Career Profiles: Michelle Kaliski, KPMG Tax Accounting

05e6184Career 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 Tax Services in the Public Accounting Industry.

Michelle Kaliski transferred from Chabot College with an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration in Fall of 2012, and will be graduating from the Haas School of Business this month. She has been involved with the Haas Senior Gift Committee for two years now. Michelle interned for KPMG in the Summer of 2013, and will be doing tax accounting with the same company post-graduation.

What made you pursue accounting?
Before getting accepted into Haas, I didn’t know what career I wanted to pursue. Fortunately, I had an economics professor at my community college who suggested that I should consider accounting. He knew that I wanted stability and a long-term career because lets face it, it’s an accrual world out there (yes, that was an accounting joke). After he explained the many benefits of getting a CPA, I was immediately convinced. I know that once I have a CPA under my belt, the opportunities are endless. I also happened to like crunching numbers and that’s probably why I gravitated towards accounting.
What makes it so interesting to you?

I think the answer will vary according to which area you are going into – auditing, advisory, and tax. In my case, I chose tax. Many students have the misconception that tax is boring or tedious. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. During my brief internship, I was learning the different services KPMG provides – tax compliance, tax planning, Federal tax, State and Local Tax (SALT), and International Tax.  And with each service, there are so much to learn. I found the challenge exciting. Yes, reading IRS codes can be exciting too, but knowing the different strategies on how to save your clients money is very satisfying.

Over summer, you had a tax accounting internship with KPMG. What did a typical day look like?

First, they sent all the interns to Orlando for training mostly learning the basics. The experience was a lot of fun because I met interns from all over the country. When we got back to SF, we also had training but it was more learning about the different platforms that we use on a daily basis and the ins and outs of the tax department. The first couple weeks you can expect not to do much work because they’re still gauging your knowledge and how fast of a learner you are.  Gradually, they assign you more work and perhaps more challenging tasks but most are in piecemeals, which means you might prepare tax return on partnerships on one client and perform reconciling trial balance on another client. Other times they put you in a team for a big client that requires a large team effort.  Honestly, time went by so fast because we interns had so much fun. We had many intern events such as happy hour, volunteering at the SF zoo, and trip to Santa Cruz boardwalk.

Why KPMG?
The people. During the Big 4 forum, I talked to many Big 4 firms representatives to explore my options because I didn’t know which division (Tax, Audit, Advisory) was for me. When I came to the KPMG area, I was greeted immediately by Erin Riley, who is the recruiter for UC Berkeley, and she was super friendly and made me feel really welcomed. She introduced me to a couple of associates and a partner and all of them I felt were genuinely interested in me and answered all of the questions I had prepared for the event. Moreover, during my internship, I found KPMG is really just one big family, which was the decision factor in choosing KPMG.
Would you recommend your experience at KPMG over other accounting firms?
Absolutely. I know I’m biased in my answer, but I had the best experience interning for KPMG including the recruiting process.
How was the interview process? What kind of preparations did you make beforehand?
The interview process is very similar to any other interview. The first interview was held at the career center, which is normally conducted by a manager or senior manager. The second round interview was more extensive meaning you will be interviewed by 3-4 people (senior managers and partners). However, I was very surprised by how relaxed the interview was because it was unexpected. It was not your typical interviews because it was more of a conversation, which was a big relief for me since interviews can be nervewrecking and I had two midterms that same week.  But they really made feel at ease and made the experience much more pleasant.
I love the career center because they are very friendly and helpful in preparing me for my interview.  I felt they want to see you succeed and they want to help to get you there.  They have great resources – such as resume tips and mock interviews. I highly recommend visiting the career center even if you feel over prepared.  It’s always good to have a second opinion.
You transferred in from community college and had to take on the recruiting process more challengingly than others. How were you able to assimilate to Haas so well, and successfully persevere the pressures of recruiting?
Honestly, the transition was definitely overwhelming. The first semester was the hardest, because I was trying to get situated at Haas but also recruiting with the Big 4. There were many times I doubted myself, my ability, my intelligence.  I think at one point I had a semi break down.  I believe it’s really important to have a good supportive system and surround yourself with positive people.  But ultimately, I believe it was my determination. I never stopped reminding myself of my goals in life and that’s what kept me persevering.
Do you have any advice for other Haas and Cal students who want to do accounting, tax specifically?
  1. Decide soon, because you have to plan the next 2 years to finish your CPA requirements – such as getting the 150 units.
  2. Talk to many people as you can including those outside the Big 4
  3. Explore the different divisions – Advisory, Audit, Tax
  4. Attend as many info sessions as you can
  5. Visit the career center
  6. Take UGBA 120A Intermediate Accounting or UGBA121 Federal Tax before your internship so you know the different terminologies
  7. Lastly, I’m always available to talk.
Denice Sy
Class of 2014

One thought on “Career Profiles: Michelle Kaliski, KPMG Tax Accounting

  1. therealbigfour.org

    Denise – on your second point I think people should start looking outside the big four as their first choice.

    I’m glad you had a good experience with KPMG for your first time around but from the stories we’ve been receiving on our organization’s website it doesn’t look very bright for the next generation of employees of big four accounting firms.

    This story by a guy called Johnny in Toronto explains why he hated the politics of working at PwC and shows the types of managers that tend to hang around. I don’t blame him: http://www.therealbigfour.org/untouchable-managers-pwc/

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