So now what?

Blogger: Muntaha M. Sheikh

Blogger: Muntaha M. Sheikh

So you’re done with your internship, graduating with your undergraduate degree, signed a full-time offer, and plan on sitting for the CPA exam starting in January. The stars are aligning perfectly. So now what?

You’re currently in graduate school, but surprisingly its pretty lax. I always assumed graduate school sounded “hard,” but that really isn’t the case.  This semester is not as challenging, only because you already know a lot of the information, and it builds. It’s not too bad keeping up with three or four classes, and you’ll have extra time to do other things. It can be very easy to say “yes Netflix, I’m still watching.” After all, that is the go-to and we’ve been students for so long what else are we suppose to do? Maybe take on a part time gig at a local CPA firm, work on an idea you’ve had for quite some time and see what becomes of it, maybe reread the Harry Potter books like Caroline. I myself am a Graduate Teaching Assistant and learning basic coding on the side.

It’s vital to have a routine going. I’m sure you went through something similar when you started college. You have so much free time, what should you do? It’s a good problem to have. But I began thinking about starting work, especially during busy season. The challenge then becomes having way less time for yourself.

What if we used these months to wean off the Netflix and slowly start thinking about the real world (its closer than you think) and how to survive! Busy season is probably the scariest thing out there in the real world. During my internship, the most popular advice from the associates was to have something of your own. Busy season is much more bearable, in their opinion, if you have something to look forward to at the end of the day/week. Nothing big or time consuming, but maybe a hobby or pastime that you can spend a few minutes on. When you start working, this is the way you can get by each week and, before you know it, busy season is almost over! Of course, as you become more established in a company the more flexibility you’ll have, so don’t expect a lot at first – but it’s still just as important to have something of your own that can be a good escape at the end of the day.

What a great eight months. It’s rare you’ll get this much free time in a while once you start working, so use it wisely! I really hope I can take some of my own advice!

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Know Where You Want to Go in Life

Blogger: Randy Moser

Blogger: Randy Moser

While knowing where you want to go in life is an ambitious goal, I feel its value cannot be overstated. My experience is that you may not end up going where you wanted to go at first; however, actively revisiting your goals will help guide your decisions. Having goals will also avoid “going with the flow” and keep you on track. This advice is based on my personal experience of joining the workforce immediately after high school, having a reasonably successful career in the IT field, and going back to school for accounting and finance.

Here are a few tools that I felt were the most helpful in retrospect.

Have a Game Plan. Taking an hour to reflect on paper where you are and where you are headed on a one year, 2-5 year, and 10 year time table is a very powerful experience. Now, take that same exercise and do it yearly to amplify the experience even more. Once completed each year, hang your goals somewhere you will see them to help keep your goals from falling to the wayside. These goals can be professional or personal, and you should also be flexible about modifying the goals as needed.

This is a personal strategic planning exercise that I feel is very helpful, because it helps you think about where you are headed in life. Taking this approach helped me make the decision to go back to school and eventually change careers entirely to meet more of my personal goals.

The Informational Interview. While the informational interview is a common college assignment, putting an extra amount of effort into this task can be very beneficial. This comes in the form of looking for people in your network, or just outside of it, who are currently where you want to be in life. The ideal person will be a few years ahead of you in school or in their job, such as a high school student to a college student or a college student to a professional with 2-3 years of experience. You want the distance between the interviewee and yourself to be reasonable.

Once you have the ideal candidate pool, ask them if they would like to meet for lunch or coffee to discuss their job and career path since you have similar career aspirations. The great part about this exercise is most people enjoy talking about themselves. However, bear in mind some people may still be too busy or otherwise unavailable. If this is the case, it is not personal. Simply move on to the next candidate in your pool.

Next, take the time to create a list of questions that you are interested in finding the answers to. There are many places online with lists of informational interview questions to start with, and then customize them with personal details about your interviewee as well as yourself. After completing the questions, go about the informational interview in a humble manner and thank them for their time. Be sure to take notes about their responses and let the conversation wander if it wanders in a useful or interesting direction.

