Reasons for Career Change are Varied and Individual

By Wendy McWilliams
Intern, GGU Office of Career Planning


mcwilliams-project-manager-womenAs I approach my final semester of graduate school, the first major step in a total career change, it is fairly common for me to hear comments like, “Soon you’ll be making back all of that money you spent on college!” or something else implying that my motivation to pursue a Counseling master’s degree in my 40s was to increase my earnings potential. Ironically, my future vocation as a career counselor promises about half the salary of my former role as a software project manager (based on national averages.) I clearly have motivations other than money!

As a budding career counselor, the idea of what determines happiness and success in our professional lives is a favorite topic of discussion and reflection. In my case, being a stay-at-home mom put me back in touch with my core beliefs and aspirations while giving me the perspective to reflect on what wasn’t working for me as a project manager. While my decision was based mostly on strengths and values realignment, below are some additional reasons for changing careers. If any of these strike a chord, it may be time for some career reevaluation.

You want to work with your strengths (or at least not with your weaknesses!)

In my previous career, many of my natural strengths were utilized. I’m a planner who’s good at keeping the end goal in view. I’m skilled at building consensus, and I learned how to get up to speed quickly and be adept at changing direction. But, one of my core strengths, empathy, was left sitting on the shelf. I tended to be the one who knew if a layoff was coming or if somebody was about to quit or even if they’d had a bad weekend. While an interesting perspective, that quality did not help me do my job better. I am also methodical by nature preferring to take my time before committing to a direction. Yet, working in tech companies required me to constantly operate in a fast-paced manner. While we all can learn to work and even thrive in environments which are not optimal for us, not exercising your best traits, or being forced to lean on your weaker ones, can feel like using your left hand all the time when you are actually right-handed.

You want to work at a job or company that reflects your values.

According to the Barrett Values Centre, “values are the energetic drivers of our aspirations and intentions.” Values are our compass. If you spend the majority of your waking hours working in conflict with your values, it can feel as if you’re being pulled in different directions. For instance, you may be a staunch advocate of recycling and reuse but your job as a corporate event planner results in massive amounts of material waste. You try to take home all of the water bottles, pads of paper and drop off the leftover lanyards to your local reuse center, but it simply is too much.

While it can be frightening to consider making a change, this is the only life you have.

You are looking for a better salary or more advancement opportunities.

In some careers, there is only so far you can grow or advance before you have tapped out. Being bored at work can make the days go by like a snail crossing a gravel road every day (slow and painful). Or, possibly you need/want to increase your earnings potential. While big salaries are tempting, be wary of making compromises in other important areas, such as strengths or values, which may create job dissatisfaction later. A good fit is always important.

Your personal life circumstances change.

You’ve been laid off. You’re newly divorced and can move anywhere you want. Your kids have graduated from college and you no longer have to pay tuition. Your student loan is finally paid off. You survived a major accident or illness and your outlook on life has changed radically. Life is dynamic, ever-changing, but has your career kept up with your life? Maybe life has just handed you the opportunity you need to make a major change. Think about it…

You’re burned out.

You have been a television producer for a major news network for 25 years. You are at the top of your game. Your salary is great, your assignments are great, but the thought of working in the same job for another 15 years makes you want to pull the blankets over your head and hide. For many people, there is a point where we need something different no matter how good or successful we are at our current job. Sometimes it can be a readjustment of your current circumstances like a new location or a new company. And sometimes a major overhaul is needed.

Being a stay-at-home mom put me back in touch with my core beliefs and aspirations while giving me the perspective to reflect on what wasn’t working for me as a project manager.

You’ve changed your mind.

So, you’ve been an accountant for five years and it has been fine. You’re doing well, but you’ve never forgotten that job offer from your college roommate when she started her own company. Now her start-up has received a second round of funding and is going strong. You know the offer is still out there. Maybe you could try something else. You can always go back to accounting. Or your volunteer job leading backpacking trips is starting to become more real. Could you do it for a living? Maybe. Go find out. There is never any harm in exploring possibilities, and you can always decide to stay where you are. Remember. If you’re questioning your career now, you probably will do so in the future. Many of us think we are “stuck” without any chance of changing. While it can be frightening to consider making a change, this is the only life you have. Take control of it and help yourself out. You might be surprised what you come up with.

