All posts by bart bradshaw

First Year Memories

I’ve now been working at a Big 4 firm longer than the time it took me to obtain my MPA at UT.  I was a tradional MPA student from July of 2008 to August of 2009, and I started as an auditor that same month, which makes about 14 months on the job now.

Some of the most memorable parts of the last year are the after-work or non-audit things I did, such as busy season trivia with my team (topics ranged from Boston sports teams to Jersey Shore, and I admit, I did not excel at the latter), scraping off the windshields of my coworkers’ cars one snowy evening before they came outside, eating out at Benihana’s for my first solo dinner that could be expensed while traveling, eating out at a nice steak house in the Mall of America (another snowy evening, come to think of it), bowling with coworkers across the street from Fenway Park, discussing accounting career paths with an accounting student I met on the plane from Boston to Milwaukee, listening to a variety of excellent books on CD while making my commute to different clients around Boston, getting a guided tour of downtown Santa Fe from the Controller of our audit client, and listening for the first time to my baby’s heart beat over the phone, thousands of miles away, when my wife called from the doctor’s office during her 16-week visit.

My second year began with a transfer back to Texas, which means I won’t have as many snowy/wintry memories next year at this time.  And more significant to us, my wife and I welcomed our first baby (see the photo of the little longhorn, below) into the world in July.  So it’s the three of us, back in Texas, and loving life.  I told my wife the other day that it’s a good feeling to know that the grass just doesn’t look greener on the other side.

Five Things the MPA Program Taught Me

Hi All,

I’m coming up on six months as a full-time audit associate at one of the Big Four firms in Boston.

Taking a moment to reflect, I’ve identified five things (among many) I learned as a traditional MPA student last year that prepared me to succeed in my current role.

1 – Debits and Credits: Whenever I’m doing audit work and come across something strange or complicated, it always helps to bring it back to basics. What’s being debited? What’s being credited? Does that make sense? How does that affect the income statement? The balance sheet? Is it material? What are the assumptions? These questions help me wrap my head around my work every day.

2 – Cycles and Assertions: It turns out that auditing really is done by focusing on cycles and assertions. You do controls testing (“404” or “SOX” testing) over the Inventory cycle separate from the Purchasing and Payables cycle. When you test Cash, you identify what assertions you are testing, such as accuracy, rights and obligations, etc. Not the most interesting stuff I’ve ever studied, but definitely useful, and certainly foundational.

3 – Teamwork: I’m always working on teams these days. Always. Team projects and research papers were great practice for this aspect of the job.

4 – Technical Accounting: It turns out that new associates, and even experienced associates, aren’t expected to know a lot about specific, technical accounting rules. Rather, we focus on fairly straightforward accounting during the first few years. But the MPA program taught a good amount of technical accounting rules and research skills, so I feel well prepared for my current role and also to step up to the plate when it is my responsibility to make some of the more technical calls.

5 – Career Planning: One of the most useful resources provided to MPA students, IMHO, is the Career Center. The counselors, seminars and advice were invaluable to me when planning my career path and interviewing with the Big Four and other firms. The advice to “manage your career” remains excellent advice even now that I’ve joined a Big Four firm. Some things are clearly planned and set out for me. But much of what I do to further my development, my education, my network, and my career in general, is largely up to me.

It makes a guy grateful to have attended such a great program. Let me know if you have any questions or comments. Feel free to e-mail me at mpablogger[at]gmail[dot]com.

Three Months In

I’ve been an associate auditor at a Big 4 firm for three months now, and am currently assigned to my third client, a nonprofit. My first two assignments involved public company interim testing, and this one is a 9/30/09 year-end audit.

Considering there will be a lot of year-end testing to do during busy season in January, February and March, I’m glad to be learning now how to do year-end audit work in what I think is probably a less stressful environment than the busy season will be. It’ll be nice to know to some extent what I’m doing when busy season starts.

There’s a lot to learn. I mean, from one perspective, most audit work sounds fairly simple. For Cash, you confirm account balances with the bank, tie and agree the comparative summary to the general ledger (or trial balance), examine the reconciliation, and look into any significant reconciling items such as deposits in transit or outstanding checks that haven’t yet hit the bank account. Sounds fairly simple. And it can be, especially if the client is organized and provides you with coherent, easy-to-follow reports and documentation.