Perhaps the best result for your informational interview is an informal mentorship.  Even if this is not the case, be sure to take time to analyze what is said afterward. On several occasions I was able to utilize informational interviews, both formally and informally, to learn invaluable information about career choices before actually steering my life in a completely different direction.

Mentorships.  I have had the benefit of having several amazing mentors through the years. A few mentors were, and still are, a friend that also functioned as a mentor. They provided a lot of advice and perspective that helped shaped many of my life choices. If you look at your own life, you can probably find a few already. That being said, many of the larger accounting firms already have formal mentorship programs in place, which you should definitely utilize. In addition to those programs, I would recommend using a similar approach to the informational interview above and look for people who are where you want to be in the future.

The key here is that your mentors have already “been there and done that,” so to speak. They can help you navigate many issues and can function as your professional support network. Often, they will also help you understand a problem, the inner workings of a company, or even a challenging coworker much faster than you could on your own.

All three of these points can be summed up as know where you want to go and look for people that can help you get there. Hopefully, you will find these tools as useful as I have in your own lives. I would also like to end with one last piece of advice: be sure to take the time and be a mentor when you make it to the big leagues!

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How to Prepare for an Interview and Land Your Dream Internship

Blogger: Amanda Guajardo

Blogger: Amanda Guajardo

There are previous posts regarding the importance of internships to launch your accounting career. Now that we realize the importance of obtaining an internship, I’d like to discuss some things you can do to prepare for your interview to help you land that dream internship!

Dress appropriately

What to wear to an interview can be tricky! For men, a nice suit and tie accompanied with polished dress shoes is always the safe way to go. For ladies, there tends to be more options. Nice dress pants or a long pencil skirt is usually acceptable. Make sure to choose a top that does not show too much cleavage and pick a blazer that matches the color of your pants or skirt. As a general rule, the more conservative, the better when picking interview attire. You do not want your interviewer to lose focus on the things you are saying because of something you are wearing. This rule applies to clothing, shoes, and jewelry. And of course do not forget basic grooming. Make sure your hair is brushed, nails are clipped and nothing is in your teeth!

Do a mock interview

Many school career centers offer mock interviews. This is an extremely beneficial resource because it simulates a real interview with your company. You should take the mock interview seriously. Show up dressed in your interview attire and bring the things that you would bring to the real interview. Your mock interviewer will ask you questions similar to the questions that will be asked during the real thing. The most useful part of the mock interview is the feedback that you will receive afterwards. They will give you tips on how to fine tune your answers, improve your appearance and demeanor, and tone down nervous habits that you may not even realize you are doing, such as twirling your hair or twiddling your thumbs. After practicing in a mock interview, you’ll have the confidence to do great in your real interview!

My final piece of advice is to relax and be yourself. Most of these companies just want to see if they can get along with you and if they can picture working long hours with you. Most of these interviews will be more conversational rather than testing your accounting knowledge. So just take a deep breath and be sincere.

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A Day in the Life

Ever wonder what a typical day as a CPA is like? With the variety of career paths available in accounting, “typical” is different for every CPA. Here’s a peek into a day with Mark Rich, CPA.

Mark K. Rich (professional photo - February 2015)Name: Mark K. Rich, CPA, CFA

Title: Director of Investments

Organization: Kimbell Art Foundation

Location: Fort Worth, Texas

Organization Size: 4 people in the foundation office

Role: The Kimbell Art Foundation owns and operates the Kimbell Art Museum, an internationally renowned museum for both its art collection and its architecture. The Kimbell’s collection range in periods from antiquity to the 20th century and include European masterpieces by artists such as Fra Angelico, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Poussin, Velázquez, Monet, Picasso and Matisse; important collections of Egyptian and classical antiquities; and Asian, Mesoamerican and African art.

