By Noah Lee, Master of Accountancy (’18)
Golden Gate University is different than my undergrad school, UC Berkeley. Cal has definitely helped me build my fundamental foundation in learning and thinking, while the Master of Accountancy program at GGU taught real-world skills.
I was skeptical at first, because there is only so much you can mimic professional situations, right? However, as I began interviewing for internships at Big Four accounting firms (that include Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers), I could tailor my answers to show my grasp of what the job really entails. Getting the job as an Audit Intern at one of the Big Four companies was the most satisfying proof that I learned something relevant.
For example, we had to deliver a mock board presentation as part of a course called Communication and Analysis of Financial Information for Accountants. Professor Ric Jazaie (GGU’s Director of Accounting Programs), gave us a mock budget and challenged us to answer the client’s question: What should we do; and why are our numbers the way they are? Up front, we had to learn (on our own) the textbook terms that you might find in an academic class and go right to applying them.
I took inspiration from Prof. Jazaie, who knows what the skills employers are looking for in the accounting field.
Prof. Jazaie gave us barely enough instructions for the presentations, which was slightly unnerving. Aggregating all the broad ideas he gave us and having to narrow it down was our task. We had to decide what we wanted to portray to our audience—and be ready to say why. The reasoning for the assignment is that you may not get all of what you need or get something ambiguous from a client. In the same way, traditional school is different than a business setting where you must eventually succeed.
Prof. Jazaie asked us questions after the presentation that he did not give us in advance. He has a lot of experience giving presentations in court and in front of clients. He wanted to make us feel like we didn’t know what to expect and it brought out the best in us. Because he threw us into high-pressure moments, we just got used to it.
What did we learn in the Communication and Analysis of Financial Information course?
- Differentiating what is presentation versus what is casual conversation
- Critical thinking, which means deciding what is important from hundreds of facts
- When questioned, coming up with a reasonable explanation without overreaching
- Having a story to tell rather than just a report of findings, which means linking company strategy to financial statements
I took inspiration from Prof. Jazaie, who knows what the skills employers are looking for in the accounting field. He really opened my eyes to the profession and inspired me when he said that as an accountant, “what you are doing is really impacting the company.” That was great to hear.