Having the benefit of a professional career advisor can help the process feel less overwhelming. GGU offers free career advising for students and alumni, so take advantage and make an appointment on GGUCareers.

Wendy McWilliams is completing her Master’s in Counseling with a Career focus at Saint Mary’s College of California. She worked as a software project manager for 15 years for a variety of Bay Area companies, was a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, and is looking forward to embarking on a new adventure as a Career Counselor. Email Wendy >> 

Learning with Accomplished Peers: The MBA Cohort Experience (Video)

Katharine Grimmer earned her MBA (’12) as part of a cohort: a group of students who journey through a degree program together. In this short video, Grimmer describes her cohort as “a group of smart, driven individuals..from different backgrounds and career areas.” Grimmer sites collaborating with peers outside her chosen field of biotech — and small class sizes — as instrumental in her education. Cohort-style learning also helped inform and inspire the launch of her entrepreneurial product, Lotus Rx Hair Solution.

Because Grimmer was working full time while pursuing an MBA, she chose to blend in-person cohort learning with online classes. GGU is nationally recognized as the #1 college for adult learners because it offers students like her the flexibility they need.

Request information about GGU’s MBA & cohort style learning >>

“What do the new corporate tax rates mean to my business?” Or “To C or not to C . . . that is the question!”

By Fred Sroka, Dean of the GGU School of Accounting & Bruce F. Braden School of Taxation

The tax rates for corporations have dramatically changed in 2018. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has reduced federal corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%. With this reduction, many flow-through businesses are asking whether they should convert to C corporations. Let’s explore the opportunity, and factors that may influence your decision.

The vast majority of U.S. businesses are organized as partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), or S corporations. These entities pay a single layer of tax on their income, while traditional corporations (called “C corporations”) pay two layers of tax, first at the corporate level (up to 35% federal) and second when the profits are distributed to the corporate owners (at up to 20% federal).

Choice of Entity in 2018: Three Key Questions

1. Can we convert to a C corporation for tax purposes?

Let’s begin with the simplest step, electing corporate status. Happily, the IRS has made this incredibly easy. Any LLC or partnership can convert to corporate status by filing form 8832. If the form is filed with IRS by March 15, the election can be effective retroactive to January 1, 2018! If your company is currently taxed as an S corporation, then you need to file a statement with IRS under Regs. §1.1362-6(a)(3) to terminate the S status and become a C corporation.

2. Will our taxes be lower as a C corporation?

It certainly sounds better to pay tax at the new 21% corporate tax rate than the 37% individual tax rate, even if your shareholders need to pay a second tax on any distributed profits. However, the decision is not that simple:

Cost Recovery: Incorporating will only save taxes if the business generates profits. TCJA allows very liberal deductions for purchases of business property. You may be able to reduce or eliminate your company’s 2018 income by simply buying new business assets.

Character: While many kinds of ordinary income is taxed to individuals at 37%, TCJA has dropped the tax rate on most business income to roughly 30% under new §199A. More importantly, capital gains are taxed to individuals at a 20% rate. If your business has substantial value in its trade name, goodwill and other capital assets, the decision to be taxed as a C corporation can lock current and future appreciation into double tax.

State Tax: The double tax on corporations also applies to state taxes. If the owners plan on distributing profits from the business, they should be sure to consider the state taxes imposed on both the corporation and the shareholders.

Basis: Tax basis is used to make sure that, at the end of the day, your cumulative taxable income or loss equals your cumulative economic gain or loss. If your tax basis in the business is less than total debt, the decision to incorporate can trigger immediate tax under §357(c). More importantly, corporations don’t allow owners to get basis in the entity’s debt. This prevents most businesses with substantial real estate (and related mortgages) from using corporate structures. Corporations also prevent the changes in basis due to transfers by owners from increasing the basis of company assets. In short, worry about incorporating any business that has a lot of debt or expects a lot of owner transfers.