As the Director of Investments, my primary role is to manage the investment of the Kimbell Art Foundation’s financial assets for the support of the Kimbell Art Museum. The Kimbell offers free admission to view the permanent collection and this is made possible from the support the Foundation provides. In addition to managing the financial assets, I am also responsible for reviewing the monthly financials, completing the annual financial statements, and am the primary contact for the audit of those financial statements.

In addition, I serve in a volunteer capacity on various investment committees of non-profits in Fort Worth and am active in the Fort Worth Chapter of TSCPA.

History: I started at the Fort Worth, Ernst & Young office in the assurance (audit) service line for five years. While at EY, I primarily audited public oil and gas companies.

When I was hired at the Kimbell Art Foundation, I was initially given the role of controller/investment manager. My role was thought to be 50% accounting and 50% management of the Foundation’s investment portfolio. Knowing the value of the CPA license, I started work on the Chartered Financial Analyst designation in my first year at the Foundation. During this time, more of my time was spent with the investment portfolio and I was promoted to Director of Investments. In this role I still spend about 20% of my time with accounting functions, but the majority of my days are spent working with the financial assets of the Foundation.

A day: No day is typical (I think most people who are CPAs could say this). Some days, I spend the entire time working through a financial analysis of a new investment. Other days, I spend less than an hour on any given project. The day below is a fictional day that gives an idea of the type of work I perform.

9:00 – Arrive at work and check emails that have arrived overnight. Identify any that require immediate attention.

9:15 – Review analysis performed by intern on public equity managers. Evaluate any further information to capture and leave notes for changes when intern is back in the office. Identify managers to follow up with to understand any performance issues or to understand the deviation from benchmarks.

10:00 – Join a webcast on the previous quarter economic activity reports. This webcast allows me to get a good overview of various economic drivers that may be helpful for investment decisions.

11:15 – Continue research into oil and gas mineral leases where there are title issues. One of the investments in the portfolio consists of minerals left by the benefactor’s estate and these title issues can go back into the 1960s.

12:00 – Lunch

1:00 – Back at the office. Working on an evaluation of the correlation between our various investments and how they help diversify our portfolio. I’m trying to figure out what other assets may help diversify our portfolio more or if any current assets do not provide the diversification we had expected.

2:00 – Meeting with a potential new investment manager. There are lots of these types of meetings, but very few actually end up in the portfolio from these types of meeting. There are the few that require additional follow-up with a full evaluation and due diligence before making an investment with the manager.

3:00 – Touch base with the intern to make sure notes on changes to the evaluation were clear. Discuss how we can best implement the changes and how to present them on paper.

3:45 – Do a quick review of email and respond to any necessary items. I’m in charge of accounting for a partnership we have with another foundation on an investment and I need to get their accountants the financial statements for the quarter so they can record the revenues and expenses.

4:00 – Head to the offices of another non-profit for their investment committee meeting. In this meeting, we’ll go over the current investment portfolio of the endowment and what changes we are hoping to make in the next 3 months.

5:00 – Meeting ends and I’m heading home.

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Accounting: The Ultimate Team Sport!

Pic Omar J

Blogger: Omar Jaroun

Do I know everything about accounting? Not a chance! However, being a former student athlete, I tend to relate many things I’ve learned in sports to real-life situations. I’m not saying that being an accountant means you are going to be the next LeBron, Messi, or Rodger Federer. But I am saying that in many ways, team sports relate to the world of public accounting!

Being in public accounting, you typically work in teams of varying sizes. In some cases, you could work in a team of three or four, and, in others, you could work in a team of twenty. Now, when you work in teams, whether it is on the soccer field or in the audit room, you want to do whatever you can to make the team successful. On the soccer field, we always stressed the importance of getting to know your teammates in order to understand each other, and, more importantly, to build trust. Gaining your teammates’ trust is the first step to becoming successful on a new team. You are probably reading this thinking this has nothing to do with accounting. However, the underlying message translates fairly well to being a new intern on an audit or tax team. As a newbie, your coworkers want to build that bond with you to know they can depend on you when it matters most!

