In China, an hour and fifteen minutes from Shanghai, an accounting hero was born. Fangying Dai (Allie) grew up knowing that accounting was for her. Then again, I’m pretty sure everyone has an inborn sense that accounting is the only true and correct path–some just choose not to admit it. Allie is currently in her second year of the master’s program at BYU, preparing to graduate in April. Check out my interview with her below to hear about all her different internships, social dance, and some advice to potential accountants who are bad at math.
Why did you decide to go into accounting?
“I think accounting is a really good base for business. If you go into accounting, you don’t necessarily have to stay in accounting. I feel like if you want to go into other areas of business, accounting is a really good path.”
I’m pretty sure you’ve done about one billion internships. Could you talk a little bit about some of them?
“[laughs] Yeah, I’ve done quite a few. I did one with Goldman Sachs as their finance department controller. I was doing daily balance sheets. Basically, you produce daily balance sheets of Goldman Sachs for internal use. Management uses the balance sheets to make a lot of decisions, especially concerning their securities, loans, and derivatives. Those things can change a lot from day to day, so they need current balance sheets. I did another with KPMG in San Jose in their valuation department.”
(Note to reader: She was too humble to mention some other really cool internships she did, including one with the Bank of China.)
So are you going to stay with KPMG when you graduate?
“No. Actually I’m going to stay here in Salt Lake, with EY. [laughs] I change a lot.”
What do you like to do in your free time? Although it sounds like you’ve probably never even had free time in your life.
“In my free time….I go skiing. Which I really like. I also really like social dance; I’ve taken like three of the classes here at BYU. You should take the classes here! They are so fun and pretty easy.”
What would be your advice to women who are maybe considering accounting?
“I feel like a lot of people have this misunderstanding of accounting. They think accounting is math somehow. Yeah there are a lot of numbers, but to me I don’t feel like the math skills are required. It’s actually kind of surprising actually. But I would say if women think they are not good at math, that shouldn’t hinder them from pursuing accounting.”
Meet Brittany Call, the coolest person you’ll read about all week. Maybe all year. Not only did she do an internship this past summer for the biggest company in the world, but she also does about a million other cool things: mountain biking, surfing, and traveling around Europe are just a few. Read my interview with Brittany to learn more about her, her internship, and why she chose accounting!
How did you decide to major in accounting?
“I decided to do accounting because I did well on the first Accounting 200 test, and I got invited to some information session on accounting majors. I liked how the accounting program was number one in the country, and there seemed to be so many opportunities for females, especially if you wanted to be a mom and work part-time. I figured if I was going to do anything in business, I might as well go for the top program. And it’s been the coolest experience. When I started, I didn’t even know anything…I was just like, yeah accounting is great, whatever! But after the first couple of weeks in the junior core, I realized I could pretty much do anything I want. BYU helps you get there. I can go wherever I want in the world, I can do whatever I want. You can literally pick where you want to work. It is really empowering.”
How did you decide to do an internship at Walmart, instead of in public accounting?
“So I kind of just applied for everything. I did the interview as a sort of a practice interview, but then they ended up offering me the internship. It seemed like a really cool opportunity to work for like the biggest company in the world, so I did it!”
So what exactly did you do on your internship? What were some of your day-to-day job duties?
“I worked in the Walmart US department under the controller. I wrote SOX narratives for the controls, and also evaluated a lot of their accounting processes. I would see where the accounting information wasn’t being recorded properly, and I would go do store tours to see what was going on and why the accounting information wasn’t getting to headquarters. It was really cool too because I got to work with a lot of different people, like PWC consultants and people from Bane…I also got to audit some of these super big accounts. I think one account had like 60 million dollars in it. It was kind of weird because I found a couple of like 3 million dollar mistakes, and they were immaterial! It was just so weird to realize that a 3 million dollar error didn’t even matter to a company that large.”
Did doing your internship change your perspective on what you want to do in the future?
“Kind of. I’m actually going to do an internship in public accounting this summer with EY in Orange County. My manager at Walmart sat me down and told me that I should do public accounting because it’s good experience, and looks really good on a resume. He told me it opens more doors. I think I’ll go back and work for a company in industry though, after I’ve work in public accounting for awhile. It’s where I want to end up.”
You went on the accounting study abroad to Europe, right?
“Yes, and it was one of my favorite things! A lot of the junior core students went, and it was so fun because I didn’t know everyone at first. But when you travel together, you get to be super good friends, and it was really cool to be able to just go and see the sights and be in other places in the world with other accounting students.”
What do you like outside of accounting?
“When I’m at home in California, I love to surf. I got a ski pass in the junior core, and I went over twenty times. I went a little crazy last year! [laughs] I got another pass this year, so I’m really excited…this fall I took a mountain biking class too, which was really fun!”