But in large companies, there’s a lot going on and things can get more complicated, or at least seem so, by just the sheer volume of transactions and supporting documentation.

For example, let’s say you’re working on PP&E. You want to look at any fixed assets that were purchased or built during the year and added to the PP&E balance. So you get a detailed listing of fixed asset additions, make selections, and request supporting invoices, checks, requisition forms, etc. You want to see what the supporting documentation tells you about the additions. Were they approved? Were they added at the proper amounts and in the right period? These seem like fairly simple questions. Continue reading Three Months In

From Austin to Boston

Keri Ledezma, MPA admissions manager extraordinaire, e-mailed me a few days ago to see if I was still planning to blog from afar now that I’ve graduated and moved to Boston. It was REALLY good to hear from her! It seems like forever since my wife, Janssen, and I packed our things and moved across the country. In reality, it has been less than two months, but I’m not ashamed to say that I miss Texas! I miss Texas friends, Texas football, Texas teachers and staff and Texas weather!

So it was good to hear from Keri, and I assured her that I’d be checking in every so often to blog about my post-MPA life as a new associate auditor at one of the ‘Big 4’ accounting firms in downtown Boston.

Life as an Auditor

I’ve been really happy with life as an auditor so far (the photo above is taken from a conference room I was working in last week). My coworkers are all smart, interesting people, and there’s no end to the learning resources that my firm provides. After a good amount of training, we’ve all been deployed on various engagement teams working in and outside of Boston.

My first auditing experience was actually in Wisconsin, and coincidentally, Janssen’s dad is originally from Beloit, Wisconsin. So instead of flying me home for the weekend, the firm paid to fly Janssen out to visit. What a great policy that is! It saved the firm money (J’s flight out and back was less than mine would have been), and allowed us to have a vacation sort of weekend (there’s a link there because Janssen posted a bunch of photos from the trip on her blog a couple of weeks ago).

The client was great to work with, my team was awesome, and besides the fact that I ate less healthily than usual–going out to dinner every night–it was an ideal beginning to my auditing career. Each of my team members, including myself, even brought home some genuine Wisconsin cheese to our respective significant others and family members.

Two other things I should mention before letting you go:

1) I recently learned that my summer CPA studying paid off when I received my passing score for the fourth and final section of the CPA exam! What a relief that is! Now I just need to rack up 1000 auditing hours to become a licensed CPA in the state of Massachusetts.

BTW, I highly recommend taking the CPA exam before you start working full time if you can. Why? You won’t want to study after a full day’s work. It’s unbelievably nice to have it out of the way up front so I can focus on what is already a steep learning curve becoming an auditor.


2) Another unbelievably nice thing? Making money again. Also highly recommended.

Summer School

Last year at this time I was halfway through my first term as an MPA student at The University of Texas. It’s a little unreal to see some of the incoming MPA class in that same situation now. Next month they’ll have their first career fair. It all happens so fast and is, in my opinion, quite a fun ride. For any of them reading, good luck!

It’s even more unreal to me that in less than three weeks I’ll be done with my master’s degree in accounting, I’ll have taken (and hopefully passed) all four sections of the CPA exam (finished the last Becker video lecture just this morning!), and I’ll have just arrived with Janssen in Boston to move into the great little apartment she found for us. And when I say “little,” I mean it. We have to get rid of several pieces of furniture just to fit in there.

Taking classes during the summer is great, by the way. It’s hot and beautiful outside, and really cool inside (I’ve resorted to packing a sweater in my bag–no kidding). And somehow, despite the fast pace of the classes, summer feels more laid back than other semesters. That might also have something to do with my only taking 9 credits Summer compared with 13 and 15 during Fall and Spring. Not to mention the demands of recruiting season during Fall semester.

In other news, I’ve been asked to continue blogging after graduation to give students an idea of what the first year as an auditor is like for me. It’ll be fun to stay in touch with UT that way and to blog of my experiences in Boston. As always, feel free to leave comments with questions, thoughts, etc. I’ll update every month or two. Until next time!