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Banking on a Career in Conservation

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Alicia visiting the sea lion exhibit at the Bronx Zoo, one of her favorites. Photo Credit: ©Alexandria Brown.

My journey into the conservation field began in 1995. It was then I began working part-time as an accounting clerk at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo—in our “bank” located in the cashroom. My main duties were cashing checks and tallying daily sales from the five wildlife parks: the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, New York Aquarium, Prospect Park Zoo, and Queens Zoo.

Howard Forbes, now retired, hired me. At the time, he was the only African American representative on the Accounting Department’s management team. He was a mentor to me and gave me something to strive for with the utmost style and grace.

When I first started working at WCS, my plan for my tenure was much shorter term. It was by no means guaranteed by the B.A. in accounting I was then pursuing as a first-generation college student. So I was thrilled when the Accounting Department offered me a full-time position upon graduation.

Alicia proudly posing for a picture in her office circa 2005. Photo Credit: Isobel Onorato/WCS.

This milestone defined my decision to make WCS home and seek more knowledge. I continued my education endeavors at Pace University Graduate School to earn my master’s degree in Public Administration (MPA).

WCS (originally the New York Zoological Society) and I share one special bragging point: we were both born in the Bronx! I am a proud Jamaican American. In my early years, I lived in Jamaica with my aunt until I was 5 years old and was about to enter Kindergarten. While in Jamaica, I lived in the countryside, where I was exposed to the farm life very early with chickens, cows, goats and pigs. It was common to see me doing chores at a young age on the farm.

In my culture, it is more typical to go into the medical field and become a doctor or a nurse. This led to some lack of understanding by my family about my decision to get a job that was not in the allied health field at all, but I knew what I wanted to do from a very young age. It all started with board games—specifically, Monopoly.

Alicia Wyatt, Senior Accountant, Wildlife Conservation Society. Photo Credit: ©Alexandria Brown.

When I was a little girl, I loved to play board games with my siblings and cousins. I was the youngest of the group, yet I would usually have one of the most important roles when we played Monopoly. Nothing gave me more joy than having the older kids of the family entrust me with the coveted position of banker.

Even though I was the youngest, I was always trusted. I was always given responsibility and it felt great. In fact, I believe it planted the seeds of my interest in the accounting profession. Today my professional role requires a high degree of responsibility, and I am a trusted advisor within the organization. As an accountant, I facilitate that type of trust and integrity across our many divisions and departments by ensuring compliance with rules and regulations.

I am most proud of my abilities to lead, problem solve, and analyze. I enjoy collaborating, building relationships, and providing the best options to meet the needs of WCS.

I am currently working as a Senior Accountant at WCS, headquartered at the Bronx Zoo. My favorite part of being located at the Bronx Zoo is the fact that I can take daily walks and see the animals and exhibits I love. I usually find myself visiting the sea lions, tigers, and the Congo Gorilla Forest.

Alicia visiting the Tiger Mountain exhibit at the Bronx Zoo. Photo Credit: ©Alexandria Brown.

I have worked at WCS for 28 years as of 2023. My two kids have enjoyed the zoo over the years as much as I have. My son Andrew will be 30 in August. Alexandria is 22. Even though they have grown up and I now live in Mount Vernon, New York, the Bronx and its beloved zoo will always be a home away from home for us.

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