By Leo Xu
September 10th, 2015: The beginning of the fall semester also marks the beginning of the On-Campus Recruitment (OCR) season. This may be the busiest and most stressful period throughout the year for students in the Zicklin School of Business. ZGAS hosted many events in September, and Speed Networking with Grant Thornton (GT) was one of the largest events. This year ZGAS invited over twenty professionals from GT, and more than one hundred students participated in the event.
The purpose of the event was to provide more insightful views of GT and the daily routine at the firm. Students participated in five rounds of ten-minute speed networking sessions. In each session they had the opportunity to talk with one or two professionals from assurance, tax or advisory. After the five rounds were over, students continued to network with professionals during an open networking session.
By listening to professionals’ real world experience, students gained a better idea about the firm’s culture and working environment. This is one reason why GT prefers speed networking over a regular info session, a rationale shared by campus recruiter Katie Crona. Ms. Crona spoke on this topic during her opening speech, and moderated the entire event. Ms. Crona really enjoys this type of event because vivid stories told by employees are more persuasive than presenting revenue and top ranking information. GT always focuses on people. Just as the managing partner, Frank Kurrem, said during the Baruch Alumni Reception at the GT New York Office, “Family first, friends second, and work third.” With such values, GT has formed a family-feeling working team, in which everyone is more than willing to support each other. Katie also shared her true experience on how her coworkers patiently listen to any dilemmas that arise. It is evident that the employees help foster a great work environment.
Based on the feedback I heard from students and participants, they all thought this was a successful event and enjoyed the networking sessions. We look forward to hosting similar types of events in the future.
By Matthew White, IC of Social Media
Leadership has been of utter importance to human civilizations throughout history. Since attending business school at Baruch, along with partaking in workshops, mock interviews, and networking sessions with CFOs, it has become apparent how vital leadership is in the business world. For business organizations and employees to succeed, they must possess strong leadership ability, which is a major reason it is stressed at Baruch.
So what is leadership? In the broadest sense of the word, leadership is the ability to influence a group towards achieving a common goal. While this sounds simple, breaking down what makes leadership effective is far more challenging, because good leaders do more than simply instructing people what to do and assigning tasks.
In my most recent management class at Baruch, Professor Vredenburgh spent extensive time breaking down leadership beyond its broad dictionary definition. He explained that good leaders are either task-oriented, participative, or relationship oriented. There are also various leadership styles that work, such as commanding, visionary, affiliative, democratic, pace-setting, and coaching styles.
Since there are many factors to consider, there are many ways to become a successful leader. What works for one leader may not necessarily work for another depending on circumstances and the individuals’ personality traits. However, there are several aspects about what makes leadership effective that are widely agreed on.
Leadership must inspire and motivate the team. A leader can accomplish this by setting challenging goals, providing feedback and praise, and holding people accountable. Motivation can also be enhanced naturally when leaders have another essential quality, ambition. Ambition creates hard work, determination, and a desire to achieve, which is contagious to other members of the team. A leader who lacks ambition will suck the energy out of an organization because team-members will be unmotivated.
In addition to ambition, good leaders must also have a positive attitude. A positive attitude involves holding emotions in check during difficult times and providing positive encouragement throughout the process of tackling goals. If a leader is demonstrating a negative attitude while finding people to blame when times get tough, he will drag the entire team down. If a leader does not provide positive energy, then it will make it harder for a team to accomplish goals.
In addition, good leadership is displayed when the leader understands and relates to his team-members. A good leader listens and is able to understand what each individual wants, thus being able to motivate them to achieve success. A good leader does not distance himself from his team-members, but rather engages and helps them succeed. This creates trust in the workplace, which is absolutely vital to an organization’s success.
Finally, good leaders set an example in the way they act each day. They set the tone for the team and organization by how they interact with staff, partners, and customers. These characteristics are widely shared by leaders, not only in the business world, but in politics and social settings.
By Ming Tang
What did you do on April 30th, 2015? On this day, there were numerous events occurring at Baruch College. Early in the morning, there was “Mentor for a Morning” hosted by Executives on Campus (EOC); and during club hours, there was Accounting Careerfest 2015, which was hosted by three accounting clubs - Zicklin Graduate Accounting Society (ZGAS), Zicklin Graduate Tax Society (ZTAX), and Graduate Beta Alpha Psi. Below is a recap of my experiences from these events.
