- Getting a master’s in a foreign country
- Evaluating when to leave public
- Making the switch between practices
- Working in the Deals services group
Amanda started her career with PwC in the audit practice. After a few busy seasons, she wanted to explore other opportunities within the firm and landed in the deals group. Amanda provides her best practices and how to make internal career transitions.
I grew up in Sedalia, Missouri and then went UMKC for my undergrad to study accounting. This is going to sound strange, but I really do like accounting. It’s something I always knew I was going to do and I still stand by that.
I interned at PwC in the audit practice in New York City, then went to London Business School to get my Master’s in Management. I contemplated whether audit was what I truly wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to get back to the US, so I decided to start full time with PwC in the NYC office. I was in audit for three busy seasons before slowly transitioning to the deals practice in July 2021.
I specifically work in the Capital Markets Accounting Advisory Services (CMAAS) group. There are two primary channels that operate within the group. One is helping companies deal with complex accounting questions and the other is if a company is going to do a deal. The latter involves helping the client plan for and actually execute a deal from an accounting perspective, not just advising them on what to do. I have since been promoted to manager in January 2022.
After my internship with PwC, I wasn’t sure if accounting was what I wanted to do and wanted the ability to explore other paths while I had the time. I still needed to get a Master’s degree to cover the 150 hour CPA requirement, but had already received all the accounting credit hours needed.
I think that’s a good position for any accounting major to put themselves in - to cover your accounting credit hours in your undergraduate program - so you have the flexibility to get a master’s degree in something other than accounting. If for some reason it doesn’t work out, you can still rely on the undergraduate degree to land a Big 4 accounting job.
I heard about the London Business School and the Master’s in Management program from another student at UMKC. It’s not very common in the US, but it's super common in Western Europe. It’s comparable to the curriculum of an MBA but geared towards students early in their careers (typically 1 year or less of work experience), while an MBA is more common for people five to seven years or more into their career. It's designed for people who may have studied something in their undergrad and then realized later that they want to do something different, or who want to round out their educational background before beginning their career. I also loved London since I spent a summer abroad there.
I knew audit wasn't it, but I wasn’t done with PwC. I worked on a large client for three straight years, and I never touched anything except that same client. At the time, I didn't feel like I had learned enough. I didn’t know what I could offer anywhere except strong project management skills and a good work ethic. I had the soft skills but from a technical perspective, I just didn’t feel like I was there yet.
What I saw in the market was when you jump from Big 4 to an in-house accounting situation at a young age, like associate or early senior associate, you tend to “start over” in a staff accounting or similar role - and that's okay - but it’s not what I wanted, and I knew I wasn't ready to go into an accounting manager or above role.
I was lucky to have friends that worked in different parts of the firm, and was able to learn about our various advisory & consulting practices. As I became more familiar with our deals group, which operates in a pseudo advisory and accounting realm, it seemed interesting to me and realistically attainable.
The CMAAS practice was appealing to me because they were still functioning in an accounting role but solving real problems and serving in a more consulting function. Our work in CMAAS is driven by real client questions and needs, and we’re dealing with the issues that can’t be solved by simply opening the accounting codification. It’s been a good way to learn really fast.
Yeah, that's totally true. Transitions don’t always happen overnight, and the speed really depends on what the needs are on both sides of the transition. When I started raising my hand saying I wanted to move to Deals, the immediate response was that they couldn’t let me go right then but that we would work towards it. I could have quit the firm and gone to a competitor and gotten the exact job I wanted the next day. I definitely thought about that, but I think it’s something people should try to avoid if possible.
Unfortunately, a lot of times it's easier to go to another firm and jump into one of those roles, b you burn bridges, and you also can’t leverage the relationships you’ve spent years building and maintaining. Making the jump to Deals within PwC allowed me to create a situation where the people who I was going to work with were people who already knew me and wanted to work with me.
It did take me awhile and I had to be very persistent. It does create a burden on your existing engagement teams to roll you off and find your replacement, so you really have to stick with it and make it clear what your expectations are. I didn't let a month go by where I didn't talk to somebody about this. Nobody cares as much about your career as you do, so you have to be the one to make sure that progress is actually happening, and people aren't forgetting about it.
Yes. Similar to other Big 4 firms, PwC has always had a summer promotion schedule. There has always been an opportunity for promotion in the winter, but it was on a much lesser scale. This year, the firm has switched to do a full promotional cycle twice a year, so it has essentially opened up the pool for more promotions in the winter.
The types of engagements are somewhat based on what the market looks like. Right now, the deals market is so hot that it wouldn’t be surprising for someone the last couple years just to be jumping from deal to deal whether it’d an IPO, SPAC, M&A, or divestiture. Our other primary channel is accounting advisory, which is still very active right now.
The capital markets side of the practice is helping plan for and/or facilitate any of those mentioned transactions on behalf of, or in support of, the client. I will say there is a common misconception that deals advisory is not accounting, which isn’t true. We are still being brought in for our accounting expertise and to provide insight on the accounting related matters. You get to experience how deals flow and operate, but you’re still doing it from an accounting perspective and working with the accounting folks at the client.
While our scope on a given engagement can vary, we have specialized groups that focus on valuations, due diligence, financial systems, or any other elements of a transaction in addition to our CMAAS services. We have to understand what those groups are doing if we’re working on the same client, but it’s less doing the work and more understanding that it’s happening.
Then, if we think about accounting advisory, that can be a situation where a client has us on retainer just to ask questions as they come up. It can be something general like, “Hey we’ve never signed a contract like this before, can you help us with a gross vs. net analysis?” or it can be a larger scale project such as how to does a recent accounting standard impact the company and can we help them getting their systems updated to handle the impact.
The deals group is completely driven by what you’re working on whereas audit is a little more cyclical and you usually have a better expectation for when you’ll be busy. Deals is definitely less predictable because even a specific engagement can ebb and flow depending on circumstances.
Overall, I think the hours shake out to be about the same. The deals schedule works well for me personally because you have short periods in between engagements where you can take time to reset before starting something new. In audit, at least in my experience I was on one large client year around, so I never felt like I was able to really reset and reflect on what I had learned over the previous few months, because I was always aware of the next key milestone. It’s hard to clear your head when you operate on a daily basis like that.
This is cliche, but have a good attitude. If you come in with the idea that you’re here to do whatever’s asked of you, you’re happy to do it, and you apply yourself, then you’ve already beat out 70% of the competition.
In all aspects of public accounting, regardless of what group you’re in, it’s like drinking out of a firehose and no one can expect that you’ll learn it all in the moment. But people can see whether you are trying your best to take in everything going on around you. And that goes a long way because the problems and situations you encounter start to repeat themselves. You go to the next client and they have the same question you just spent long nights working through on your previous job.
Clients only ever see what’s going on in their business. They don’t get the chance to see a hundred clients a year. That’s what they pay us for - our experience. The sooner you can start to sponge up all that knowledge and really get it, the sooner you’ll start to be really valuable.
Right now, I pride myself on being a New York City restaurant expert. My boyfriend and I spend way too much time and money trying new restaurants, and we are going to our first three-star Michelin restaurant in New York this weekend.
I’ve also spent time focusing on taking care of myself. I’m definitely a recovering workaholic, so I’ve made a lot of progress in terms of being able to set boundaries and creating a work environment that’s sustainable for myself.
Right now, I don’t see myself leaving PwC for a while. I’ve worked so hard to create a balance for myself and a life here that is sustainable. I find my work valuable, and I’m learning more than I think I could learn anywhere else. Until such time that I can identify an opportunity where I think I can learn at this pace, or where I can’t make it work personally, I’ll be at this firm.