The Tower and Study Spots

IMG_1675 copyAs previously planned, I went on a tour of the UT tower with the MPA Council. The view was great despite the overcast weather (it hailed later that evening!) and is one of the best I’ve seen in Austin alongside those at Mount Bonnell and the 360 bridge overlook. During the summer, the tower also hosts sunrise and sunset tours, which sound awesome. If you have a chance, book a tower tour.

Once the study break was over, I went back to hit the books. This time I went downtown to Cafe Ruckus where a heated giant cookie made for a great study buddy at a giant table by the window. Often I study at home, but when I venture outside, you can find me at one of the following:

1. Flightpath is my favorite cafe in Austin. The place has friendly baristas, good tables, lots of outlets, and a wide array of tasty drinks and snacks. This is a place you can camp out for the day (as I did during Fall semester finals). If only it were open past 11 PM.

2. Thunderbird on Koenig has huge, wooden tables that make for great group study (or fulfill the needs of space hogs like myself). Unfortunately, there are no outlets. They have a fuller (and delicious) food menu than does Flightpath. Also open until 11 PM.

3. Epoch is the place to go for all night studying. It’s one of the few 24 hour spots in Austin and thankfully the pizza slices from East Side Pies are available all night long with you.

4. Mozart’s on the lake has stunning views. The drink selection is enormous (too many chai lattes to count) and the place is always crowded. It’s a great place to watch the sun set.

I also would like to give a shout out to Avenue B Grocery, which has been in Austin for over a century. Ross Mason (owner for 25+ years) makes great sandwiches and soups and has a panoply of other goods for sale. Definitely check this place out next time you’re in Hyde Park. If it’s a nice day, sit on the bench swing outside while you eat.

The Perks of Being a WallBlogger

WallGood afternoon everyone! Sorry for not having posted in a while. This semester has been quite hectic (in a good way) and has kept me from my duties as a blogger! Don’t worry though. I have returned full force and will be giving you updates on how I have managed to survive spring semester as a MPA student. For now, however, I’d like to give you a little taste of some of the perks of being a blogger for the UT MPA program.

This past Friday, the bloggers had the unique opportunity to attend the Spring Advisory Council meeting hosted at the AT&T center right here on campus. The meeting hosted some of the top folks in accounting and we were able to sit down with a few of them to gain insight into their profession, their experiences, and how they got to be where they are today.

The two gentlemen at my table were a CFO for an energy company in Dallas and a partner for an accounting firm in Indianapolis. Both gentlemen were very easy to talk to and very open about their jobs and their personal lives. They both also had connections to Notre Dame, and being a Notre Dame graduate, I was very excited about the opportunity to talk about my school in great detail with them! We talked about football, South Bend versus Austin, UT versus Notre Dame, among many other things. Oh, and we talked about some accounting-related matters! I told them both that I was going to be working for PWC doing forensics within their advisory department (thank you, thank you, please, no need to applaud) and they were both very curious about what I would be doing and provided me with stories about fraud incidents they had seen! One case may or may not have involved an employee stealing funds to use on prostitutes! And they say accountants have boring jobs. Please. The two gentlemen were hilarious and I am so glad I had the opportunity to sit down with them and gain some insight into what being an accountant is really like.

The lunch was wonderful and I was able to connect with a few more professionals, including one who was very high up at Dell here in Austin. I was able to ask her and another woman at my table about Michael Dell, as they both had interacted with him on multiple occasions. It was also great to see women in the field who have taken on very high leadership roles. The Advisory Council meeting overall was a great opportunity to network with some influential accountants and to learn more about the different opportunities in the accounting world. That’s what is so great about being a UT MPA student. The opportunities for networking and professional development are endless, especially if you blog!

So, moral of the story: Be a blogger and get free food! Just kidding.  Become a member of the UT MPA family and watch the opportunities unfold before your very eyes!

(Editor’s Note:  Interested in being a blogger next Fall? Contact April Stockwell)

 

Four (of many) Austin Favorites

As we’ve said time and time again, one of the benefits of the MPA program is that it’s located smack dab in the heart of Austin. Austin is a fantastic place to be due to its relatively mild weather (or at least lack of extreme cold), great food, natural beauty, distinct charm, and more. So, in case you need more evidence of Austin’s prowess, I would like to tell you about some of my favorite things in Austin.

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1. Eating a Sin-a-Bomb donut at Gordough’s
When I’m in the mood for a sweet treat, I go straight to Gordough’s and order one of these puppies with a glass of milk. It’s a great way to perk up after a rough exam week or celebrate the company of friends.

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2. Bike-riding around Lady Bird Lake
I love biking and there’s no better place to ride than around the Lady Bird Lake trail. Along the way there are stunning views of downtown, lush trees and foliage, and of course the lake itself. In June 2014, a new boardwalk opened up and is one of my favorite parts of the path.