All in all, even if it means grabbing coffee, ordering lunch, or making copies, take those activities that you don’t think matter as a way to show your team they can depend on you! This will help them know that when something really important actually does come up, they can depend on you to deliver! That’s all for now! See ya next time!

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Leveraging Your College’s Networking Resources

Pic Mia K

Blogger: Mia Khedairy

For this post, I’m going to follow up on Randy’s in more detail, as he discussed the importance of your college’s resources and early hands-on experience. Since networking is about expanding your professional relationships, it really is a useful tool to seek an internship/job. When I first transferred to the university, I felt really overwhelmed with the variety of ways to network and the process of it. Whether you’re still in high school, a freshman at a university, or like me, a transfer student, it’s never too early to learn how to leverage your college’s networking resources. I definitely learned a lot on my feet, but I know I could have made it easier on myself if I knew how to use a few key options earlier.

Student Organizations
I definitely feel that student organizations are among the best methods to network for an internship or job. Oftentimes student organizations host presentations from corporations/firms that present their company and internship or full- time opportunities. In finance or accounting, some popular student organizations you may find at your university’s campus are: Beta Alpha Psi, Financial Leadership Association, ASCEND, NABA, ALPFA, etc. Your university may even offer membership in more specialized organizations such as a student chapter in the Institute of Internal Auditors or the Texas Society of CPAs.

These organizations offer great face time with potential employers. If you’re a freshman or sophomore college student, do not hesitate to join one because you may be undecided! If you’re a transfer student like me, join one your incoming semester. You will have the opportunity to ask these professionals questions on what they majored in, why they chose to work in their field, etc. Their insight will be extremely beneficial to you, and they’ll really appreciate that you took an interest in their experiences. I will elaborate with specific networking etiquette in these situations in a later post.

Career Fairs
I’ve been to career fairs both at my community college and university. And yes, I have been placed in a job before through this method. Career fairs are not yet outdated, but it’s challenging to make a lasting impression with the recruiters from the firms because they see so many candidates in a day. Also, a recruiter could tell you to apply online, thus making it harder to make that impression. The best way to make a strong impression and a personal connection with the recruiter, in addition to delivering a confident “elevator pitch,” is to do research on the company he/she is representing. Do research beforehand on the companies you’re interested in seeing that signed up for the career fair. It conveys interest and diligence when you talk with them about their companies. After delivering your pitch and talking about the company with them, the recruiter will hand you his/her business card. Send a follow-up email within 48 hours touching on what you talked about and thanking them for their time. Make sure your email is short and to the point! Also, as a polishing tip, wear a suit to the fair, and carry a pen and copies of your resume in a padfolio that has a notepad in it.

School Career Centers
These centers offer so many services and workshops to students, such as interviewing strategies, resume drafting, cover letter writing, LinkedIn practices, etc. These were very informative for me, and I would use them as soon as you’re admitted to college so that you learn these tactics before applying for internships/jobs. Both my community college and university provided these services. Oftentimes, these career centers have an online portal you can drop your resume into for potential employers in partnership with the school to surf through. While it’s not active networking, resume portals can still get you placed.

These three resources are very essential to expanding your network and looking for an internship/job while in school. Some of them may even still be available to use when you become an alumni. Either way, use them wisely!

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Becker CPA Exam Review & TSCPA Host Exam Information Webinar

The registration process for the CPA designation can be confusing and taxing! Join Becker CPA Exam Review and TSCPA for a free webinar on Friday, Oct. 16 from noon to 1 p.m. to help answer your questions and set you on the path toward becoming a CPA. Topics will include: strategies for exam preparation, Texas requirements and the application process, a 2017 exam update, and more. For more information, contact Kim Holland at

Please RSVP Here

Becker CPA Exam Review is also holding an electronic raffle for Texas accounting students and CPA candidates to win 50 percent off the four-part Becker CPA Exam Review. The deadline to enter is March 31, 2016. Follow the link below for more information and to enter the free drawing.

Learn More


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