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Career

High School Teacher to Big Four Auditor

by the Master of Accounting Program Staff

Read through our interview with Rice MAcc alum Sean Kim (Class of 2020) and discover how he used the MAcc to transition from a high school teacher to a career in business.

Tell us a little bit about your background and where you work now.

I am a former high school science teacher. I earned my undergraduate degree from Rice back in 2014 with dual degrees in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Spanish. After graduation, I spent the better part of the next five years teaching the gamut of high school science classes: biology, chemistry, physics, and environmental science, plus one semester of middle school math. I taught in rural eastern Washington State and also back home in Houston.

I now work for PwC in Los Angeles and moved to L.A. around Christmas time last year after starting remote. I work in PwC’s asset & wealth management practice under its financial services arm.

What made you interested in pursuing a graduate accounting degree?

Prior to the MAcc, I had never taken a business course in my life! That all changed after having a phone call with Dr. Lansford, the MAcc Director. That was the catalyst for an 18-month long journey into the business world which continues today.

I had known about the MAcc through a close friend of mine (Jane Ren, MAcc Class of 2018), so it was kind of always in the back of my mind. But it wasn't until my last year of teaching, when I wasn't quite sure what my next step would be, that I remembered the MAcc program and thought to myself - why not give this a chance?

I followed up the phone call with an in-person meeting with Dr. Lansford and Danielle Riley, Assistant Director of the MAcc, and soon thereafter was registered for my first ever accounting course. My last semester of teaching was a busy one, as I juggled full-time teaching with financial accounting homework sets on the weekends. But I really enjoyed my intro class, and the following summer I found myself taking six more business classes (MAcc prerequisite requirements), as my MAcc journey took off full-steam. It was a whirlwind to say the least, but if I had to I would do it all over again.

Why did you choose the Rice MAcc?

The one-year timeline of the program was ideal for me at the stage of life I was in. I could commit to a one-year program for a career pivot.

It was also the future career opportunities that would be available after completing the program that attracted me. At that time, I didn’t know if I wanted to go into audit, tax, or advisory services, but it seemed clear that whatever path you chose after the MAcc, there would be plentiful opportunities available across the business landscape. The MAcc really did change my life.

What were some of your favorite moments from your time as a MAcc student?

Some of my favorite memories stem from the various social opportunities provided through the MAcc and our Social Committee to help build a sense of community for our cohort in one short year. Valhalla (graduate bar on-campus) Thursdays, group workouts at the Rice Recreation Center, group yoga sessions at Black Swan, Top Golf, Christmas party in the Village, and Hopdoddy happy hours – just to name a few!

All of the courses in the MAcc program were great, but one that stands out to me was MACC 512 – Financial Statement Analysis & Valuation, taught by Dr. Lansford himself. The course involved taking key concepts and ideas learned throughout the program (e.g., ratio analysis, profitability analysis, and equity valuation) and applying them to real-world case studies. The learning experience was very hands-on, practical, and teamwork-based – much like my job today!

What advice do you have for prospective students?

Work hard! If you are planning to make a career change, it is not going to be easy, but like most things in life that are truly worthwhile, I think all of the hard work and effort will pay itself off in the end.

Learn as much as possible, and take advantage of every opportunity – one year goes by quick. Soak up as much as you can from the courses that you take, the internships you pursue, the interactions you have with potential future employers, and of course, your community at Rice.

What do you like most about your job so far?

This will probably sound cliché, but I do love that I learn something new every day. So far, I have mostly worked with real estate clients, and I have learned about things I had never heard of or had minimal prior exposure to (e.g., gross-up provisions, triple net leases, and fund accounting). I am constantly learning, and I am constantly challenged by the work.

With a firm as large as PwC, there is almost no limit to the professional development opportunities and resources available to you. In our financial services practice, we have something called infinite learning day – a full workday set aside each quarter for “digital upskilling” your technical proficiency with different software tools, leadership development, and cross-team collaboration. Within my first few months of the firm, I even had the chance to be a featured guest on a podcast available across the entire firm to share my experience on what it is like to start at PwC in a virtual environment.

 

Does the Rice MAcc program sound like something you’d like to pursue? Reach out to us! 

 

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Accounting

No matter the state of the economy, there will be a need for accountants. If you become fluent in the language of accounting, you will have job opportunities that others simply don’t. And regardless of advances in technology, you can rest assured that accounting will always be needed, so the demand for accountants isn’t going away.