What I Have Learned
Over the past year, I’ve blogged about projects, reports, and exams. It goes without saying I
have learned more in a year about accounting than I ever thought I could. But when I reflect on
all the things I’ve learned, it isn’t academics that come to mind first. In this blog, I want to share
with you the top three things the MAC Program has taught me that have nothing to do with
Confidence is a Learned Habit
I remember sitting in orientation with an overwhelming feeling of panic. I was so nervous. What
if I embarrassed myself in front of everyone? If someone approached me, what would I say?
Where would I sit at lunch? I really started to sweat when I learned that as part of running for a
seat on the MAC Board, I had to give a speech in front of the whole class. To this day, I’m not
sure exactly what I said, but I got through it.
Over the course of the next few months, I must have given over a dozen presentations. When it
came time for recruiting, I went to more job interviews, dinners, and socials than I can count. I
had to introduce myself to literally hundreds of strangers throughout the whole process.
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I realized one day, I’m not so nervous anymore. For
the most part, I raise my hand to ask a question or walk up to someone new with ease. I always
thought confidence was something you were either born with or not. I realize now, it can be
built up through experience. By exposing me to so many different people and experiences, the
program gave me the practice I needed. That is something I will take with me wherever I go.
It’s Okay to Ask for Help
Many of the assignments in the program are done in groups. In the past, I’ve been the one in a
group who always wanted to lead. More often than not, I would take on the majority of the work
to be sure it was done exactly how I wanted. The thing about grad school is, we are all that same
type of person. Not only that, the sheer amount of work is more than any one person can do
Along the way, I’ve learned when to let go. Parts of some group memos weren’t written exactly
the way I would have written it, but that doesn’t make it wrong. I’ve also learned to be more
honest about my strengths and weaknesses and ask for help when I need it. Everyone brings a
different skill to the table. Some people love research, some are great writers, some are effective
presenters. Our professors always tell us accounting is a group sport. Working in groups is
something we will be doing the rest of our careers. In the program, we learn how to make it
work, rather than fight against it. Now I see group work as a benefit, rather than just a challenge.
I’m Capable of More Than I Think
Professor Scott Showalter’s students are familiar with the term “planned disruption.” As part of
his auditing classes, groups must deal with a random change of plans minutes before a
presentation. It could be that a group member is “sick and can’t make it” or the computer is
“broken” and you don’t have your PowerPoint anymore.
What I didn’t realize at the time is that the lesson is less about your ability to handle the specific
challenge you’ve been given. It’s more about getting us comfortable with the idea that life is full
of planned disruptions. In fact, everything going exactly as planned is the exception, not the
There have been so many times over the past year where I thought I couldn’t possibly pass this
exam, give that presentation, talk to those recruiters. In the end, I did it. Did it go exactly the
way I planned? Almost never. But every time I was able to accomplish something, even in spite
of life’s planned disruption, my attitude changed. Eventually, I no longer thought, “I can’t do
this.” It became, “I don’t know right now how I’ll do this, but I will.”
As cliché as it sounds, I truly can’t believe my time in grad school is coming to an end! It has
certainly been one of the most challenging, but also most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.
Years down the road, I can’t tell you how many accounting standards I’ll still have memorized,
but I do know I’ll never forget these life lessons.