By Jong Eun Jong and Katie Bahr
The Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program helps students develop a solid foundation to start their public accounting career. After earning the degree and gaining a few years of experience in the workplace, most alumni either stay in public accounting and continue working their way up, or decide to pursue careers in a different business field. We spoke with three MAcc graduates from the Class of 2014 to see how their careers have progressed over the last five years.
Allison Kupferman, Private Equity Associate, Blackstone Group
As an undergraduate at Vanderbilt, Allison Kupferman took some corporate finance classes, which led her to the realization that accounting would be a good career fit. Since Vanderbilt didn’t offer an official business minor at the time, she decided to expand her accounting knowledge after she graduated by enrolling in the Valuation track of the Vanderbilt MAcc program. “I only had a little bit of experience with valuation. It definitely seems more of a technical track (than assurance), which attracted me more,” she said.
During the program, Kupferman interned at PwC in the capital markets accounting advisory services group, which led to a full-time offer. “It was pretty seamless. I interviewed for my internship during the MAcc program and hit it off with the PwC folks, (and it led to an offer)” Kupferman said. “I actually ended up splitting my time between the capital markets accounting group and valuations, so I ended up getting the best of both worlds, doing accounting work and valuation work at the same time.”
However, after two and half years, Kupferman began to contemplate a change. While she enjoyed her time at PwC and the relationships she made, she was interested in getting into Private Equity. After interviewing, she accepted a valuations role at Blackstone, where she could value portfolio companies in the private equity business. “I work with very knowledgeable and talented people, and I’m surrounded by them every day, which definitely has helped me to grow as a professional,” she said.
Kupferman says that the skills she learned in the MAcc program help her career to this day. The MAcc program taught her how to network with professionals and provided the technical skills she learned give her confidence in her work. “It was a great step between undergrad and my first real job, because it helped me to learn how to network and practice (accounting) as a professional. I was definitely very prepared going into my jobs at PwC and my job at Blackstone,” Kupferman said.
Josh Drake, Deals Manager – Financial Due Diligence, PwC
Josh Drake had been interested in business and math since undergrad, but as a college baseball player, his schedule didn’t allow him to intern at accounting firms. As he wrapped up college, he started looking at graduate school as an opportunity to pursue internships. “The (Vanderbilt) MAcc program intrigued me because of the internship opportunity,” he said.
He enrolled at Vanderbilt, and his internship at PwC during Mod III eventually led to a full-time job offer. Spending three years in audit as a Senior Associate in Nashville allowed Drake to leverage the baseline knowledge of accounting he earned during his MAcc degree. “I think Vanderbilt definitely provided a skill set to put (me) in a position to be successful,” he said.
Working at PwC only broadened and deepened Drake’s skill set, especially when it came to understanding financial statements and accounting at a deeper level. In 2017, he was promoted to a Deals Manager in Financial Due Diligence at PwC in Chicago. In his current role, Drake now consults for mergers and acquisitions, gaining exposure to higher-level clientele and seeing more of the finance operations instead of only focusing on the accounting side. “The foundational knowledge is very helpful, (but so is) getting a little deeper under the hood and understanding the business: how it works, what its main growth drivers are, where its main expenses are,” he said.
Looking back, Drake credits the Vanderbilt MAcc program for helping him land his current role. “It was a good launching pad,” he said. “(It provided) an opportunity to get my foot in the door at the Big 4… I think it’s hard to appreciate it when you’re (in the program), like the exposure that Vanderbilt gives students as far as recruiting. They give you every opportunity in the world to land these jobs with the firms.”
Abby Fivel, Senior Associate, PwC Sydney, Australia
One of the key reasons Abby Fivel entered into the MAcc program was to fulfill aspirations for an international career. While most accounting professionals have to wait until they reach managerial positions to have opportunities overseas, Abby was able to make the leap just four years after obtaining her undergraduate degree.
She credits her ability to make the early leap to the career path laid out by the MAcc program and her transparency about her goals. “Most of the Big 4 accounting firms advertise global mobility in their recruiting,” Abby says. “The MAcc is a great entry point into those accounting firms, which are so competitive. My first job was with Deloitte, and I told my career coach from day one, and even during my internship, that global work was something I was interested in.”
Deloitte supported Abby’s interests, setting up interviews with their Sydney office while she was still a senior consultant. She got a job working in the Australian auditing office and spent two years working there. A few months ago, Abby took a position with PwC’s capital marketing and accounting advisory services office in Sydney. She says her network from the MAcc program helped her understand the demands of the new position and how it fit into her career goals.
“A few of my friends and colleagues had worked in CMAAS and at PwC in the United States, and I talked to them about their experiences,” Abby says. “I had been searching for the next step that aligned with the progression I wanted to take. I knew that the job would be different from country to country, but between my experiences in Australia and my friends with CMAAS, I felt confident it was right.”
Abby has been able to bring together her career interests in organizational development and analytical accounting with her personal passion for international perspectives by taking ownership of her career path and relying on her network. Her advice to prospective MAcc students? Be clear and honest about what you want with colleagues and managers alike.
“Speaking up about what I wanted in the firm has been vital, and I’ve really enjoyed and relied on my Vanderbilt network. We all know each other and try to understand each other’s experiences,” she said.