Darwin C. Jones
When Darwin C. Jones started his college career, becoming a CPA wasn’t in his plans.
New York City, NY
When Darwin C. Jones started his college career, becoming a CPA wasn’t in his plans. But, as it turns out, the CPA credential was just what he needed to get to his dream job.
Darwin’s original end goal was to go to law school and become a corporate attorney, so he planned to graduate with a degree in business and work in the corporate world to get there.
His plan took a detour thanks to his ability to make sense of numbers. “It’s really funny because I do so little math in my job now. But in college, my state offered me a full-tuition scholarship as long as I majored in accounting. When my advisor told me that accounting was everything I’d get with a business major plus more useful knowledge, I was sold.”
Switching his major to accounting didn’t change Darwin’s original plan though. The way he saw it, accounting was still lawyer prep, especially as he focused on studying corporate tax law.
When it was time to choose an internship, Darwin ventured down a different path than most of his peers. “I knew I wanted to go to one of the Big 4 accounting firms right out of school, so I got some experience in industry while I could. I took an internship at Verizon, where I had the chance to work with people in a different way than I would have if I had interned in public accounting. And I ended up getting job offers in public accounting, so it was a win-win.”
According to plan, Darwin started at Ernst & Young in tax compliance after graduation. He learned a lot about accounting and himself during his adjustment from backpack to briefcase. “In the beginning, I had a rough time doing things without understanding them. But there’s so much I understood only through getting experience. Piece by piece, you figure out how everything relates and what you need to be doing; it just doesn’t come all at once. “
Now that Darwin is fully settled in public accounting, he likes to share his wisdom with others starting the process. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you start the job. For some reason, students are hesitant to ask questions because they don’t want to look slow or they think that they’re supposed to already know the answer. We recruit the best and brightest students, so we already know you’re capable of handling the work. We expect that you know nothing at first because you have no technical experience. We just want you to have the willingness to learn and a positive attitude. That makes all the difference.”
A few years into his career as a public accountant, Darwin headed back to school to get his Master’s in Taxation. After graduation, he worked for a private equity firm that specialized in mergers and acquisitions. There, Darwin managed the U.S. tax compliance process for the firm’s investment funds and selected portfolio companies. Additionally, he was a part of the deal execution team, which makes sure each deal (acquisitions, dispositions, restructurings, etc.) closed on time and with a smooth transition. “Being a part of the teams of bankers, consultants, attorneys and CPAs that worked with the legal, tax and financing process of buying a company, I realized that I didn’t need to go to law school to do what I wanted. My CPA credential prepared me to read through the legal contracts and understand what they meant for my clients. And I was very happy with the work I was doing as a CPA.”
Eventually, Darwin made his way back to public accounting as a manager in the Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) Tax Practice at KPMG. This position has given him opportunities to work with more companies and accounting colleagues. “I enjoyed working for the private equity firm, but I wanted the chance to work with more than one client. Now, my day is really varied because I’m constantly doing work for multiple clients. I also love working in public accounting because I have chances to teach others and share my experiences with them. I believe in giving back. It’s rewarding to work with a junior staff member who is excited to learn more about the industry.”
Darwin also gives back by reaching out to high school seniors through his involvement with the New York State Society of CPAs. He co-chairs a program called Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession (COAP), which recruits high school students to careers in accounting before they ever step foot on a college campus. The students are invited to spend a week at a college learning about accounting careers and going on firm visits. “It’s one of my favorite weeks of the year. I love teaching students about all of the diverse opportunities in my profession.”
Looking for a job that’s as rewarding as Darwin’s? Is it in public accounting or industry? If you’re not sure, use our Find Your Fit tool and learn more about the different opportunities available to CPAs.
6am: Plan my Day (6:30-7:30am)
I wake up and look through emails I’ve received throughout the night from my colleagues in Europe. Next, I review my calendar to gauge what I can realistically accomplish today and what may need to be pushed back or delegated to someone else. After I have a clear picture of my day, I will respond to emails and start a follow-up list.
7am: Eat Breakfast and Start Commute
My wife and I try to have breakfast together every morning before we part ways. After breakfast, I start my commute from Northern New Jersey to New York City. The walk from my home to the train station is about 10 minutes, and then I hop on my train to Midtown Manhattan.
8am: Finish Commute and Check Voice Messages
The train ride into Manhattan is about 30 minutes, followed by a 10-minute subway ride to my office. During the commute, I read. Sometimes I browse work papers, but today I’m reading A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.
When I arrive at work, I check my voice messages and quickly add items to my follow-up list before jumping on a 9am conference call.
9am: Current Structuring Deal – Conference Call
One of my current projects has a presentation at the end of the week. We’re working with a private equity client that needs mergers and acquisitions (M&A) tax advice on its acquisition of a biotechnology company with U.S. and global operations. My team recommended a solution to minimize tax exposure risk by helping our client restructure its business operations from a tax perspective. The new tax structure is projected to potentially save the client more than $50 million over the next three to five years!
Before issuing the final report to this client, I pull my five-person team (made up of people in three different time zones) together on a conference call to walk through the presentation and report. As this is the last call before meeting with the client, we spend two hours reviewing all the details. After the call, I make sure the senior associate understands the updates that need to be made and schedule a time to walk through them with her and the partner later this afternoon.
11am: Review Transaction Cost Analysis Draft Report with Staff
After my call, I switch gears and sit with the associate that prepared the first draft of a transaction cost analysis (TCA) with which we’ve been engaged to assist.
There are numerous expenses incurred throughout the life cycle of a transaction that have a direct impact on a deal’s value. Through a TCA, we help buyers and sellers identify and evaluate the tax implications of transaction costs related to the transaction.
I received the first draft yesterday evening and reviewed the report on the train ride home. Today, I walk through my comments and changes with the associate. This ensures we both agree to any revisions and gives me an opportunity to ask questions about matters specific to the deal since he is writing the report and is closer to the details. It also gives me a chance to answer any technical questions the associate may have.
12pm: Lunch with Mentor
Even as a manager, it’s very important that I have mentors to help me navigate my career path. I’ve planned a catch-up lunch with a mentor that I was matched with shortly after attending the AICPA’s Leadership Academy.
1pm: New Deal – Meeting
A partner asked me to stop by after lunch to discuss a project he would like me to take the lead on. Since I don’t have much background, he asked me to block an hour so we can call the client to gather additional preliminary details to get the project moving.
2pm: Respond to Emails, Voice Messages & Review Follow-up List
I haven’t even begun tackling items on the follow-up list I started this morning, which has been growing longer with each meeting. I spend the next two hours catching up on emails, returning phone calls, and researching technical issues in preparation for my 4pm presentation run-through for my current structuring deal.
4pm: Current Structuring Deal – Presentation Run-through
Now that the senior associate has made the changes discussed on the 9am call, we book a conference room to do a run-through of the presentation with the partner. It’s basically a dress rehearsal where the partner acts as the client, asking difficult questions so we’re prepared if they come up during the actual presentation. We still have two days before the client meeting, so we are able to make further changes if necessary.
5pm: Intern Networking Reception
I work closely with the firm’s diversity recruiting initiative, and periodically throughout the summer we host networking receptions for the interns recruited through the diversity recruitment program. Tonight’s event includes networking, a dinner and a Q & A portion with a panel of professionals. It’s always a great experience for me, and I look forward to hearing about the interns’ experiences.
8pm: Commute Home
I stop by my desk and print off the updated transaction cost analysis (TCA) to review during my commute home, pack up, and head out for the evening.