By: Laura Hoffmann, Editor-in-Chief
On Tuesday, September 30th, Zicklin Graduate Beta Alpha Psi (GBAP) hosted the Mid-Sized Accounting Roundtable event at Baruch College. The Zicklin Graduate Accounting Society (ZGAS) and Zicklin Graduate Tax Society (ZGTS) co-hosted the event. Participating firms were: BDO USA, LLP, Marcum LLP, Marks Paneth LLP, MBAF CPAs, LLC, Raich Ende Malter & Co., LLP, and WeiserMazars LLP. Students were seated at eight-person roundtables, joined by one recruiter or professional from the participating firms. The professionals rotated tables every ten minutes, and students were entitled to three such sessions. The event provided student participants with the chance to network and interact with professionals and recruiters.
Como Shin, event moderator and President of GBAP, began by introducing the participating firms and describing the event format. The firm representatives also provided briefly introduced themselves.
During my first session with Ms. Jeannine Conlisk of Human Resources at WeiserMazars LLP, we discussed firm training and IFRS. With respect to training programs, “We have a two-week training program for new staff. Staff additionally receive on-the-job exposure (within a flexible schedule that promotes work/life balance), which is key in the learning process. Moreover, we have something called the PATH program, in which staff are assigned to a Resource Leader who is usually two levels above them. The Resource Leaders help staff fulfill goals in their career paths through processes like performance evaluations. Ultimately, staff have control over their own careers.” With respect to IFRS, “Since WeiserMazars is a growing independent member of the Mazars Group, and the fifth largest accountancy firm in Europe, staff handle IFRS as well as U.S. GAAP.” At the firm, staff can have more exposure to IFRS work if they so desire, which often includes travelling.
For my second session, Mr. A. Brett Larsen, CPA, Tax Manager at Raich Ende Malter & Co., LLP joined our table. Mr. Larsen touched upon his professional development and the firm’s flexibility. With respect to his professional development, “I have learned so much in the two plus years I’ve been with the firm. As a result, I have moved up from Tax Supervisor to Tax Manager. My mentor, Mr. Bradley D. McKinney, partner in my firm’s Private Wealth Services Group, has really helped me to develop as a professional.” As to the firm’s flexibility, “During busy seasons, staff are not bombarded, and usually expected to work about 50-60 hours per week. During slow seasons, staff only work round 37.5 hours.”
For my third session, Ms. Lisa Patti Limowski, CPA,Manager of MBAF CPAs, LLC, discussed skills the firm looks for in interns. First, she provided a brief introduction about MBAF CPAs, LLC: “My previous firm was called ERE LLP. We merged with MBAF CPA’s, a Florida-based firm, in 2011. We have about one hundred employees in New York City. Thus, there is not much industry specialization. One works in Audit or Tax.” In terms of intern skills, “For those looking for internships at MBAF CPAs, the biggest things I look for are eagerness to learn, willingness to take on challenges, and those that ask questions.”
At the close of the roundtable sessions, an open-networking session began.
