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.

ps_gourdoughs1-470x491
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.

IMG_1524
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.

IMG_1511 IMG_1064
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.

IMG_1459 IMG_1456
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:

Judge-Gavel

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.

hacker-attack

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

Internship: True or False

Internship_BabyLet’s all be real for a quick second. As third and fourth-year MPAs, we hear all kinds of rumors and gossip about internship experiences. We never know who is exaggerating and who is telling the cold, hard truth. Well I cannot speak for everyone in what I am about to say, but I am going to go through some things I heard before my internship and tell you whether my experience has proven to live up to these stories or not.

1. You are going to have 80 hour work weeks consistently and pretty much not have a life outside of the office.
FALSE. There 25 other tax interns in the office I am in (PwC Dallas) and I have yet to hear of someone putting in more than 60 hours. And this is our busy season. As an intern, you may or may not be hitting overtime, but even if you are, keep in mind that you are compensated for that ($$$). Yes, you may have a weekend where they will ask you to stay, but this is not usually every weekend.

2. You are competing with other interns and therefore the other interns will not help you since you are the competition.
FALSE. You are going to become really close with your intern group. In fact, I recommend considering this as a factor when making your decision on where to sign for your internship. I originally tried to go to a smaller office in Denver because I thought I wanted to be in an environment where I was the only intern. NO. That would have absolutely sucked. I have become extremely close to the interns here. We bond over our random work assignments that none of us have a clue on sometimes and we also help each other ALL THE TIME. In fact, I would say they are the first people I go to if I need to know how to do something. I am not exaggerating when I say that I am friends with each of the 20 interns in my office. I know all of there names, groups they are in, and where they sit.

3. You will be taken out to lunch and dinners a lot.
TRUE. So very very amazingly true. There is no limit to the amount of food that is available during your internship. The other day, we had Pokey O’s brought into the office which is this great place that makes homemade ice cream sandwiches. It was AWESOME.

4. You are not going to have a desk.

FALSE. You will have a desk. You may have a conference room if not a desk but guess what? Conference rooms are even better because they have the best view. So come on people, why keep spreading the rumor about not having a desk?! Do you think they are gonna put their interns on the floor or in a corner?? Because nobody puts baby in a corner.

5. You will be meeting tons of people, clients and coworkers.
FALSE. Actually, this one is perhaps the most surprising. You would think that you would be interacting with lots of people everyday to complete your work but actually most of the work is independent work. Someone will show you how to do the task you are given and then you are left to finish it on your own. I kind of wish there was a day where they literally took you around to meet everyone. I have taken it upon myself to meet different people in the office. In fact, word of advice here, when I need help on assignments, instead of going to the same person every time, I jump around to different people just to have an excuse to meet them.

6. There are happy hours every week.

TRUE. (kind of). There is not always a paid happy hour every week but I can promise you that the intern group will plan to go out every Friday and Saturday. Because, hey, we are all in it together, right? RIGHT! So make it a point on your internship to be the one who creates happy hours for the group or to organize a lunch. Trust me, everyone will love you for it.

Looking Back, Looking Forward – Part 2 of 2

Last week, I discussed some of my favorite moments from my first seven months in the MPA program. This week, I am looking ahead and getting excited for what’s to come in my final six months.

Future Plans: 

BUENOS-AIRES11. For the first summer session this year, I will be studying in Buenos Aires for five weeks as a part of the MPA Study Abroad program. I have never been to South America before and am appreciative of this opportunity to explore Argentina while still working on my degree with fellow MPAs and professors from both UT and Universidad de San Andrés.

graduation2. Of course I am looking forward to graduation, but not because it marks the end of assignments and exams (though for most it doesn’t even mark that milestone since many continue on for at least one summer session). Graduation is going to be a great time for MPAs to get together, relax, and celebrate. Orientation was probably the only other time we were all in the same room together and graduation will likely be our last. I can feel the nostalgia coming on already.

west_logo_dates3. Echoing #3 from my post last week, I will definitely be attending the West Austin Studio Tour in May. I think it’s pretty fantastic that between EAST and WEST, Austin has four formalized weekends each year to celebrate local artists.

UTtower4. Not a day goes by on campus during which I do not see or hear the bells of the magnificent UT Tower. So this semester, I am hoping to reserve a spot for a Tower Tour and check out the view from the top.

logo5.  I think it’s more than accidental that South by South West (SXSW, or “South By”) coincides with UT’s Spring Break. South By is a festival that kicked off in 1987 (meaning it’s been around longer than many current tMPAs have been alive) that includes music, film, and interactive components. I hear that the festival completely takes over the city. Though I probably won’t be in town the whole week, I would like to experience some of the madness.

I will keep you posted on how things turn out.

MPA Student Life Blog