Growing up in Palatka—a small town about 45 miles east of the University of Florida—Cindy Pekrul (BSAc ’89, MAcc ’90) had an ambitious dream: To be the first female correspondent on 60 Minutes.
Pekrul achieved her goal of working at one of the world’s most venerated news organizations, but not the way you might think. Pekrul, who is celebrating 10 years of service at Turner Broadcasting, Inc., will share her career journey with Warrington students today during the College’s Alumni Café Speaker Series.
Pekrul, 48, initially studied journalism at UF, but discovered she didn’t have a passion for it. She found her passion in business—first studying economics before ultimately pursuing accounting.
“You gravitate to what you’re good at,” Pekrul said. “I enjoyed the analytical, the business side of things.”
She also enjoyed her time at the Fisher School of Accounting, which Pekrul said maintained an intimate feel despite its celebrated status.
“I had really good professors and friends, and I got to know them well because we were like this small organization within UF,” Pekrul said.
After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Pekrul joined EY in Atlanta where she ascended to Audit Manager. But, after six successful years, she left EY.
“I’m not a sales-oriented person,” Pekrul said. “I don’t think I would have been good at the responsibilities partners have regarding generating business. I didn’t feel like that was my personality.”
So Pekrul left the comfort of a Big 4 accounting firm to serve as a controller for an international chemical manufacturer and a global transportation company. She had her hands full during those years dealing with bankruptcy filings, corporate restructuring, mergers and other financial issues. But Pekrul said those events were vital to her career.
“Being a corporate controller for middle market companies is a fantastic growth experience,” Pekrul said. “You learn how to prioritize, how to advise, and you learn how not to panic.”
After taking some time off to travel around the world, Pekrul began her Turner career in 2005 as Controller for the media giant’s animation division. Three years later, she was appointed Vice President and Group Controller of CNN Worldwide—achieving her long-held dream of working for a top news agency.
“I wanted to be on 60 Minutes, but I ended up at CNN,” Pekrul said.
In Pekrul’s current role as Turner’s Vice President and Deputy Controller, she directs the company’s Accounting Business Services (ABS) organization, which is responsible for the accuracy and consistency in accounting treatment, payroll operations, credit and collections operations and accounts payable among other functions across Turner’s businesses.
“It’s my responsibility to manage these activities and support the company in as efficient and lean manner as possible,” Pekrul said. “You have to capture and present the information in such a way that allows our executives to make expedient strategic decisions and drive the business.”
Pekrul said she is excited about today’s Alumni Café session, and the opportunity to share her road to a prominent role at one the world’s most influential media companies.
“I have such a strong passion for the University of Florida,” Pekrul said. “The foundation I received at UF—the technical skills, learning how to be creative and tenacious—I can’t thank UF enough.”