I had the opportunity to speak with a few professionals and students, who provided their opinions on the event:
“I liked the event. The student questions were specific and targeted. This is valuable as it differentiates students and makes them stand out.” – Karina Espinola, Campus Recruiter, BDO USA, LLP
“It was refreshing to meet so many young eager students that are interested in pursuing a career in public accounting. The roundtable event format was an effective way to meet several candidates within a short period of time.” – Michael W. Hurwitz, CPA, MST, Partner, Real Estate Tax Advisory Services, Marks Paneth LLP
“This event was a great way to meet potential candidates. Many of the students I met possessed qualities for which we are looking. It was also wonderful that all event attendees were accounting majors.” – Atara Z. Goldgrab, CPA, Tax Manager, Financial Services, Raich Ende Malter & Co. LLP
“I loved the smaller event format, which supported talking to students on a one-on-one basis in a comfortable atmosphere. I hope to attend more events like this at Baruch College!” – Jeannine Conlisk, Human Resources, WeiserMazars LLP
“I thought it was a great event! I really enjoyed the format, which allowed for some great conversations to develop among the groups. The format was surely more helpful than career fairs or mock interviews; career fairs typically only allow for brief conversations, and mock interviews often instill pressure as to the one-on-one interviews. Baruch College, as always, has many high-quality students; we enjoyed getting to know some of them and hope to have some join us at WeiserMazars in the future!” – Katelyn Kogan, CPA, Audit Manager, Real Estate Group, WeiserMazars LLP
“I enjoyed the intimate experience, wherein the event offered the chance to meet firm professionals on a more personal basis.” – Michael Laux, MBA Accountancy Student
“It was an informative event within a calm environment. I highly enjoyed speaking with the professionals both at my roundtable and during open networking.” – Victoria Lee, MBA Accountancy Student
By: Maria Romero, IC to the Editor-in-Chief and Aracelis Torres, Vice President of Event Planning
On Thursday, October 2, 2014 the Zicklin Graduate Tax Society (ZGTS) welcomed EY Recruiter for Baruch College, Merilee Martin, along with fellow EY Recruiters, Ritu Malhotra and Stacey O’Brien, as well as Anna Lam, Senior Manager, International Tax Transfer Pricing, Financial Services Office, and Baruch alumni Igna Sokolova, Manager, IT Risk Assurance and Olya Veramchuk, Tax Manager, Financial Services Office. The afternoon was filled with insights on how to stand out from the crowd for both the right and wrong reasons.
Ms. Martin, who moderated the event, invited Ms. O’Brien to present on the “Do’s and Don’ts of Interviewing.” First on the list was a “Positive work attitude.” “All accountants are high performers so your attitude will get you the job, set you apart and keep you successful.” Secondly, “Networking,” as in “Networking is a process, it’s meeting someone, getting their contact information, staying in touch and meeting up with that person at events.” The piece of advice that got the most laughter was “Don’t be a gnat, have some self-awareness, show your interest in the firm and move on.”
Ms. O’Brien then shared the following advice in regards to applications: “Double check your work when you customize cover letters, you don’t want to send an EY recruiter a letter addressed to PwC.”
Ms. O’Brien next discussed a few things recruiters notice at career fairs that candidates should be aware of, termed Career Fair Legends:
Career Fair Legends:
• Don’t come to a career fair chewing gum and don’t push ahead of the line to talk to the recruiter.
• “Be respectful of your classmates and their time, and also be cognizant of the fact they may have gotten there before you.” Ms. O’Brien advises using the time waiting in line as an opportunity to review your resume and prepare for when it’s finally your turn to meet the recruiter.
• Investing in a portfolio to hold your resume is a good idea, as it will prevent you from presenting crumpled resumes and will help make a good first impression.
• Perhaps her most important piece of advice for overeager students is to be mindful of the recruiter’s time and space. It is not appropriate to follow recruiters out of the professional setting designated for an event whether it is to the restroom, the elevator, the lobby or out of the building. If you don’t get enough time to speak to the recruiter on a one-on-one basis “follow up with an e-mail.”
• As far as social media is concerned, LinkedIn is the only platform students should be using to connect with professionals.
Keep in mind it typically takes seven good interactions to override one negative interaction.
Ms. O’Brien also shared some tips on interview preparation.
Preparing for the Interview:
“Being well prepared will impress the interviewer because it will be evident that you have spent time thinking about how your accomplishments will help you achieve success in the future.” Ms. O’Brien reminded students that resumes are evolving documents that change as you develop professionally, and must be reviewed by at least three sets of eyes every time a change is made. Some additional points she made were:
• When meeting the interviewer, make sure your handshake is strong and firm.
• “Everything on your resume is fair game. If your involvement in an organization is non-existent don’t include it.”
• “Smile and project enthusiasm.” By doing so you look like a person who wants the job.
• Be comfortable with the fact that an interview can be a conversation. “Interviews should be a two way street; make sure to get all the information you need to make a decision in the event you have multiple job offers.”
• Ms. Lam advised that when you are asked questions you are unsure of, stay calm and if you don’t know the answer try your best. The goal of difficult questions is to get to know candidates and see how they handle themselves through their reactions. Ms. Sokolova added that often candidates do know the answer to difficult questions; they just have to take a moment to compose themselves and answer as best they can. But remember if you really cannot answer a question that’s okay too.
