Category Archives: Career

recruiting, internship, professional development, career workshops and events

Orientation, Recruiting, and Easy Tiger

Things have been quite busy for us MPAs these last few weeks between the close of summer classes, orientation, recruiting events, and the start of the fall semester. With the kickoff of fall classes comes OCR deadlines, employer information sessions, and mock interviews in the next week or so. Some tMPAs have already had actual interviews and before we know it, we will be receiving offers even though we officially started school just one week ago!

Despite the hustle and bustle, I managed to find some time to explore Austin. Most notably, I checked out Mozart’s on the lake (stunning lake view, tasty coffee drinks, and delicious pastries), relaxed on the rooftop of 219 West (great view of downtown and tasty drinks of another variety), saw the kickoff football game versus North Texas (burnt orange everywhere; we won!), and most recently explored Easy Tiger.


Easy Tiger is a unique space that combines bakery and beer garden in a way only Austin could. When you enter the building, you are first presented with their bakery counter that serves house-made breads, pretzels, sausages, and corned beef. You can see straight back into the bakery itself and watch the magic in action. If you proceed downstairs, you find yourself in their dining and bar area where they have a large selection of craft beers, wines, spirits, cheeses, sandwiches, etc. Go through the back door and you are on their outdoor patio that straddles Waller Creek. There are walkways and bridges around the creek that are fun to wander around. Easy Tiger is right on the edge of “dirty sixth” where it turns into east sixth and is a low key and welcome alternative to the nearby offerings of sixth street. I will be going back for the bread, chai tea, and the outdoor atmosphere.IMG_9108

Recruiting: Interview Week

The crazy week of interviews and pre-interview dinners is past and somehow I have managed to survive. How did I survive you ask? Was it nonstop coffee and late-night studying? Was it doing my hair/makeup everyday (which I usually do not do)? Was it dressing business professional nearly everyday of the week despite the hot, muggy temperatures outside? YES. Despite all of this, it was also an incredible experience. Yes, I admit, it was scary being interviewed by partners consecutively but I feel so much more confident now. And who doesn’t like getting treated to steak dinner every night for a week? No complaints there.

The W Hotel, Downtown Austin

Pre-Interview Dinners

The firms will host a “pre-interview dinner” each night before your interview with them the next day. The dinners will be at a nice place or hotel downtown, such as the Omni or the W. They are usually catered with amazing food and also may include a fun event, such as casino games and a short presentation. At these dinners you will get a chance to speak with your interviewer. This is extremely helpful because it will help you feel more relaxed for the interview the next day. If you can make some good conversation with this partner at the dinner, the same good vibes are sure to carry over into your interview the next day. Also, please do not forget about etiquette at these dinners! You may be nervous and forget which forks and knives to use (hint hint….I did that) but that is OKAY! Remember that nobody is perfect, and you are bound to make a few mistakes here and there. Focus on what you can do to make recruiting successful (clean clothes, good sleep, etiquette) and forget about the stuff that is out of your control (redness, sweating, whatever!). Just keep smiling and know that they really do just want to get to know you!


The interviews were my favorite part of the whole week. I am not sure if I am comfortable with one-on-one interactions or if I just had really good conversations but either way the interviews went better than I expected. I am definitely the type of person that gets nervous and shows it, so my first piece of advice is to remain calm. It is not as big of a deal as you will make it out to be in your head. By your last interview of the week, you will be a pro at getting interviewed. In fact, I found myself laughing during a couple of my interviews. The partners are people just as much as we are and they enjoy jokes, too. Bottom line? Just be yourself! Do not undermine the importance of the interview, but also realize that you will be working with these people and they want to make sure your personality fits with the firm.

Things to remember for your interview: unofficial transcripts, follow-up thank you emails, and the right business attire (Yes, ladies that means pantyhose is included!).

Why Accountants are Risk-Averse

A few weeks ago, MPAC had an opportunity to hear from a couple local entrepreneurs. It was an insightful conversation as Robert Varela and Kristian Zak of UMeTime app shared their experiences in being with a start-up company. They described the depth of business knowledge they gained in the process and also the quick turnaround they have from idea generation to actual execution. They shared their plans to expand and grow the company in other parts of the country and how the business makes money, touching on future opportunities they are considering. It was fascinating to hear all of this from young entrepreneurs who clearly have already accomplished so much. Their work experience sure sounded different from ours as accountants.

It was from this conversation that I started thinking about why we don’t seem to hear a lot about entrepreneurial accountants. When pressed, accountants have some cool ideas on how to solve life’s problems and make things more convenient. There are ideas but not a lot of action it seems.

So is an entrepreneurial accountant really an oxymoron? I don’t think so. Accountants are just as able to start companies, but we are naturally risk-averse for a reason. It’s because of double entry accounting. Thank you Luca Pacioli!

Consider this: When a transaction happens, we are taught to record the debits and its corresponding credits. The reason is simple and that is to keep the books balanced. It goes back to the accounting equation: Assets = Liabilities + Owner’s Equity. As accountants, this is so deeply ingrained in our thinking that before making a decision on something, we are unconsciously trying to make sure we have the correct debit and credit accounts. There’s the drive to get the proper accounting treatment.

Entrepreneurs are different. Take for example Kristian when he said, “If you have an idea, just go for it and do it.” One has to admire that free-spirited attitude. It is not to say that entrepreneurs don’t take calculated risks because they do. But in general terms, they don’t obsess about getting everything right. The folks at UMeTime even appreciated making mistakes  early on because it helped them tweak their operations.

