How does a skilled professional with a BS degree in nutrition sciences from Cornell wind up as an accountant? Isenberg MSA student Sylvia Wu explains: “After several years as a sales rep with Oracle and a nutritionist with WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), I decided that, for me, nutrition was more an avocation than a vocation. I came to appreciate the management aspects of those jobs—especially teamwork.” Sylvia got the accounting bug from her many friends who were accountants. “I’m not sure I would have considered accounting without their encouragement,” she admits.
Sylvia embarked on a search for accounting programs in academe and found that Isenberg’s MS program made the most sense for her. The big difference, she notes, was the school’s accelerated 15-credit Accounting Transitions Program. Targeted exclusively to non-business graduates, Transitions rapidly brings its students up to speed for the MS program itself.
“Transitions was entirely online and fast-paced—you might say overwhelming,” observes Sylvia. “It compressed something like fourteen weeks into six. Fortunately, the faculty and my fellow students were outstanding.” She adds that she appreciated diving into accounting with other students who lacked business training—their backgrounds included biology and criminal justice. “My favorite Transitions courses were personal taxation and financial reporting, the second taught by Bill Brown—Isenberg’s current undergraduate dean—who was fantastic.” The curriculum also included a team project involving an audit. “It exceeded my expectations. Everyone on my team pulled their weight and worked together,” she emphasizes.
Success as a Grad Student and Beyond
“The Transitions program set me up to succeed in the more evenly paced MS program,” Sylvia continues. Largely onsite at Isenberg, the program offers students a mix of career services and coursework. “It was a balancing act,” she says, “because the career services piece involved lots of networking, job interviews, and presentations by public accounting firms.” Sylvia adds that Jeanne Bagdon, director of Isenberg’s Professional Programs in Accounting, made a huge difference, encouraging her and keeping her on track.
For Sylvia, that tenacity paid off when after a semester in the program, she secured a challenging winter internship with PwC. “After a week of training in auditing with the firm’s software system, I joined an audit team,” she recalls. “That’s where I did most of my learning.” And a huge learning curve it was, she emphasizes: “It was an apprenticeship environment where you learn both from others and by teaching others yourself. I loved it.” The affection proved mutual: In October, Sylvia will join the firm full-time as an auditor.
MSA coursework at Isenberg also played a critical role in Sylvia’s successful internship. Two favorite classes, she notes, were Sean Wandrei’s course in taxation and an online course in data analytics taught by Isenberg’s former technology director. The latter, she observes, examined many topics, including “the impact of machine learning and other technologies that will streamline and improve operations.”
In the months between graduating from Isenberg and the start of her new role, Sylvia will focus on the inevitable CPA exams—one more stop en route to a successful career. “Isenberg,” she says, brought me to this point. And it is bound to bring me farther.”