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Rising Stars: The Well-Rounded Accountant

By Lucas Laursen

Hayley got interested in accounting during college and has fast-tracked her way up the first rungs on the ladder at a major accounting firm.

Name: Hayley McCowen
School: UCLA
Major: Business Economics
Years Out of College: 2-5
Title: Senior Audit
Company: Deloitte
First Steps

Hayley decided early in college that she was interested in accounting. "I took my first accounting class because my friends were taking it. But I really enjoyed the class and I realized I wanted to do more. I ended up switching from math to business economics with a minor in accounting."

She did an internship her junior summer with Deloitte and took their offer to go back after graduation in 2004.

"If you stay a year, it's pretty much an automatic promotion. I'm an audit senior, now." If Hayley stays with her firm, she can look forward to being a manager after five years.

Challenges Faced

Like many young employees of large corporations, Hayley finds it almost too easy to get caught up in her work. "Maintaining a work-life balance and making sure you make time for yourself is the biggest challenge. It's possible to spend the whole day and night at work if you let yourself."

My Experience

Hayley's daily work involves a lot of research. Recent government attention to the industry in the wake of Enron-era scandals means that accounting regulations are continually changing and Hayley's clients need to be kept up to date.

Luckily, Hayley has some say in what she's researching. "I've chosen an area of my own interest to work in: manufacturing and retail. My clients include Quiksilver and Volcom. Other people do real estate, you name it. You can ask the scheduler to assign you to certain areas and they usually try to make it happen."

Variety seems to be one of Hayley's favorite parts of her job. "There's so much learning. It's never the same old thing. You're with different clients in different places. You can travel and see different businesses and you get a lot of business insight. A year in public accounting is like two years in private accounting. You see a lot."

Next Steps

Vertical progress seems to be Hayley's plan. "As long as I'm learning new things, I think I'll stay with the company." She is also most of the way towards earning her certificate in public accounting (CPA), which allows her to do a wider range of work and serves as the badge of honor in the industry.

As Hayley puts it, "the cost-benefit analysis for going to grad school doesn't really work out in taxes and auditing. Maybe if you go into consulting or if you want to be a CFO, but I've seen people do it without going back for a master's."

Advice for Others

"In college, I was in a student accounting group, and did finance for my sorority and the Pan-Hellenic Council. Being well rounded definitely helped me. I really think it's not just about grades and accounting. It's also about your outside activities. Now that I'm on the recruiting side, I see that we want well-rounded people. Recruiters also look for people with leadership experience, either in college or in jobs."

"I'd also say don't be afraid to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. Don't be too set in what you're willing to do. Let the scheduler send you somewhere new. I'd say to be open-minded, you'll get better experience."

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