3. Making the Decision to Incorporate

If your flow-through business is profitable, doesn’t have a lot of debt, doesn’t face a lot of state tax, and doesn’t expect many transfers, you may save substantial taxes by electing to be taxed as a C corporation. The benefits of incorporating are much higher if you plan to leave the profits in the business, since dividends from C corporations cause a second layer of federal and state tax. However, once you incorporate all current and future appreciation is locked into double tax, debt and transfers may cause increased tax burdens, and you can expect your state taxes to increase.

The vast majority of LLCs and S corporations will likely decide to retain their entity choice, benefiting from the newly reduced tax rates on flow-through business income. However, every business should consult with their tax adviser to see whether their tax structure fits the new environment of TCJA.

How to Learn More

The new tax law creates both challenges and opportunities for our alumni. If you advise clients, expect that planning for 2018 will add to the long hours already committed to the coming compliance busy season. If you’d like more resources, please feel free to email me. To build your skills, please also consider coming back for another course or two at GGU. We offer substantial tuition discounts to our alumni!

Request information about taxation degrees and courses >>

Bank of the West VP and Adjunct Faculty Member Shares Management Insights

Bank of the West is rapidly modernizing its services for our mobile, need-it-now world. But its business is all about people: serving diverse customers with different ideas about their money. As a VP, Branch Manager at the company, Victor Shin leads consumer bankers and operations staff — a diverse group of that come from different ethnic backgrounds and with varying personalities. A Senior Adjunct Professor at GGU, Shin leverages his high-level experience to teach undergraduates who will become the next generation of managers and executives.

“In the past, management practices were more top-down in attitude,” he says. “In the new generation of management, you have to come in as a ‘people-relater.’ People are different–and they are not you. The technical disciplines of management such as marketing, accounting, and finance are important but dealing with people is the nitty gritty stuff.”

Shin says that he got to an executive-level position in banking because he is naturally competitive and has the willingness to learn. His EMBA from GGU (’04) was part of his learning journey. “The degree is geared toward C-Level thinking. I was exposed to other senior managers in the classroom,” he says. “The GGU faculty are practitioners of their fields and deal with fortune 100 companies all the time. They were able to tell us what those companies are looking for in leadership. I try to bring the same approach to my undergraduate classroom.”

10 Management Insights from Victor Shin

1. As much as we want people to see what managers see, sometimes they don’t; so, you have to provide direction on how to do something in their own way.

2. Dealing with difficult situations is necessary; nobody likes conflict, but it is going to happen.

3. Managers have realized that they are not mind readers. They need to ask what people are thinking.

4. Likewise, if you don’t express your philosophy to your staff, they won’t know it.

5. People want core values established so they can achieve a goal as a group.

6. You have to be human and transparent because people are motivated by people they can trust.

7. Both new-school “organic” and more authority-based management approaches have value.

8. Management by objectives (MBO) is effective because it gives you a way to document and track quantitative goals, and refocus people if they get off track.

9. You need acumen in the three basic disciplines of business, but you must execute in a way that’s going to translate into success. The disciplines are Technical Skill (knowing what you are doing), Soft Skills (many of them related to Emotional Intelligence) and Self Determination / Motivation. Eventually, we all have to be accountable for our own actions and path in life. That is what people will see and hopefully emulate when you do it correctly. Communicating what you do along the way will help immensely. But at the end of the day, it is up to you.

10. When hiring, fit with the overall team is important. I like people that are open to trying all the wonderful kinds of foods that we have in the Bay Area. It shows they are open to new cultures and experiences.

More about Victor Shin, MBA

Victor Shin has over 20 years of experience in the financial industry in the San Francisco Bay Area, along with being a Senior Adjunct Professor at GGU since 2013. He has held various senior positions at major institutions such as Washington Mutual, Wells Fargo, Comerica Bank, and First Republic Bank. Shin also serves on the board of the Asian Business League of San Francisco and The Presidio Dance Academy. He earned a BA in Management and Accounting from Sonoma State University (’96).