• A key piece of advice is that when asked whether you have questions, you should always be prepared with a few questions; otherwise you risk coming across as uninterested in the firm or position. “Even if you asked the same question to someone else ask it again, as you will get different responses.”
• Finally, e-mail a thank you note after the interview; while a handwritten card is nice, it may not reach the recruiter before they make the hiring decision.
• Remember, preparation is critical and will help with your execution.
The presentation ended with a panel discussion, where panelists were asked questions collected from Baruch students prior to the event.
• The first question, “What stands out on a resume?” was directed at Ms. Malhotra, who replied that leadership qualities and giving back to the community impress her, because it demonstrates your ability to manage your time effectively.
• Ms. Veramchuk urged students to attend as many on-campus events as possible, adding that she did not attend enough of these during her time at Baruch and had she done so, she would have been much more informed.
• Ms. O’Brien mentioned that storytelling is a great way to communicate your accomplishments in an interview. Every story should have a beginning, middle and end that shows actions you took and what the outcome was. Ms. Malhotra
refers to this as “SAR” or Situation, Action and Result.
• When asked to what extent candidates should know about EY, Ms. Sokolova mentioned she gets discouraged when candidates don’t know about the basics of the firm. “Display that you know the firm. Know why you want to work for EY. Be prepared with examples such as knowing about Vision 2020. Know about high-level things going on within the company.” Ms. Lam agreed, “When you know what’s going on within the firm, it shows how interested you are in the company.”
• For the weakness interview question, Ms. O’Brien said, “Embrace the fact you have one, tell us what you have done to remedy it and explain how you bounced back. Show it’s a work in progress and that you are self-aware.”
• A question we all ask ourselves is: “If you don’t get your dream interview what can you do?” to this Ms. Malhotra replied, “Stay connected to your contacts at the firm, and use those networks. It’s a very competitive process and you can always check the firm’s website this coming spring.
The students in attendance were very appreciative of the advice offered. The consensus was a positive one and can be summarized by MS Accountancy student Wei-Yun (Michelle) Hsieh’s thoughts: “The event was very helpful. Gathering questions from students beforehand was a great idea, because they addressed all of our concerns.”
By: Maria Romero, IC to the Editor-in-Chief
On Tuesday, September 16, 2014 Executives on Campus hosted the Job $mart Career Hour entitled, Networking: Building Meaningful Relationships. The event was geared towards sharpening student’s skills for On Campus Recruiting (OCR). The panel consisted of Sean O’Rourke and Stephen Goldberg. Sean O’Rourke is the CEO of Syzygy 3, Inc. a company that serves as an outsourced IT department for small businesses. Stephen Goldberg is a Baruch Alumni, who is the Executive Vice President of WAYN.com. Stephen received his MBA from Baruch College. Prior to his MBA, he worked as a tour guide for NBC, which allowed him to network with many individuals, especially NBC senior executives. By being outgoing an un-shy, Stephen was able to knock on the doors of NBC senior executives, network with them, and move his career forward.
To kick-off the event, the panelists were asked to define what networking both is and isn’t. Sean began by explaining that networking changes in every scenario, and it isn’t necessarily an opportunity to seek out business or find a job. Instead, it enables one to build relationships with people whom they can later contact and say “Hi, I’m looking for a job” or “I’ve come across a job opportunity do you know someone at that firm?” He then stated that people hire those they like or think they can work best with. Stephen agreed with Sean’s comment and pushed the notion, that it comes down to getting along with people; it’s about chemistry and asking oneself “Will I get along with this person?” This is typically the reason why interview candidates meet with four or five individuals on an interview. He then gave the suggestion that if one does decide to inquire for a position while networking, they should have a conversation first, and in the course of it lead into the question “Do you know if your firm is hiring?”