In Mentor for a Morning, I was lucky to meet with Allen J. Zabusky, Managing Director of AXA. He was a very humble gentleman and shared his life and work experiences with me. Allen graduated from Baruch College and returned to school as an alumnus to help students grow. Having nine years of experience at KPMG, three years as VP of Finance at Merrill Lynch, and experience as a Controller and now Managing Director, Allen told me, “Never get yourself too comfortable; if you are, you will become bored and sloppy.” He also shared ways to improve yourself and said to ask yourself the following three questions: 1) Do you learn something every day? 2) Do you felt like you drag yourself going to work every day? 3) Where do you see yourself in two years and five years?
After my meeting with Mr. Zabusky, I was very fortunate to meet with Miriam Silverberg, President of Miriam Silverberg Associates (Publicity). The first thing she shared with me—In U.S., if you want to get a good job, you need to master English well. She provided a number of ways for me to improve my English skills. She quoted to me, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression to anyone,” which is very true and it is something we all have to work on. Also, she told me whenever you have crisis, do not lie. It is much easier to tell the truth so you do not need to remember what you said.
The third person I met with was an old friend, Anupama Ragharan, who is a Senior Manager at EY. She was very personable when sharing what her experiences. She mentioned that employees are looking for strong skillsets and a positive attitude.
After Mentor for a Morning, I took part in CareerFest 2015. As a board member, I was able to see all the hard work and dedication put towards the planning and execution of this event. This event provided opportunities for students to engage in discussion with professionals through mentoring sessions and mock interviews. I met with Charles Zhang from Grant Thornton and Defei Yu from Friedman. Both of them provided advice to face everything with a positive attitude, which is essential to survive in the public accounting world. Regardless of whatever happens in life, you should be able to learn from your experiences. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
After a five minutes break, I meet with David Kaplan, financial service Tax Manager from KPMG, who was the former President of ZGAS. Once again, he was another alumnus to come back to school to share his experiences.
Later in the day, I spent most of my time to networking with peers, who will be the future leaders of the accounting industry. We should cherish every single moment to network.
It was an honor to be part of CareerFest and I look forward to the next event in school. You should consider joining a club at Baruch so you can experience the rewarding feelings of planning and taking part in a successful event, such as CareerFest.
Life is tough, but it can be more beautiful than you can imagine. I hope you can learn from my experiences and take advantage of every opportunity to network.
Internal Committee of Social Events(your social event)
By Derek Berezdivin
April 21, 2015: For a Baruch student and future auditor, the Crazy Eddie case is infamous. Over a decade, auditors, Wall Street and millions more were fooled by cousins Eddie and Sam Antar who ran Crazy Eddie from 1971-1987. As students, we learned about Crazy Eddie in multiple accounting classes; documentaries and innumerable case studies have been made about it as it was one of the greatest embarrassments to the accounting profession.
I have the distinct good fortune of being in the Zicklin Graduate Accounting Society – the ones that invited Sam Antar to Baruch College. As I was waiting for Mr. Antar to arrive and the event to begin in the campus’ main conference room, the ex-president of my club suddenly rushed by with a short, unfriendly and unassuming man. Though it seemed very hard to believe, this had to be the man that had perpetrated one of the largest frauds in American history.
After we spent some time awkwardly introducing ourselves and fumbling for cables to hook up his computer to the projector, we took him into a smaller room where a private lunch had been set up for members of ZGAS. Unabashedly, he sat down at the front of the room and declared that he would answer all our questions. Of the club members, I sat closest to him to help him feel welcome as well as to be able to engage him in conversation. From my angle, I felt he looked decidedly untrustworthy.
As soon as he opened his mouth, however, it was clear he was one of the most engaging, interesting and charming speakers I had ever encountered during my time at Baruch. Ethics don’t help at all, Mr. Antar told us. “I don’t subscribe to a code of ethics. A code of ethics only makes it easier for people like me to take advantage of you.”
Throughout the lunch and presentation, Mr. Antar was unrestrained about how he cheated millions. The crowd was enraptured. “Disarm with charm,” he repeated multiple times. “Appeal to vanity: flattery and compliments will get you everywhere.” One female student asked him how to he got people to like him. He responded, “you’re sexy” – demonstrating for us.
So how did Crazy Eddie fool the auditors for so many years? Simply put, they were experts on human behavior. “I have no problems lying,” he told us. “But distraction is better than a lie.” The demographics of the audit profession used to be made up of mostly single men. All they had to do was distract the auditors with attractive female employees. Mr. Antar took auditors to strip clubs and parties for the majority of their audit. Then, they would find themselves with lots of work to do and little time, rushing their decision-making. It wasn’t that the auditors were stupid, he told us. The auditors simply did not want to believe they were bad people.