Financial Planning Luminary Outlines GGU’s Degree Programs

This webinar recording provides information on both masters-level financial planning programs at GGU: Financial Planning and Advanced Financial Planning. The presentation is led by Dr. Dave Yeske, CFP® who is Director of the GGU’s Financial Planning programs and Distinguished Adjunct Professor. The Financial Planning Association® (FPA) has recognized Dr. Yeske as one of the profession’s leading minds by awarding him their highest honor—The P. Kemp Fain Jr. Award (2017).

Catch the Latest Webinar
January 23rd at 12 – 1pm (Pacific Time)

If you want to ask questions about the degrees in financial planning we invite you to the next webinar hosted by Dr. YeskeAn Enrollment Counselor will also be on hand to answer application-related questions. Participants will receive a waiver code to apply to one of our programs at no charge (up to $110 in value).

Register Now >>

Questions about the event? Contact Amina Kasumov.

How do you make partner at a CPA firm and how long does it take?

Authors: Fred Sroka, Dean of the GGU School of Accounting & Bruce F. Braden School of Taxation; Richard G. Carson, Senior Adjunct Professor, GGU; Wendell Hutchinson, Associate Professor, GGU.


Only 10% of the people who start with a public accounting firm ultimately make it to partner, but whatever time you spend in public accounting will pay dividends throughout the rest of your career. What skills does it take to make partner at an accounting firm and how long does it take? The authors of this post — Dell Hutchinson, Rich Carson, and Fred Sroka — are all retired “Big Four” partners who now teach for Golden Gate University. Here they share their perspectives on accounting career paths and planning.

What is a public accounting firm?

Public accounting firms are amazing service organizations. Unlike most of corporate America, you don’t report to a single boss. Instead, you likely will have many assignments with many different supervisors. This can be both a blessing because you are more empowered to chart your own career and a curse because it is easy to get overlooked or overcommitted.

Timeline and Skills

Here’s a quick summary of the different levels within accounting firms and a rough timeline to chart your progress along the way:

Associate: For the first 2 or 3 years of your career, you’ll be classified as an “associate”. That means you spend a lot of time doing what other people tell you to do. The learning curve is steep and the hours are long. Since you are reporting to maybe 5 supervisors, you have to learn how to budget your time, ask questions, and manage the expectations of people above you. The most important skill — for associates and on throughout your career — is your ability to communicate clearly, honestly, and effectively.

As to how far up the ladder you climb, who knows? However, unlike many other career paths, public accounting empowers you to chart your own course and provides a wide range of exciting alternatives…

Senior: After 2 or 3 years in public accounting, you should have developed the skills necessary to be “in charge” of a project”. That’s when you’re promoted to “senior associate”. The good news is that you now have associates below you, which gives you much more control and leverage. The bad news is that you need much better management skills to manage your time, your staff’s time, and your client’s expectations–all on multiple projects. Seniors tend to have the highest stress levels, and many talented professionals quit during their senior years because of the pressure.

Manager: If you’ve survived to year 5 or 6, project management has become a core skill. You’re now ready to move on to overall relationship management. As a manager, you are expected to work closely with the client to make sure that all the individual projects run smoothly, are delivered on time and are delivered on budget. Along with better project management and relationship management skills, your technical skills should rise another level as well. While seniors are expected to be able to spot errors, managers are expected to be able to spot risks and opportunities!·

Senior Manager or Director: While the promotion schedule is pretty consistent from associate through manager roles, the time required to move higher up the organizational chart varies widely. Somewhere after 8 years, you may be ready to move on to practice management. Managing a practice requires great technical skills, solid project management skills, good people and relationship management skills, and an ability to build teams and systems that can serve multiple clients effectively. Senior managers and directors are often subject matter experts in fields such as international tax, state and local tax, mergers and acquisitions. They run many client relationships and also help coordinate staff development and serve as technical resources for other teams.

