Career Profiles is a series of posts that will feature Haas students who have accepted an internship or full time job offer across various industries. This one is on Assurance Services in the Public Accounting Industry.
Alyssa Tio is a Haas senior. She is the President of Berkeley Women in Business (BWIB), the only undergraduate student organization focused on empowering women and providing members with resources to develop the skills and knowledge necessary for future employment in the professional industries. She has served as BWIB’s Vice President of Member Relations (2012-2013), Vice President of Communications (2011-2012), and Finance Committee Member (2010-2011). Additionally, Alyssa has volunteered for the YWCA in Berkeley/Oakland for their Young Women & Money Conference and as a mentor for their and Youth Development Program. She has also mentored sixth graders through the Sage Mentorship Project and 12th graders for the Young Entrepreneurs at Haas’s High School Program. Alyssa has worked as an Administrative Intern for Curtis Financial Planning in Oakland, and as an Assurance Intern for Ernst & Young (EY) in San Francisco. She will be working full time doing assurance services for EY post-graduation.
ABC’s are prevalent at Haas. Did this norm influence your decision to pursue accounting, if at all?
No, I never pursued accounting because it was popular or because I felt pressured to in any way. I actually didn’t even know what the ABCs stood for until around junior year, when I had already decided to pursue accounting. I made the decision based on what felt right to me, and where I knew I would fit best.
In hindsight though, I can’t discount its prevalence entirely. Since it is so popular, accounting was one of the first career paths I was exposed to. During my freshman year, I noticed that most of the juniors and seniors I looked up to were pursuing careers in accounting, specifically with the Big Four. Also, since accounting firms have an active presence on campus, one of the first professional events I attended as a freshman was an event where I got to meet the Ernst & Young recruiter. Looking back at it, opportunities like that definitely played a role in my decision.
Why accounting? What makes it so interesting to you?
After a particularly unpleasant encounter with the subject in UGBA 10, I never thought accounting would be something I’d pursue. It wasn’t until I started talking to friends and mentors about career paths that I realized the accounting careers they were pursuing was not the bookkeeping, number-crunching type of job that I had envisioned. They were actually pursuing careers in public accounting, something that I found to be much more dynamic and intriguing.
What interests me most about public accounting is the opportunity I get to work with different clients and to work in teams. By being assigned to various clients, I’ll get the chance to learn about all kinds of companies in industries ranging from healthcare to technology. I’m excited to learn about how these businesses run while developing my own accounting knowledge after I graduate.
You were offered internships from multiple accounting firms. Why did you choose EY over others?
While I considered factors like clients and career progression, over everything else I chose EY because of the people. I know it’s cliche — when I was recruiting, that was the answer almost everyone gave me. But it could not be more true. The Big Four firms are very similar. What sets them apart, in my opinion, is their culture, which is best reflected through the people within the firm. When I went out to recruiting events like info sessions and socials, I met everyone from Partners to Associates. By the end of recruiting, I chose EY because it just felt right to me. My conversations with everyone I interviewed with flowed well, and most of the time I didn’t even feel like I was in an interview. I strongly believe that above all else, anyone interested in the Big Four should choose where they feel like they fit in.
How were the interview processes like for various firms? Were they mostly different or similar?
I can only speak to the Big Four, but in my experience the interview processes were mostly similar. They were all behavioral interviews, so before going in I just made sure I could talk about my resume and my past experiences. The interview processes were not difficult, although going through recruiting for multiple firms simultaneously can be tiring. I just made sure to remember that these interviews are a two-way street: not only were they learning about me, but it was a chance for me to get to know them. It made the whole process a lot less daunting.
What accounting and ethics elective courses would you recommend to fulfill CPA prerequisites?
For accounting units, I would recommend taking classes that also cover material that’s tested on the CPA exams. This includes classes like Intermediate and Advanced Accounting, Audit, and Tax. I also took UGBA 127 Financial Reporting Issues in the Financial Services Industry with Professor McCauley, which I enjoyed because I got to learn about topics in financial services that I could apply directly to other classes and to the real world.
Haas offers a wide variety of classes that qualify for ethics courses. Luckily for Haas students, UGBA 105 and 107 count towards ethics. In addition, I would recommend leadership classes like Cort Worthington’s UGBA 196 Improvisational Leadership and a Corporate Social Responsibility elective, UGBA 192T Women in Business, taught by Kellie McElhaney. Haas offers so many great ethics classes I am interested in that I am actually over my ethics unit requirement!
Do you have any advice for other Haas and Cal students in general, who are also interested in accounting?
My top piece of advice would be to network and to meet people in these firms. If you are even considering pursuing a career in accounting, go out and meet students, professors, and professionals who either work or have worked in these companies. Having discussions about what it’s like to work in the Big Four or why they chose this career can really help you to understand what it is that intrigues you and whether or not it is the right path for you.
Would you recommend your experience at EY?
I would definitely recommend my experience at EY and I can’t wait to go back! In just a few months I was able to work at different client sites and develop skills I had never been exposed to in school. I was even given projects that I was told most people didn’t do until their first or second year. Not only did I work with an amazing and welcoming team, but I also had a large, fun intern class. We had plenty of time to hang out after work and became close in just a matter of weeks – it made me realize that EY’s culture was one that I really felt welcome in and happy to be a part of.
Whether its EY or any of the Big Four firms, I would highly recommend students pursue accounting. After finishing my internship, I got back to school and all my friends who had interned with the Big Four bonded over the great experiences we had over the summer. We exchanged stories about clients and our teams, and also talked about how much fun we had going to places like DisneyWorld, New York, and Deloitte University. Because accounting is prevalent at Haas, it isn’t hard to find someone you know who has interned with the Big Four. I’d suggest meeting people, understanding what public accounting really is, and determining whether or not it’s right for you.
Class of 2014