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Showing posts from July, 2013

phone addiction

I admit that I am addicted. It must stop. And I know I'm not the only one. I am addicted to my phone, and my immediate reflex when I get work emails is to check it, regardless of time of day. I could be working from 7:30 am - 11 pm,  but when I'm back home and it's midnight, I feel that familiar buzz in my pocket, and I instantly pick up the phone and check my email. This could end up in three different ways - a) delete the email, not important, b) save it so I can respond tomorrow c) frustrates me enough that it affects my sleep d) makes me relieved since it was the resolution of a certain issue. This could have waited until the next morning, but it's almost out of instinct that I have to check that email. Knowing that there's an unread email out there is annoying  since in my mind it could be a big  issue that needs to be tackled asap, even though it can realistically wait. People say that this smartphone age makes work efficient, but it also takes a stranglehold…


I am starting my career in audit in September at a European office. I know that the companies have very good training programmes, yet I still feel like preparing myself in any way possible. Do you have any tips for me and other new hires?

To be honest, there's no need to prepare. Even the training programs are insufficient. The majority of your training will be on-the-job, i.e. when you're in the field and your senior associates are teaching you how to audit. In fact, I'd venture to say that the people who participate a lot in training are not the best in your training class a majority of the time. Just focus on your senior's training the first few weeks at the client, and you should be golden. Of course, your senior should have the necessary competencies to  teach well.

My first senior was horrendous. My first day on the job, he comes up to me and asks me to audit receivables, and then leaves. A fellow staff associate who started client work a week before I did hel…

Compensation season has begun!

That time of year, when the gossiping and speculation begins, when some directly ask how much others' raises were (which I think is ridiculous, what a kind of a question is that? Learn some manners), and some try and get a sense from the demeanor of others to see if the raises are good. Every year there's rumors - raises are going to  be great, raises going to be at market, raises are going to be bad. You usually cover the whole spectrum. When the raises are final, some go on rants about how pathetic the raises are. Some think the raises are really good. To those folks - listen, we are constantly underpaid - that is the model and I don't see that changing - so the raises are not good. Yes, the %s might be good, but the total salary for the amount you work - come on! Keep in mind you don't get equity. Especially the people who started in 2008-2009, when we didn't have raises -to you, any raise is a good raise.

People - don't compare your salary to the outside wo…

Start date

Most of my peers / class and I signed the full-time offer that's supposed to be starting in September of this year. However, HR has now provided us an option to defer our start dates. I'm considering deferring to the next start date - January. Do you think this puts me at a disadvantage? Would missing planning and interim work in the fall affect my intermediate (2nd year staff associate) year performance? Would Seniors be so busy during busy season that they wouldn't have time to teach me / properly give instructions? Is it more difficult work in busy season? Thanks!!

It depends. So if you start in January and are a good performer, you will probably get promoted the same year along with the September class, so if you graduate early, and want to get a head start on your professional life, go for it. Busy season will be a heck of a training ground for you.

If you want to ease into busy season hell, start in September. You are right about seniors not having time to t…


On a side note, did you stop blogging? As far as I can see there are quite a while since your last post  

I just didn't feel like booting up my computer when I came home to be honest. On a side note, I've always thought about writing a book down the road about my experience at a big 4 firm. Doesn't seem like anyone's done this, and seems like something that people would read/buy. Thoughts? Should I just stick to blog posts.

public accounting

Hi. Is Big 4 considered as public sector? I thought they are under private sector? 

It's considered to be public accounting - and the audit is done on both public and private companies. Agree though - seems strange if you dig deep to figure out why.


Also have you ever had a really good auditor leave w/o warning? Like you found out the day they were leaving. 

For the most part, you find out a week before - via the grapevine, almost everyone gives a 2 week notice in the US. Depending on the Firm, you may get "escorted out" on the same day if you go to a competitor, even if it's a different practice. It's pretty crazy when that happens. Also, when you're laid off, you have to fill out your paperwork and leave that same day.

Most good auditors are kind enough to give their two week notice though, it helps transition a lot of work to others.

move from europe to the US

I work for a Big 4 in Europe and I want to continue my carreer in USA (in audit if possible). My firm encourages the international carreers but I think it's not that easy. Do you know anyone that has moved from Europe to USA? How it worked? Hard to fit in? Is it hard to adapt yourshelf to the local GAAP? 

There are a lot of people on exchange from Europe. It is a difficult transition since audit is much more intense and detailed than it is in most of Europe. It's funny seeing individuals from other countries audit - might as well audit by inquiry sometimes. As far as adaptation to local GAAP goes, it'll take you time, but you'll get there. Just have to spend some time using the research tools to familiarize yourself depending on the issue.

big 4 tax

I'm currently a first year senior in the tax practice for a big 4 firm. The experience so far is nice but I've been thinking a lot about switching to audit. The reasons being, I feel like audit has so much more exit opportunities (Controller, CFO, Partner etc), you get to learn how company operate, and you can basically find a job anywhere in the world not just limited to US. As for tax, I feel like once you are a tax guy, you will always labeled as a tax guy so your exit opportunities will only be limited to jobs related to US tax. Is my understanding correct?

Also, do you think it is a good idea for me to switch given I've invested 3 years in the tax field already? And would I be starting over as a first year audit staff and would I need to take a pay cut? please advise! 

I see your point but almost every Company needs a tax expert, and you likely provide more value than accounting experts since it helps the Company implement tax strategies that result in less …

big 4 experience

keep hearing that having experience from any of the big 4 on your CV is a major advantage in looking for other jobs. But what kind of jobs specifically? Is it limited to just accounting/controller jobs, or are there other types of jobs where a "big 4 background" is held in high regard. 

Think I've blogged about this before, but it is a huge advantage to have the big 4 name on your resume, believe me. I've seen this on plenty of recruiter emails - many of which say it's a requirement, the others say that it's preferred. It's limited to accounting/controller positions unfortunately. Don't get me wrong, by no means am I saying that big 4 firms are better than the smaller firms, it's just how the recruiters and companies work, especially since there are likely big 4 alums there.

moving office locations

Is it difficult to move to a different office location within the same Big 4 Firm? How do you approach this and how important is the timing?

It is difficult the first couple years since there are a plethora of first years and second years at every office - so there is likely no business case for you. It is pretty easy senior associate year and above since there's a business case to be made at every office, especially these days given the lack of resources.

Your best bet would be to go to a partner who likes you and explain where and why you transfer. That partner likely has a contact in the office you want to transfer to, and will put you in touch with them. After this contact likes you and wants you on board, the HR in their office will initiate the process with HR in your office. In terms of timing, start a few months before you want to transfer, and definitely avoid late fall since it  goes into busy season. Ideally April-September.

workspace environment

First post since the beginning of busy season. In fact, first post of 2013 and we're more than halfway through 2013. This new audit world we're entering is tiring. Anyways, on to some of the questions I've received since my last post. Please note that I've skipped questions that I touched on before.

One thing that I found interesting was how he told me about the way work stations and cubicles are set up. Left, top, and right sides are all covered with steep sidings resulting in a very anti-social work environment.  I also asked him if he's had a chance to befriend co-workers, and he said no - people don't talk to each other unless they have to and people dread working in teams (i.e. it's just a requirement of the job, not actually very team-oriented). Are Audit jobs this depressing of an environment? At least in some finance and consulting jobs you have bullpens and chance to be collegial with people in your level. I guess not so at all in the accou…