Next, the panelists were asked, “How do we break the ice while networking?” This is because it can be daunting to approach someone we do not know and strike up a conversation; thus how can we make it less stressful? Stephen suggested having an informal conversation; possibly thinking about it as sitting down for coffee and just chatting. He then added that networking and finding a job are the hardest jobs one will ever have. Once one gets into the rhythm and gains momentum and confidence, the process will be easier and seamless. Sean pointed out that networking is stressful because one has to engage with unfamiliar people, and oftentimes one may simply not feel like doing so. However, he suggested that one should always treat networking as a job. If networking isn’t inherent to one’s personality, they should practice and find ways to take the edge off (i.e. hold drinks in their hands). It’s also important to have a good handshake because this is the first indication of one’s confidence to the person they are meeting.
The panelists then addressed an issue that perhaps most students struggle with: “What can a student with limited professional experience talk about while networking?” Stephen replied by stating that the Internet is a game changer and one should do their homework. He recommended using LinkedIn to research individuals on such issues as where they went to school, and shared connections. He then shared a trick learned from his father: Perform a quick scan of one’s physical environment while networking, and find something that could trigger a common denominator to use in the conversation. Sean reiterated Stephen’s comment that one needs to do their research on the Internet. His suggestion for those faced with generic networking environments, was to ask questions and listen to the answers, thus gauging the interests of the person one is involved in a conversation with. Such engagement and listening is usually looked favorably upon.
The last question was: “In terms of conversation, what is appropriate and on the reverse side, inappropriate?” Sean immediately suggested staying away from politics and religion, unless one is applying for a political job. He suggested knowing “Who won last night’s game,” as knowing cursory information on sports, will allow one to make connections. His suggestion for women or men that do not like sports was to not fake it, “know what you know,” as one can also talk about movies, music, or television. To reinforce this, he said that the point is to ask questions, find common ground, and engage, as one can only fake it for so long. Stephen agreed that most conversations begin with sports talk and then transition into business talk. Further, he pointed out that the sports talk doesn’t necessarily have to be football, basketball, or baseball, but can be about any sport, such as the US Open.
The floor was then opened for student questions.
Question: The first interaction in networking situations can be easy. But keeping up the relationship is what becomes challenging. How does one follow up after they’ve made the initial contact?
Sean suggested following up via e-mail, wherein one puts out a call to action, and suggests meeting for coffee or scheduling a phone call. In being specific and giving the person fewer choices, one gives him/her less opportunity to “blow one off.” He advised being persistent, without being annoying. Stephen then commented that persistence is the name of the game, and one should follow up continuously and nicely. Both panelists then noted to be careful what one writes in e-mails, as e-mails confer no tone or attitude. Sean stressed not inserting jokes in e-mails, and thinking about every word and line written, as words are incredibly powerful. Other e-mail tips offered, included keeping the e-mail concise, as less is more, and using understandable words people use on a daily basis.
Zicklin Graduate Accounting Society Board member Derek Berezdivin, Vice President of Communications, then asked “Many on-campus events are networking events, where one has very little time to get information. What would you recommend we say to a hiring manager?” To this, Stephen reiterated how important it is to do one’s homework, and thus have facts when speaking to professionals. Sean then added an interesting spin on this, by pointing out that conversational differences could be based upon where one is standing on the line to speak to professionals or recruiters. If one is first, this is great, but “What happens when one is the 500th person in line?” If one is at the end of the line, once they reach the front, they should acknowledge the professional’s or recruiter’s efforts by saying something along the lines of “I know you’re exhausted...” or “I don’t want to take up any more of your time...” Additionally, Sean encouraged trying to stand out, by things as one’s elevator pitch. Both panelists then encouraged having elevator pitches down cold, as the more practice one has, the more natural they become in its delivery. Sean then suggested incorporating the person one is speaking to into their pitch.
Sean and Stephen then provided important closing remarks to be mindful of when perfecting one’s networking skills:
• “It’s not about you, but what can you do for this person/company; meaning how can you help them.”
• Sean advised against including “I need, I like, or I want” in cover letters. A cover letter should address how one can help the company.
• Ask the professional or recruiter one is networking with how he/she got to their current position. Always remember, at one point or another, the professional or recruiter was in your shoes.
• Connect with the professionals or recruiter on LinkedIn.
• Send thank you notes.
