Where Did the Time Go?
There is just one more day of classes remaining and the semester will come to an end. It’s hard to believe that I’m only a few short months away from beginning a job in public accounting! Before I sign off as a blogger for this year’s MAC class, I’d like to share some highlights from the spring semester and some final thoughts.
Virtual Warehouse Inventory Count – It turns out Professor Showalter has an alter-ego named Mac Eisner! As part of an assignment involving a virtual inventory count, our Advanced Auditing class was required to meet with “Mac”, the manager of the warehouse we were auditing. We asked a series of questions to determine whether we could rely on the inventory count his team did earlier in the month. Mac is a bit rough around the edges as a brewery warehouse manager and I could tell that Showalter enjoyed playing the part. We learned to ask careful questions and to seek out further explanation and documentation when the often-evasive answers “Mac” provided did not make sense.
Hands-on Analytics Experience – Compared to the fall semester classes which emphasized soft skills (presentations, papers, working in groups), the spring semester brought more hands-on experience. Dr. Taylor’s IT Audit elective class used both IDEA (data analysis) and Tableau (data visualization) to analyze data sets and answer real-world auditing questions. Both of these tools are considered to be cutting-edge in the accounting world and allowed us to analyze all of a company’s transactional data rather than just small samples which are less reliable. I enjoyed digging in and learning some of the features of both programs and feel better prepared to use similar programs to gain deeper insight on a real audit.
Over the past eight months, NC State’s MAC Program hasn’t missed a beat. I remember being impressed with how quickly I learned that I was admitted to the program and how the MAC staff has stayed in close touch throughout. They carefully walked us through the process of meeting with employers and interviewing for jobs, and then made sure to explain the CPA exam process and recommended a plan of attack for passing the exam before my newly-secured job starts. I also appreciated the opportunity to give feedback and share my thoughts about what was going well or could be improved throughout the year through focus groups, surveys, and one-on-one meetings with faculty.
As far as advice goes, there are a few areas I’d like highlight. First, take one week at a time. This is a huge key to success. Yes, make sure to write down all of your assignments and major due dates and plan ahead. But it’s easy to become overwhelmed when you feel like you have to try and conquer the entire syllabus all at once. Focus on one week at a time (sometimes just the next day!) and relax knowing that other students have and will survive the semester with you. It’s better to focus on one or two things at a time and give them your full attention instead of trying to do everything all at once. After you finish the priorities, you may be surprised to see that you have some time to work ahead!
Next, make sure to communicate with your group members. So many of your assignments in various classes will involve group work, and no group ends up having the same dynamic. You may find yourself in a group full of focused students, or you may encounter all kinds of different personalities. Before beginning work on a major project with your group, make sure you’ve talked about who will be responsible for what. Nobody is thrilled to find out that they had been working on the same thing as someone else and that the time you spent was wasted. Assigning roles also helps make sure you are on the same page as the rest of your group and that the whole project is covered. You’ll sleep better at night knowing that the assignment is covered and everyone is doing their part. Some of this will be a learning experience so don’t worry if your group interactions don’t always work out the way you had expected.
Finally, take advantage of opportunities outside of the classroom. You’ll feel busy as a grad student, but make sure to take time to do things you won’t be able to do when you start traditional 9-to-5 (or longer) hours at a job. NC State has a great gym and is surrounded by a vibrant downtown with tons of walking trails, museums, and other nearby cultural opportunities. There’s more than enough time before and after classes to check these things out and de-stress in the way that works best for your personality.
After graduation, I’ll spend the summer studying for the remaining sections of the CPA exam. I plan to take one section a month and will work hard to pass them all on my first try. In early August I will be starting full-time as an audit associate at Thomas, Judy, and Tucker, a large local Raleigh/Durham accounting firm. I’m very excited to begin my career in accounting and to put the knowledge I’ve gained in class to work in the real world!