In addition to communication, here is a list of needed skills as you climb the ladder:
Time Management
Project Management
Stress Management
Managing Client Expectations
Technical skills (audit, tax, consulting or a variety of other specialties)
Building teams and systems that can serve multiple clients effectively
Spotting risks and business opportunities
Meeting with current and prospective clients to sell services
Mentorship, growing professional staff, and building the firm’s culture for success
Dealing with urgent issues and managing the firm’s legal, professional, and ethical responsibilities

Partner: When are you ready to make partner or principal? Nowadays in the “Big Four” accounting firms (Deloitte, PwC [formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers], EY [formerly Ernst & Young], KPMG) 12 years is considered early, 15 years might be average; and some folks may take a little longer. Partners own the business, share in the profits, and have the ultimate ownership of all client relationships. It seems like the end of the professional road, but frankly it’s just another milestone in your professional development. As a partner, you’re partially architect (watching the market and designing your firm’s services to meet changing demand); partially a salesman (meeting with current and prospective clients to sell services); partially a fireman (dealing with urgent issues and managing the firm’s legal, professional, and ethical responsibilities); and partially a mentor (growing the professional staff and building the firm’s culture for success).

What accounting career paths are there?

Few millennials are confident of their career path 15 years into the future. Happily, you don’t need to commit to any single firm up front. The skills and personal brand built up in your first 5 years will produce dividends for the rest of your life, whether in public accounting or working in a corporate environment.

If you like people, like solving problems, and are willing to work hard, then public accounting can be a very rewarding career. As to how far up the ladder you climb, who knows? However, unlike many other career paths, public accounting empowers you to chart your own course, and provides a wide range of exciting alternatives (public accounting, private industry, government, nonprofit and academia) the further you climb up the mountain.

Request information about GGU’s master’s degrees in accounting >>

Meet the Incoming Chair and New Members of GGU’s Board of Trustees

Randy Merk (MBA ’85), Incoming Chair of the Board of Trustees, is the retired Executive Vice President of The Charles Schwab Corporation and past President of Schwab Financial Products. He oversaw all mutual fund, investment management, insurance, and banking activities within Schwab, and from 2004 to 2007 he reported directly to the firm’s legendary founder and chairman, Charles R. Schwab.

Before joining the Schwab organization in 2002, Merk was President and Chief Investment Officer of American Century Investments, Inc., headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. Prior to that, he was Chief Investment Officer for Fixed Income for two mutual fund companies: 20th Century Investors (Kansas City) and for Benham Capital Management (Mountain View, CA).

Merk earned a B.A. degree in Political Science from the University of California, Davis, and attended Golden Gate University where he was selected the Outstanding MBA Graduate in Finance in 1985. Today, Merk consults for financial service firms and teaches at GGU as adjunct faculty. He is known to his fellow board members for his financial acumen, his penetrating questions and his faith in the future of Golden Gate University.

New Board Members

Tracey Edwards (JD ’81, LLM ’83)

Tracey Edwards, who recently retired from Deloitte after 31 years, rejoins the Board and will be serving on the Law School Task Force. She previously served from 2000 to 2016.


Scot FerrellScot Ferrell (MBA ’88)

Scot Ferrell currently serves as the Chair of the Ageno School of Business Advisory Board. Managing Director at Marsh since June 2002, he is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Red Cross Chapter Board of Directors and past President on the Board of Directors for the Fairview Fire Protection District.

Francis S. Ryu (JD ’95)

Francis S. Ryu has his own law practice in Los Angeles, leveraging trial success and dispute resolution skills to help clients prevent future threats to their companies. He has been a member of GGU’s Law Dean’s Advisory Board since March 2016. In 2013 he was voted GGU Alumni Association Volunteer of the Year.

Accounting Graduates Share Advice, Experience About Their Chosen Career Paths (Video)

If you are interested in starting a career in accounting or getting promoted to a senior position, this video features alumni of the Master of Science in Accounting program who are working in IT consulting, forensic accounting, and auditing at KPMG — one of the Big Four accounting firms. The graduates were asked:

  • Why did you pursue the career?
  • What is your job like?
  • How did GGU prepare you?
  • What advice they can you offer people considering an accounting career?

Here is some of what they said:

Dan Haigh, Senior Financials Consultant, Appirio (’16)

“I decided a Master’s-level degree at GGU would help me because, as a consultant with different clients, having many classes to choose from would put me at a different level than my peers. I applied the things I learned almost immediately.”

Justin Hibbard, Forensic Accounting, Forward Forensics (‘14)

“The great thing about GGU is that you have practitioners teaching.  So I might be learning how to assess damages with someone who is working on a case like that during the day.”

