How the MAC Program Helped Prepare One Recent Grad for the Future
Recent MAC graduate, Erica Gales, shares about her switch to accounting in undergrad, challenges and highlights from the Jenkins MAC program and how she landed a job with her dream accounting firm.
When MAC alumna Erica Gales visited NC State’s campus for the first time as a high schooler, she felt right at home – and quickly decided it was where she wanted to spend her undergraduate career. In the fall of 2018, she proudly joined the Pack and started her academic journey as a biology major. One semester and one accounting class later, however, she switched to accounting and never looked back.
“My mom’s a CPA, so I grew up around accounting, but I always said I never wanted to be an accountant myself. But then I took Accounting 210 with Bruce Branson my spring semester – and I absolutely loved it. I ended up majoring in accounting, and when it came time to decide where to go to grad school my senior year, it was pretty much a no-brainer,” Gales says.
“I applied to NC State’s MAC program and that’s it. I didn’t apply anywhere else. I was the very first applicant that year, and I told Scott Showalter and Jay Arrington, ‘Well, I’m banking on NC State, so I hope I get in.’ Thankfully, I did,” she laughs.
Gales’ time in the Jenkins MAC program not only lived up to her expectations but exceeded them – but she admits that it was a tough start.
“Those first six weeks were pretty brutal, and it was a difficult adjustment. Studying accounting in undergrad was challenging, too, but the MAC program challenges you in ways I didn’t know you could be challenged. It’s a good challenge, though, and I would recommend the program to anyone. While I didn’t always like being pushed in the moment, I appreciate it so much now that I’m on the other side. I came out stronger,” Gales says.
While I didn’t always like being pushed in the moment, I appreciate it so much now that I’m on the other side. I came out stronger.
Despite being strenuous, Gales says that the workload is manageable – and explains that having the support of the program faculty, advisors and staff made all the difference.
“They all want you to succeed and they’re not out to get you, fail you or weed you out of the MAC program. They’re going to force you to get out of your comfort zone, but they have a method to their madness – and no matter how hard it gets, they have your back,” she explains.
“We were all family – and that’s probably the thing that stands out the most. Anytime I walked into the MAC lab or into the accounting department, it felt like home. Having that support system and knowing how much they cared about me as a person was definitely my favorite part,” she continues.
Anytime I walked into the MAC lab or into the accounting department, it felt like home.
Gales also appreciated the MAC community’s commitment to preparing students for the future. “The faculty and staff not only give you academic knowledge – they teach you life skills,” she says.
She considers her experience in Showalter’s class and notes that it’s a perfect example.
“I’d heard about how difficult Scott’s classes were and I was terrified – and the class was definitely daunting. He pushes students so hard. As difficult as it was, though, he was preparing us for life. Rather than just getting us to learn the material and spit it out on a test, he was getting us ready for the field,” she says. “He’s an amazing professor and I’m so grateful for the safe environment he provided as he pushed us to be our best.”
The faculty and staff not only give you academic knowledge – they teach you life skills.
Throughout the MAC program, Gales also received several opportunities to strengthen her public speaking skills – which she knows are essential for a career in the corporate world – as well as opportunities to collaborate with others.
Her experience in the Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) concentration stands out the most.
“I took Mark Beasley’s ERM course in the fall and it was probably my favorite class in the entire MAC program. I’ve never seen someone so excited about teaching a subject before. Then, I did the ERM practicum in the spring and got to work with a real client. Group work is not usually something I’m a fan of, but wow – that was an awesome experience. I had an amazing team and we got to work on something really practical and valuable,” Gales says.
Now that she’s crossed the stage, Gales has begun preparing for the CPA exam and looks forward to starting as an audit associate this fall with her dream accounting firm, EY.
Looking back on her journey, she feels grateful for how the Jenkins MAC program has molded her into the person she is now – and she offers a few words of advice to undergraduate accounting students who hope to follow in her footsteps.
“Get involved with Beta Alpha Psi. It was super helpful in my career development and provided a lot of great networking experiences, which led to several internships. Serving on the executive team also helped me develop leadership skills and gave me some really amazing friendships. Plus, getting involved in something like that stands out to employers,” Gales says.
“Second, find a good mentor. A family friend of mine, who’s like a big sister to me, graduated from the Jenkins MAC program and really mentored me throughout my time at NC State. She gave me advice and pushed me to do things I was too scared to pursue on my own – and I’m so thankful she did.”
To learn more about the Jenkins MAC program at NC State’s Poole College of Management, click here.