Have you ever been interested in doing an accounting study abroad? I really can’t think of anything cooler than doing accounting while traveling around the world. This last summer accounting student Jenna Bush went on a study abroad to several different European countries. Read below to learn more about Jenna, her study abroad experience, and the amazing things she is doing!
Why did you choose accounting? Has it been different from what you thought?
“You know, I never thought that I would be an accountant. There is a certain stereotype I think that sometimes goes along with it. I took the intro class, Accounting 200, and it just clicked. I learned about all of the opportunities that are available for women and how there is a lot of flexibility, which was really appealing to me. It has been so different from what I first thought- and I love it!”
How did you decide to do a study abroad in London?
“A few of my friends from the Junior Core were going, and we thought it would be fun to all go together. I found out we would be going to Brussels, Paris, and London and knew I had to go. It was such an amazing experience and I recommend anyone considering doing it to do so!”
What did you do on the study abroad? Did you have a favorite part?
“We visited different companies in Europe to learn more about who they were, and their accounting systems. It was really interesting! (We got to visit Disney in Paris and they let us in the park afterwards!) We got to spend most of the time visiting all of the different tourist spots. Seeing the Eiffel Tower was amazing and probably my favorite part–we got to go to the top at sunset which was so neat.”
I heard you’re working on a research project with Professor Tayler?
“Yes, I’m working for Professor Burton (who led the study abroad) along with a few others who were on the trip with me. While in Europe it was interesting to see different cultures that we are not very familiar with. We have been researching business and accounting culture and how it differs internationally. Answering questions like what someone should know about doing business in a particular country, or what they should know about certain accounting values in that country. It has been really enlightening to learn more about international culture and how it relates to business.”
What are your plans going forward?
“I graduate in April, and this summer I am doing a tax internship with Ernst & Young in Salt Lake City. I’m excited to take this next step forward and start applying the things I’ve learned!”
What do you like outside of accounting?
“I love spending time with family and friends. I play piano and I like to run- I hope to do my third half marathon soon!”
If you have any interest in accounting (and doesn’t everybody?!), you’ve probably heard of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB). The PCAOB is a nonprofit organization created to protect investors by overseeing the audits of public companies and broker-dealers in the United States. This summer Diana Jaen, a 1st year MAcc from Hidalgo, Mexico, had the opportunity to intern at the PCAOB headquarters in Washington DC. Below are some excerpts from my interview with her about why she chose accounting, what she did at the PCAOB, and what her future plans are.
So why did you choose to study accounting?
“This is actually a funny story…I went to med school in Mexico right after high school. I only stayed like a week and a half though…I quickly realized that it was not for me! At that time I just knew that I wanted to do accounting. When I first came to BYU, I didn’t really have an idea of how good the accounting program was here. I just kind of went for it because I knew that I wanted to do it, and luckily I am here now.”
How did you decide to intern with the PCAOB?
“I found it through BYU Bridge. I was browsing through random accounting internships, and I ended up finding and applying to the PCAOB. I knew it was a long shot, I mean it is in DC at the headquarters! But I had three interviews with some analysts and senior accountants, and I ended up getting the position.”
What was your role as an intern?
“I interned in the office of Research and Analysis at the PCAOB. The office of Inspection (the people who actually go out and inspect companies) rely on the information and data collected by the Research and Analysis department. I helped identify potential accounting risks in different industries…and also inspected specific financial statements of different companies, and came up with reasons why the company was or was not in compliance with the PCAOB standards. At the beginning I felt uncomfortable, because I was pointing out problems to the PCOAB! Me! (laughs) But it got easier though, with experience and perspective.”
What are your plans going forward?
“I am in the middle of the recruiting process, hoping to get an internship with the Big Four. After working there for a couple of years after I graduate, I hope to end up in industry accounting.”
What do you like to do outside of accounting?
“I love to read! Mystery novels are my favorite. I like to cook…I’m not really good at it, but I like to try new Mexican recipes. I also love to Latin dance! I guess I’m a decent representative of Latin America here in the US, but when I go back to Mexico I’m like one of the worst dancers (laughs). They ask me to sit down so I don’t injure other people.”
Melissa Western: Full-Time Faculty
The WSOA is excited to welcome Melissa Western as a full-time faculty member at BYU! Melissa earned her PhD in accounting in 2007, and teaches financial accounting. Her research interests are Earnings Quality and Earnings Management. She loves hiking, and has climbed the majority of the peaks in the Wasatch front with her husband. She loves to run, and has been running with the same group of women for seven years. She is an amazing and successful woman in the accounting profession, and we are excited to have her with us as a full-time faculty member!