Silicon Valley Needs Accountants, Too
But do they have a 'life'?
This article was based off interviews conducted by The Accounting Path, a website devoted to getting people excited about accounting education and connecting them with accredited colleges. If you want to see the full series of Q&A interviews you can read them on their blog.
The Bay Area is a fast moving place, and Silicon Valley is even faster. Companies are sprouting up everywhere, often founded by people without a traditional business degree, let alone any idea about accounting. This provides a unique opportunity for accounting students to cut their teeth building a company. As noted by one of our interviewees with experience across the tech space: “Accounting is also a field where you can always find a job and people are always in demand.”
But how do you get into your dream job without sacrificing your day to day life? There are a couple of key lessons we learned:
The Big 4 may not be the right first move for everyone:
The Big 4 are great, but just aren’t for everyone. Netflix’s Janet Castillo offers a unique perspective, saying “I didn’t go into public accounting right away because I knew the work life balance would be tough. Working outside of public accounting let me figure out what I wanted to do while studying for the CPA exam.” Instead of choosing to pursue the Big 4 right away, Janet worked first for the City of San Jose, while studying for the CPA. She wasn’t alone with this choice. Many of the accountants we spoke to who are now successful in Tech purposefully chose their first positions outside the Big 4. By going somewhere smaller, they got to learn from colleagues who did the Big 4 route while developing a broader skill set and having better control of their work-life balance.
If you do go Big 4, don’t get caught staying too long:
The Big 4 can be a daunting workload, but with great development opportunities. Even if you stay for just a few years, you can jump to the private sector and find your niche. The key is to get the foundational framework you need to appeal to a burgeoning tech firm, without spending too long in the grind of Big 4 life. As one interviewee said “I look specifically for Big 4 experience. It means you have a strong work ethic and know what it takes.” After that experience, you can cut your teeth helping build out new processes at the startup of your dreams.
Be scrappy and take control of your career:
No one is going to hand you the role you want on a silver platter. It takes lots of work to differentiate your resume in the competitive Silicon Valley environment, but it can be done without killing yourself. Across all of our interviews, accounting professionals in Tech talked about seeking out mentors and actively networking with their target companies. As one of our interviewees from Airbnb said, you need to be “laser-focused” to get where you want to in the Tech space. Without this approach, you’ll likely flounder looking at too many opportunities, wasting time and effort. It’s important to work out where you want to go first, so you can get there efficiently.
If there is one thing that our interviews have taught us is that there are a myriad of paths to success. It’s important to know that not all roads point to the Big 4, and in Silicon Valley and tech in general there is always another opportunity to build something new. Above all, find something you’re passionate about and then pursue it with focus.