Stephanie Dodge, First-Year Associate, KPMG (’16)

“Associates to the bulk of the test work and the seniors will do organizing, planning, and review work. Promotion to a senior position takes about two years. The energy you need in the cohort program is same as when you are working and need to push through the busy season. It is challenging, but rewarding.”

Request information about GGU’s master’s degrees in accounting >>


Big Data & Brontobytes: Business Development Professional Speaks to Advanced Math Students

The “brontobyte” is not the world’s biggest dinosaur – as big as 12 African Elephants—that was discovered this year in Argentina — but a new unit of data measurement representing 1027 bytes. As Jerry Chang, Director, of Business Development at Mercury Systems explained to Dr. Cang Nguyen’s (DBA ’13) Statistics class said, this number represents the challenge and opportunity of Big Data for today’s businesses.

“In the age of inter-office print memos, we needed more information to make a sound business decision; now, however, in the age of Information Superhighway, we have too much,” said Chang. “The companies who learned how to analyze this information effectively will have significant competitive advantages; and so are the students who learn the critical thinking and data analytical skills through the courses offered at GGU.”

“…managers heavily depend on data and make decisions based on the data; but when setting the future for the company, visionary leaders often look beyond the data!”

Dr. Nguyen, himself a graduate of the DBA program at GGU, invited Chang to show students how decisions are made using Big Data in real-world situations.  Chang cited 1-to-1 marketing as a way how business leverages Big Data. Companies strive to know what consumers want, when they want it, and how much they are willing to pay for it. Instead of focusing on mass market, business is now able to personalize and contextualize the individual market in anticipating focused prospects’ needs. Chang recalled a situation where he hoped that Google could figure out where he may need to buy an umbrella in anticipation during his travel to a new city with an upcoming shower rain.

Dr. Cang reported to Chang for 14 years at Microsemi Corporation – a company that provides semiconductor and system solutions government and industrial markets. Working in both R&D engineering and business development, Cang analyzed large data sets to identify the best possible product positioning and competitive advantages. Based on these data-driven decisions, Microsemi was able to design better products and create optimal product roadmaps.

Trends and the Future

Rather than looking back, as does the paleontologist, business people must have their eyes on the future. As Chang shared, “success in business goes beyond harnessing Big Data and has to do with having a vision of the future like Steve Jobs had. In daily business practices, managers heavily depend on data and make decisions based on the data; but when setting the future for the company, visionary leaders often look beyond the data!”

Request information about data analytics programs and concentrations >>

President’s Report: Dr. David J. Fike Outlines GGU’s Present and Future

President David J. Fike joined Golden Gate University two years ago and has ushered in changes to keep what it offers to students fresh and responsive to rapidly changing times. He says: “Through economic booms and busts, GGU has remained impressively committed to providing a high-quality, pragmatic and professional education to working adults. That historic and ongoing commitment is our mission and our promise.”

During Dr. Fike’s tenure, new educational routes and degrees have come online that are specifically designed for career advancement for working adults:

Here are some facts gleaned from the report:

About GGU

  • For the second consecutive year, Washington Monthly ranks Golden Gate University America’s #1 School for Adult Learners in its annual College Guide and Rankings.
  • EMBA faculty—more than 80% of them—are scholar-practitioners, active professionals in the real world of business.
  • The incoming Board President, Randall W. Merk,  is a GGU graduate (MBA ’85) who is retired Executive Vice President of The Charles Schwab Corporation and past President of Schwab Financial Products.

About our Students

  • 89% are over 25.
  • 44% of undergraduates are people of color and 62% of first-year law students identify as a minority.
  • 48% of undergraduates are online students.

About our Graduates

  • 68,000+ graduates and climbing
  • GGU had the highest mean earnings of adult students 10 years after graduation among four-year colleges for adult learners.

What’s Next?

Dr. Fike reports that the Framing Our Future initiative will introduce new degrees and programs, integrate degree and credentialing programs for greater student flexibility, expand its partnerships with the business community, and implement strategic priorities and capacity building for continued leadership in the future.

Read the President’s Report >>