As a life premise, accountants would agree with the importance of learning from mistakes. But as a business proposition, I don’t think we are inclined to accept mistakes in “accounting treatment.” I sure don’t want to be in violation of AICPA, PCAOB, SEC, GASB, FASB, IRS, IFRS and a whole lot of other standards out there. Generally speaking, we just want to make sure that everything balances in the end. Contrast that perspective with an entrepreneur who is committed to bringing an idea to the market, with no assurances that such efforts would pay off, yet still attempts to do so. We are wired differently and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But in spite of such differences, I really think accountants are just as able to pursue entrepreneurial passions. A background in accounting is a great launching pad to so many different opportunities. It exposes us to various businesses and industries in a way that other professions don’t. As exciting as that is, however, I hope that we don’t discount making those opportunities ourselves. As accountants, we have the tools to operate and understand businesses. Sometimes what we need is just the encouragement to start building them.

Disclaimer: The following assertions are my personal hypothesis. These are unscientific and general claims that are meant to offer an alternative perspective on how we view entrepreneurship and accounting.

Does Accounting Add Value?


For many businesses-owners, accounting is perceived as a necessary evil. It is a cost that you have to bear but does not create value the way that other departments do, such as marketing, engineering, or finance. Some may argue about whether the accounting department of a firm is “productive” in the classical sense, but their support role is essential for any successful business. Accountants are derided for not providing as much value (especially by the finance and economics types, even though they are not productive in the classical sense, either) but without the accountants, large businesses could not operate.

Even for a small business, accounting is crucial. When your profit margin is in the thousands, you need to make sure and collect all receipts as soon as possible. Maintaining current books is crucial for this task. It becomes both more difficult and more important to discharge accounting duties as sales climb along with your need for new capital. As you move up the ranks and become a  larger company with many employees, accounting techniques, practices, and procedures enable managers to maintain control over cash flows and company resources. Anyone who has overseen cashiers knows the importance of keeping up with revenues.

Accounting information can also be used to make cost-benefit decisions, like the cost-benefit decision of how much accounting detail should be pursued. To make the cost-benefit decision, you have to use the tools of finance as well, and this is where the artificial distinction between finance and accounting dissipates. Without the building blocks of accounting, finance would have to start from scratch and end up with less reliable results. This is not because finance is not capable, but because there is value in comparative advantage. Financiers can focus their efforts on long-term capital budgeting, marketers can drum up sales, engineers can design, and accountants can precisely tally it all up.

Many companies also need accountants to report financial results to stakeholders, including stockholders, the Board of Directors, the government, and lenders. Although much of reporting for big business is typically seen as a legal requirement, the value of such standard reporting is still great and can be found in the cost of capital. Without assurance that a company’s financial reports are accurate, cost of capital would be higher to accommodate the additional risk. This concept applies to both small businesses that want to grow as well as large public corporations.

Further, our tax system in the US is quite complicated, and many companies do not have enough scale to warrant having in-house tax staff to navigate every complexity. In this way, tax accountants can help companies minimize tax expenses and associated risks. With their specialization and familiarity with tax law, tax accountants can consult with timthumbmanagement about strategies that can help them reduce their tax burden.

CFOs around the world agree that accountants add value not only to their company but to the public in general. We do this by performing critical functions that enable other business departments to do their work more efficiently. Next time you hear accountants being diminished as less important in some way, you can remind them of all these ways that accountants add value.

What is a CFP?

Too often we find ourselves in a certain track, not realizing there are other paths out there also worth exploring. Accounting students are prone to this mentality with so many thinking that a CPA is the only certification worth pursuing. While this may undeniably be the Holy Grail for accounting, there are other worthwhile careers like a Certified Financial Planner or CFP that is also worth looking into. My fellow MPA student Brooks Butler has written some on this topic but I’d like to delve deeper into this particular certification, especially since we just had a speaker talk about that in our most recent MPAC General Assembly Meeting.

Mr. Pilgrim and I

CFP is a certification for those who are looking to help clients, mostly individuals and families secure their financial future. Mr. Alan Pilgrim, coordinator for the UT Professional Development Center, visited with MPAC this week and likened the profession to that of a doctor-patient relationship. A CFP is someone who helps clients in planning their finances for life events, such as having kids, paying for school, saving for retirement, etc. With the recent financial crisis in 2008 and the marketing push initiated by the CFP Board, this role has never been more important. Mr. Pilgrim asserted that this profession would be in the top five in demand careers in the next decade, especially when you consider the retiring baby boomers needing help with their finances.

There are a few caveats to a CFP, however. First, as eager as MPA students may be to jump in this opportunity, the profession and the clientele mostly reward seasoned folks. Those with significant work experience will succeed and our young age right now, according to Mr. Pilgrim, is not going to be an advantage. This is understandable because I wouldn’t trust a 21-year old with my retirement nest egg, assuming that I have one. Nonetheless, I think it is important to be aware of this, because the demand for CFP is only going to get higher and this would be an excellent opportunity 10 or 15 years down the road.

Second, with more women handling the family’s finances, Mr. Pilgrim also observed that women CFPs have become even more in demand. Given the highly personal nature of the profession, it is not far-fetched to expect clients to be able to relate to their advisors, especially the ones helping with their finances. There’s a lot of client interaction in this profession, so solid relationship building skills are absolutely imperative.

All in all, I think a CFP is a rewarding career because at the end of the day it is about helping people. It is about creating a financial security for clients and lending one’s expertise so that they may live the life they envision for themselves. The good news for us accountants is that this is a path we can take and it’s not about collecting an alphabet soup of letters just because. One has to really examine whether a certification is suitable for one’s goals and ambitions. Because in the final analysis whether it is a CPA or a CFP or something else, it is about the value we derive from it.