• Always practice!
ZGAS hopes this was helpful and we wish you the best of luck with OCR!
By: IC to the Editor-in-Chief
On October 1, 2014, representatives from Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP visited the Baruch College campus to talk about a wide variety of opportunities at the mid-sized accounting firm. Human Resources manager Janice Strain stressed at the very beginning of her presentation that she would break with the mold of other firm information sessions. She wanted to give students a real opportunity to get to know the organization and not just bombard them with marketing materials.
Baker Tilly’s U.S. operations consist of 2,500 professionals working in twenty-nine offices spread out over eleven states and Washington, D.C, making it the 12th largest public accounting firm in the country. Baker Tilly is a member of Baker Tilly International, a major global network of 161 firms in 137 countries, which means staff have the opportunity to do rotations around the world. Management sees these rotations as a great way to build strong relationships with professionals working in many different offices and practices.
The firm serves a diverse client base that includes both public and private companies of every size, from start-ups to family-run businesses to international corporations. It offers a standard suite of services, including assurance, tax, consulting, forensics, and valuation. In all of its work with clients, Baker Tilly sees itself as a “Valued Business Advisor” that helps clients grow and prosper.
Baker Tilly invests a great amount resources in its staff. Ms. Strain said, “When you realize your potential, we realize ours,” and then went into detail about how the firm helps new hires realize this potential. Beyond the industry standard reimbursement for test preparation and licensing fees, the firm provides subscriptions to industry periodicals, tuition assistance, and CPE qualified training.
In a candid moment, Ms. Strain told students what they can expect as a first-year staff at Baker Tilly. While admitting that the dreaded “busy season” can be intense and demanding, she explained that firm works hard to make the experience manageable by sponsoring social activities and dinners to let you get away from ticking and tying for a moment. She framed the busy season in terms of opportunity, not of costs, and stated that it is during these stressful times that you learn and grow most quickly.
Interns and new staff are often surprised at how much responsibility they have right when they start working. They are given a large degree of control over their workload as they work on projects for various managers.
Ms. Strain encouraged everyone in attendance to apply for positions both via the Baruch career portals and bakertilly.com. The information session ended with a spirited networking session with the Baker Tilly professionals.
By: Maria Romero, IC to the Editor-in-Chief
On Thursday, September 11, 2014, the Zicklin Graduate Accounting Society (ZGAS) hosted “Speed Networking with Grant Thornton.” The event was geared towards giving students the opportunity to gain insights on the firm, its different service lines, and the industry. ZGAS President Charles Hwang welcomed students and professionals, and thanked everyone for attending. He introduced Grant Thornton Manager Chris Kandi, who gave a brief background on his experience and offered a few words before the speed networking began.
BAS Manager Chris Kandi, is a chartered accountant and Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), and a native Australian. Chris has experience with internal audit, IT consulting and risk management. He stressed that the night was not about business, but instead students should use the opportunity to get to know people and make connections. ZGAS President Charles Hwang emphasized this point by adding that the goal is to make meaningful relationships.
The night consisted of closed networking sessions where a table of 8 students had the opportunity to network with at least one professional for 10 minutes. At the end of the evening, the floor was opened for an additional 30 minutes of open networking, which allowed students to connect with other Grant Thornton professionals and stock up on Grant Thornton swag.
Closing remarks followed from Aracelis Torres, ZGAS Vice President of Event Planning. She thanked professionals, students, and ZGAS Board members for attending and making the event a success.
At the close of the event we had a chance to catch up with a few students and professionals, who shared their thoughts on the event. This is what they had to say:
“Awesome event. I like that we each had the opportunity to speak with 5 professionals in 1 hour in a non-aggressive environment. It wasn’t like other events were you’re usually waiting a very long time and end up speaking with a professional for about 2 minutes.” - Xiao Ling Zhu, MS Accountancy Student
Baruch alumni Bryan Conboy, Grant Thornton LLP, Audit Associate, shared that these events are a really great opportunity for students to network and learn more about firms. He was impressed with the students as well as ZGAS for hosting events as this one, and offering students these opportunities.
Hello ZGAS Members,