to take a corporate accounting position with the plastics manufacturing company that I had interned for throughout my senior year at Kennesaw. There, while immersed in ledgers, balances, monthly closings, and more inventory than I care to remember, I decided to pursue my MBA at the University of Georgia, taking courses at a satellite campus they had in Atlanta where I was newly based. I remember racing home to pick up Barrett from school, only to take her to the office building that housed the UGA “campus,” where we would go over her homework assignments before my classmates would arrive, ready to prepare for the evening’s lesson. While I was in class, Barrett would sit in the conference rooms set up for the MBA group work with a laptop, iPad, and her cell phone—she called it “playing CEO.” Midway through my two-year program, I was fortunate enough to land a position with Ernst & Young (EY). With that, I began my career as an IT auditor, with Barrett right there alongside me.
My daughter was as instrumental in my new life as I was in molding hers. It was a long way from Bones Restaurant, but I’d known I wanted to be an IT auditor since the first day of ACCT 4150: Auditing and Assurance when my instructor asked the class, “how many of you are familiar with IT Audit?” Nobody raised their hand, and he instructed us to “do some research. It’s in high-demand and it’s fairly lucrative.” That was all I needed to hear, and I was determined to make it my reality. As I completed my MBA, I was still working at EY and really enjoying what I was doing. On one assignment in Nashville, Tennessee, I was working with a colleague who had recently joined us from a company called BrightLine. Through the course of the two-week engagement, we inquired of one another our career goals, and I told him I wanted to focus my attention more towards IT auditing. He told me to look into BrightLine, and at the time, I did do a little research, but I had no intention of leaving EY. Eventually though, I was messaged by one Lori Jendrucko—talent acquisition manager at Schellman & Company—inquiring about my interest regarding a possible opportunity with her firm. Low and behold, I found that Schellman is “formerly known as BrightLine,” the same company that had previously been highly recommended to me—I got the job, and the rest, as they say, is history.
"As much as I take pride in my part played in helping her become such, it’s also true that she helped me grow"
Though they’ve all been wonderful, I like to say that this Father’s Day will be extra special for me. It will be my first as the proud father of a high school graduate--a 2020 graduate who grew up with a single dad and persevered through all the trials and tribulations we both experienced together during her formative years and my simultaneous pursuit of a new career. Thanks to COVID-19 and the global pandemic, my daughter missed out on prom, senior activities, and as of now, a formal ceremony for her graduation, having received her diploma via drive-thru. But none of that got her down, as she has grown into an amazing young lady. As much as I take pride in my part played in helping her become such, it’s also true that she helped me grow—she helped me grow into the IT auditor I am today.
Barrett will pursue her own degree now, in Early Childhood Development at Georgia Southern University’s campus in Savannah. She leaves in a few short weeks, and will be living with a friend as they each chase their dreams together. As much as it hurts to know that she is now going to be hours away, she will still have no bigger cheerleader than her dear old—and I am old—Dad.
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