Mr. Antar was adamant that he was not reformed. “The Feds don’t know I’m sleeping on a million dollars in my bedroom every night” he told me. I laughed, though a part of me is still unsure whether he was joking. “Don’t trust me? I might be cheating you all right now.” he said as we laughed.
Despite his warnings and reputation, I had a very difficult time believing such a charming man could be so malicious. I could identify with him. After all, why go through the effort of sharing how fraudsters take advantage of others? Why teach us the tricks of his trade? I started wondering if maybe this was just his character, his shtick, his way of showing us what a villain was like. Perhaps deep down he was actually a good guy that had gotten himself into a bad situation. Thinking I might catch him in this apparent paradox, I asked him why he bothered explaining himself. “I like to brag about my accomplishments,” he said. “Is this true?” I pushed. “Yes,” he replied without a second thought.
Crazy Eddie managed to fool auditors for more than a decade. They fooled Wall Street and many investors as well, managing to take their company public and making millions. The cause of their undoing? A hedge fund manager, believing in the integrity of Crazy Eddie’s financial statements, thought he could acquire the company cheaply. Within two months of having acquired it, the manager realized the millions of claimed inventory were nonexistent; Crazy Eddie came crashing down.
“Who here can claim that they have not lied today?” he asked us. Uncertain, I did not raise my hand, but neither did anybody else. I was shocked; these were the accounting hopefuls of the future. It was only noon. Had everybody really lied? How could nobody be willing to hold themselves as an honest person in front of their peers? Was I so naïve to not realize that people lie so often?
It’s human nature, he said. According to Mr. Antar, 80% of people are situationally ethical, whereas only 10% are always either ethical or unethical. Clearly, none of us are really as good as we like to believe. The way Mr. Antar worked the room quickly exposed all of our attraction to power. Are these grim forebodings for those pursuing careers in the field of accounting?
Surprisingly, it was Mr. Antar himself with an answer to this question. We need to increase whistleblower protections and bounties. Nearly 40% of frauds are discovered from tips, as opposed to external or internal audits (as common sense might have you believe). “The state of education is fantasy-land,” says Mr. Antar. “An audit shouldn’t be called an audit, it’s really just a review.” We should be more realistic about accepting human nature and realizing that the AICPA’s, and even society’s, code of ethics is often bent or broken. According to Mr. Antar, it takes a villain like him to expose these issues and give us all a reality-check.
At the end of the event, my accounting club took a picture with Mr. Antar. As we took it, he joked how one of the benefits of these pictures was being able to take them near young, attractive women – causing them to giggle. I continued to refuse to believe he was really so bad, despite his warnings and the evidence to the contrary. I left the event believing I just witnessed something incredible. Two weeks later, though, the only question on my mind is: is he the perfect criminal?
The Zicklin Graduate Accounting Society (ZGAS) hosted “Breaking into Public Accounting” with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) on Thursday, March 26, 2015. This event enabled students to learn more about the firm and gain valuable insights into the accounting field as career changers or simply as students seeking more information.
PwC Campus Recruiting Associate, Whitney R. Green, led the discussion with a brief presentation and then moved on to a panel discussion. The two panelists were David Shifrin and Esther Jung, Associates at PwC.
Whitney began the presentation with an overview of the firm, stating that PwC is part of a huge global conglomerate that participates in not only financial services, but also non-financial services. A valuable resource available to employees within the company is the Integrated Leadership Development Experience, where there are a number of level coaches and technical tools to assess how an employee is performing. Specifically, it offers the PwC Snapshot where one can view how strong he/she is performing and receive real-time feedback from coaches to work towards immediate improvements.
As a PwC Professional, there are five main qualities and skills one would need to embody: whole leadership, business acumen, technical capabilities, global acumen, and relationships. Some important tips mentioned were:
1 ) Self-exploration—you need to think how your technical skills can be used and about where do you want to be. The latter involves not only location, but also position (e.g. partner).
2) Education—what do you need to complete in terms of degrees and certifications?
3) Conduct research (e.g. will the industry that you want to work in be relevant in the next 15-20 years?)
4) Develop a plan—be flexible because not everything will go according to plan.
The discussion ended with a Q&A session with the panelists. A few students asked questions about networking. In response, David and Esther shared their personal networking stories while they were in school and also provided students with valuable suggestions on how to develop their networking skills and become successful career changers. Whitney also shared her stories about how she leads and works with her team.
Ultimately, the event was a success and attendees found it beneficial. The panelists not only provided insight for career changers, but also shared their own stories and provided students with good suggestions for their future careers.
Hello ZGAS Members,