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3. Exploring at HOPE Outdoor Gallery
This place goes by many names: Baylor Street Art Wall, Graffiti Park, Castle Hill, but no matter what you call it, it’s awesome. What I find most exciting is how often the art changes: one day I will watch an artist in the midst of creation, and the next week something completely different will be in its place. Each visit is a new experience.

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4. Visiting the Blanton Museum on campus
UT itself has much to offer beyond the walls of McCombs. Witness, one of the Blanton’s current special exhibits, is especially powerful and the dedicated gallery to Nina Simone’s famous 1964 performance of “Mississippi Goddam” is a highlight. Upstairs in the museum’s permanent collection, I particularly enjoy Cildo Meireles’s Missão/Missões [Mission/Missions] (How to Build Cathedrals). Walking up to and into this installation is a visually stimulating and visceral event, which amplifies the political and historical undertones intended by the artist.

Austin has so much to see, eat, and do. I will keep you posted on what I do next.

Change of Plans and What I’ve Learned

In my opinion, it’s almost never too late to change something and there’s always plenty more to learn. On the change front, two of my forward looking plans have already been scratched. First, I am not going to Buenos Aires this summer. Second, I did not attend a single SXSW event. The beauty of the latter is that the job offer I’ve accepted is in Austin, so I have plenty more chances to check out the hubbub. As for Buenos Aires, I decided to take a more low key approach to this summer by staying put in Austin, taking classes and TA-ing at UT, and hanging out with my cat. Buenos Aires will (likely) still be there to explore later down the road. But never fear, not all is lost with my goals! This Saturday I am scheduled to go on a Tower Tour with MPAC.

As for what I’ve learned? So much. Lately it’s been a struggle to write blog posts given that there is so much going on and it can be a challenge to synthesize. So, I thought I’d present to you two interesting things I learned in class this week:

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1. Getting wrapped up in intentional tort civil cases is no cake walk. In these types of cases, not only are punitive damages often tacked on to compensatory damages, but these damages are not absolved in the event of bankruptcy. Further, there are few standards, if any, for punitive damage amounts so they are often up to the complete discretion of the jury. As explained by Dean Bredeson, substituting for Frank Cross’s LEB 380 30 “Business Law” class.

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2. It’s frighteningly easy to hack into home routers that use system default usernames and passwords. Lizard Squad accessed over one thousand routers as an “elaborate commercial” for their new website. On a similar note, the strongest passwords are the longest passwords. Aim for over 8-12 characters and try linking together several common words. Length trumps the use of special characters as far as security and hackability are concerned. As explained by Edward Block, guest lecturer in Patti Brown’s ACC 380K 13 “ITAC” class.

I think these two tidbits well illustrate the diversity of the MPA learning experience. I had no idea I would be exposed to things here that seem on the surface to be so unrelated to accounting. Happily, the adventure continues!

Entering the Real World 101

We live in a society where we are taught from a young age to be ready for the real world. “You’re an adult,” I have been told many times, “you have to act like one now.” It is not an overstatement to say that we have ALL heard that saying, or some variation of it. The pressure is – and always has been – on us. With being an adult comes adult responsibilities, but until now I’ve never been given said adult responsibilities. I didn’t even know what being an adult meant. The MPA Program, however, assisted me heavily in the process of entering the real world.

The fact that the UT MPA program is the number one accounting program in the nation never hit me until the big four accounting firms all came to meet us. Partners, senior managers, all the way down to current interns came to UT to assure us they wanted us to come work for them. Through this process I’ve learned pro tips (that worked for me) to ace entering the real world, a.k.a. the INTERVIEWS.

None of the interviews with the big four accounting firms are purely technical or behavioral. It is also not pressure-intensive. They are laid back conversations between you and a representative. They genuinely want to get to know you to see if you’ll be a good fit for the firm. So instead of stressing out about the interview, do:

1) Relax. Nothing says “I am not being myself” more than being nervous does. Take a deep breath, you can do this.

2) This is not a Q & A, don’t expect the entire interview to be you or the interviewer asking the questions while the other person answers. It is truly a conversation. Small talks lead to more genuine and endearing conversations to remember. This doesn’t mean don’t have 3 – 5 questions ready.

3) Speak up, not only in volume, but also on what you want. If you want to work at a specific office or there are some issues you need to clarify before you become comfortable working at the firm, ask! They are there to help you get the feel for the firm, so take advantage of it. Volume is pretty important, too.

4) Confidence is attractive, but overconfidence is not. Don’t go through this process with the mindset, “I already got the position,” because the interviewers are pretty perceptive and will read you. Be humble, yet confident. Show the interviewers the real you.

So now having gone through the interviews and taken the first step towards adulthood, I feel pretty adult.

No Adult

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