For some, the path to a dream job in public accounting is direct.
Assurance and Advisory Senior
New York City, NY
For some, the path to a dream job in public accounting is direct. For others, like Andy Kaestle, CPA, it’s more of an adventure. Through his exploration, he’s been able to follow his dreams by setting goals, working hard, and earning opportunities.
Andy first considered becoming a CPA while taking an entry-level accounting course at the University of San Diego. He completed three internships, pursuing degrees in accounting and finance, but it wasn’t until his summer internship with EY that he saw what life in public accounting would be like. “I was working with real responsibilities and real deadlines on a real project. It was satisfying to feel like I was an important aspect to a team and adding value to our client’s business.”
Andy’s internships and campus involvement paid off when it came to the interview process. “I knew I wanted to start my career at a large international firm, but our accounting program was competitive, and I wasn’t sure if my grades alone would get my foot in the door. However, I was much more involved on campus than many of my peers — I played on our university’s division 1-AA football team, was an editor for the school newspaper, and served as president of our school’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi. When it came time to go through the recruiting process, I was relieved to have had great campus involvement and internship experience to back me up. Grades are certainly important, but I think it was my other involvement that caught the eye of recruiters.”
Andy ultimately accepted a position at EY’s San Diego office, where he worked with mostly biotechnology and pharmaceutical research clients while studying for the CPA Exam. And, after a couple failed attempts, he passed all four parts — adding those three letters to his resume. “I was excited about the path of my career, and I continued to focus on opportunities to get involved and network through various professional organizations.”
One of those fantastic opportunities included being elected to serve a two-year term on the Beta Alpha Psi’s International Board of Directors. “Beta Alpha Psi’s mission is to provide self-development and service opportunities to its student members. I wanted to help them continue to grow so that more students would have the opportunities I had.”
Through the support of his firm, Andy traveled to BAP regional conferences across the United States, speaking to students about his experience at school and in public accounting. He also worked with the organization to improve involvement of its alumni base as well as to expand the organization’s international reach by traveling to New Zealand and Australia to explore the possibility of adding BAP chapters at universities there. And he took advantage of his time down under by jogging along the shores of Bondi Beach and visiting the Jenolan Caves.
With his success overseas, Andy decided to further pursue opportunities working abroad. “I moved into a role that involved serving one of our firm’s global investment banking clients. Because of my willingness to move to New York City and get outside of my comfort zone – as well as clearly expressing my intentions to work internationally to the right people – I spent the first few months of 2013 working at my client’s world headquarters in Switzerland. It was a tremendous experience to work with individuals from around the world.” The skiing wasn’t bad either.
After some three years in assurance and returning from Switzerland, Andy is taking a four-month sabbatical from E&Y to put his experience to use through a fellowship in the Philippines with Kiva.org, a microfinance non-profit. “In addition to supporting one another, E&Y and Kiva maintain a very similar focus on entrepreneurship. Providing entrepreneurs with the tools they need to be successful is one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about microfinance in the first place.” He’s also looking forward to experiencing firsthand the culture of a developing country.
Ultimately, being proactive about his career goals and personal interests has left Andy happy, not only with where he is but also where he’s headed. “You can’t just expect things to happen, but if you perform well and express your interests, good things will come. Build professional relationships with people inside and outside your firm — it will pay dividends. And if you want your career to take a bit of a different path, make sure people know what your goals are. Learn to strike a balance between communicating that you are fully committed to your current role while being sure people are keeping your career goals in mind. Employers will go to great lengths to help make sure high-performing employees feel challenged and fulfilled.”
Future plans? “I’d like to take advantage of more international opportunities, and perhaps live in a big city overseas. For now, I’m just trying to enjoy the ride.”
Not sure which path you want to follow? Consider your options and Find Your Fit.
6am: Morning workout
A short run helps me get my day off to a good start, so I get up early and head to the gym before work.
8am: Arrive at the office and check email
The typical time for people to arrive at the New York office is a little later than most other cities. Arriving at the office by 8 a.m. gives me a little extra time to address any urgent emails from our teams in Europe and Asia. Keeping a close eye on my inbox ensures that I am prioritizing the day’s tasks and responsibilities appropriately, and can ask for help from other team members as necessary.
9am: Morning status meeting with staff
Around 9:30 each morning, I meet with our staff to discuss the status of our objectives and to make sure we have a sound game plan for what we are setting out to accomplish that day. Working on a large team for a global company means that there are typically multiple projects going on at once – I am currently involved in three different projects for the same client. We’re nearly complete with our financial statement audit procedures – we just need a few final pieces of documentation from the client which I will have one of my experienced staff follow up on. We’re also starting a risk project. Our deadline for a workplan for this project is three days from now, so we will need to primarily focus on this task over the next few days.
It is also fairly common for there to be one-off tasks that may take priority over the day’s initial plans, like last night when the client called and asked for a risk assessment a day earlier than planned. This morning, I need to see who can complete this risk assessment by the end of the day.
11am: Budgeting meeting for upcoming project
I have a 30-minute meeting with the manager of a team that I will be joining next week. We will discuss expectations for the project, as well as high-level budgeting and staffing needs.
12pm: Lunch with team members
Depending on the day, a few team members will pay a visit to the office cafeteria or a nearby restaurant for lunch. For those who have a flexible schedule that day, enjoying a meal together is a great way to take a break from work and build relationships with colleagues.
1pm: Client meeting
Today I am visiting one of our client’s offices in midtown Manhattan for a meeting to discuss outstanding requests on the deliverables of our project and a quick status update on the activity of the quarter. I anticipate this meeting will be relatively short, but I haven’t seen the client in a couple of weeks, so I’d like to attend in person. Whenever possible, I prefer to physically attend this type of meeting as it’s a great opportunity to continue to strengthen our relationship with the client. Plus, the meeting tends to be more effective when it’s in person as opposed to over the phone.
2pm: Career development coffee
When I get back to the office, I have 30 minutes set aside to catch up over coffee with one of my counselees in E&Y’s mentoring program. We talk about what’s happening in their work projects and on their team and how they feel like they are progressing in their career. I love mentoring young employees since I got so much help from my mentor when I started at E&Y.
3pm: Check in with team members
I check in with all team members working on projects for which I am responsible. While this check-in is very brief, I like to get an idea of where their current workload stands. Sometimes an urgent request has popped up or a task has taken longer than expected. After we talk about the status of the tasks, I can determine what can be completed by the end of the day and what will need to be reassigned or pushed into the following day.
4pm: Check email
5pm: Status meeting with supervisors
6pm: Team drinks
8pm: Dinner and catch up on day’s news