“Choosing a school is like entering into a long-term dating relationship, with lifetime impacts and consequences. When I first started looking at schools I focused more on those short-term aspects, specifically on the social scene. I'm incredibly grateful that I was magically placed in a position to go to Weber State. After all, would you rather date someone focused on just partying, or one that has a good head on their shoulders, with a firm view of the future, a great grasp of current issues, and a mind to excel and improve their surroundings?”
WHY WEBER STATE?
One thing I've learned in life is that if you work hard and push yourself you can do amazing things. Sometimes those things come about because of a direct choice to do amazing things, and sometimes they come as a result of constant diligence, despite having chosen something that at first may appear lackluster.
I grew up in Layton, Utah, with both parents working for Intermountain Healthcare in various direct health care or administrative positions. We frequently visited the McKay Dee Hospital campus, where my Dad worked, and so we drove by the Weber State campus frequently. My Dad attended Weber State for his MBA when I was young, and all of my siblings later attended the school. Given the frequent interactions with both the school and campus it became a college of familiarity.
As the time came to apply for colleges, I applied for a myriad of schools including all of the top schools in Utah. Thanks to my high school grades I was offered various levels of scholarship at each of the schools. As I considered each of the schools I weighed the benefits of each. In the end I chose Weber State because of its familiarity, proximity to home (i.e. my parents' house - #savings), and a few key friends deciding to attend there as well. I attended two semesters before serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At that time I did not take school very seriously. Luckily, the two-year break from school provided me many great opportunities to redirect myself.
After my mission, I had about three months before beginning back at school. During that time I decided to look into a few different career paths. I initially thought of three major paths: health care, engineering and business. I started by reading a medical anatomy text book - let's be honest, I only got through the first three or four chapters! I also started shadowing my uncle, who is a dentist. Love my uncle, and SO grateful for those who practice medicine, but it was not for me! So I moved on. It was then time to register for classes. Having killed my first career path, I moved on to the other two. I signed up for an intro to engineering class and also the Accounting 2010 class with Lisa Hopkins.The engineering class was great, very interesting, but it didn't capture my interest quite like the accounting class did. Weird, right!? I remember the engineering professor would tell us about his time working on rocket development for ATK. We watched interesting videos and learning many great things, but when I went to accounting... it just clicked. Specifically, I remember Lisa pulling me aside after class one day and her asking what my major was. At that time, I had no idea, so I told her I wasn't sure. She responded that, "Well it should be accounting, because you're a natural!" So after that I decided to go all in, I joined the Goddard business school and declared my major as Accounting.
After selecting my major I still had a little over five semesters to go. I remember surprisingly struggling a bit with Accounting 2020 (I'm definitely much more of a financial accounting type rather than managerial accounting), but LOVING the accounting core and upper-division courses (i.e. further financial and tax accounting courses). As I studied accounting and learned the various rules, they soon became an intricately connected artistic web, all detailing how each business operates, and soon gained an appreciation for how connected all of the rules really are. As we studied revenue recognition timing, I was able to more fully understand expense recognition timing. As we learned about PP&E I was able to understand more about the statement of cash flows. One of my favorite things about accounting is that for every debit there is a credit, which, at first may seem cliché, but what many miss is the relationships that those debits and credits bring. If I've just recognized revenue, then that means I now am also increasing my assets, generally either through cash or A/R. As I learned about these relationships I was able to better understand the overall operations of a business. Since then I have been continuously amazed at the insights that my understanding of accounting has given me for the various companies I've worked with.
In the beginning, I picked accounting because a great mentor told me I had a knack for it, but I stayed in accounting because of the amazingly connected nature that the field has to the underlying operations of the business. When a professor says that accounting is the language of business, they really mean it!
The parties, definitely the parties..... NO! When people think about Weber State I think they often think, "but that's not a party school." And the truth is, it isn't! But what it is, and quite honestly the area where the Goddard School shines bright, is a school filled with faculty that have a strong foothold in their markets and a true desire to help students find their "thing".
Throughout my Undergrad I was constantly amazed by the professors / instructors. I remember after one night class (which must have gotten out around 8 or 9 pm), staying to ask Lisa a question about something we had just covered in class. Lisa stayed for over an hour patiently listening and answering all of my questions (somebody get this lady a gold medal!!). They also went above and beyond. I remember taking several tax classes from Ryan Pace, and one of the most amazing parts was that he had written his own tax textbooks! In doing so, he was able to take something that confuses about 95% of Americans and put it into [more-or-less] layman terms. Not having to read a tax textbook as thick as my femur was a big plus. Ryan constantly found a way to simplify complex tax and legal situations, both in his textbooks and in the classroom.
I think one key thing to mention here as well is that not only do the professors teach in a great way, but their actual teaching is true quality. Since my time at Weber I have sat in rooms with other colleagues from all sorts of backgrounds (including top programs for accounting such as University of Texas Austin and BYU). In each of those settings I have been able to easily and confidently hold my own when it came to technical accounting or complex business scenarios. I credit that confidence to the knowledge that was crafted in conjunction with the Goddard School accounting professors. The professors are 100% the best part of the Goddard School!!
GETTING INVOLVED ON CAMPUS
Absolutely! Though, again, I have to credit this one to Lisa Hopkins and Loisanne Kattelman. Both asked (dare I say persistently? :) ) whether I was going to get involved in Beta Alpha Psi (BAP), the organization geared towards accounting. At first I gave excuses of limited time due to work and other personal commitments. Eventually, Lisa pulled me aside in one of her 3000 level courses and painted a picture for me: employers want students who strive for more than just the base expectations, because in doing so they indicate an ability to excel. She also told me that doing so would be the most sure ticket to getting hired at one of the "Big Four" Accounting firms. At that time I still didn't know what path I wanted to take with accounting, but I had heard plenty about the "golden ticket" that getting hired at one of those firms would provide. I took the plunge, rearranged my work schedule, and started attending. At the end of that semester I decided to put my hat in the ring for a BAP position as the Vice President of Activities. By some miracle, I got the position.
Lisa Hopkins, Ryan Pace, James Hansen, Loisanne Kattleman were all extremely influential, not to mention other amazing professors with whom I had other excellent experiences. Matt Mouritsen is still one of the most kind and down-to-earth professors I've ever met. His ability to apply accounting to real-life situations (I still remember the lego activity in managerial accounting) was uncanny! I will also never forget Eric Smith's vast and breathtaking knowledge of tax and tax law, not to mention his witty way of explaining personal tax issues. To this day I leverage knowledge gained from his class for my personal tax preparation and any tax questions people ask me. And, of course, Randy Boyle, with his passion for technology and its connection to business. Each of these professors have shaped my view of the business world for the better, and continue to inspire me to greater adventures!
Choosing a school is like entering into a long-term dating relationship, with lifetime impacts and consequences. When I first started looking at schools I focused more on those short-term aspects, specifically on the social scene. I'm incredibly grateful that I was magically placed in a position to go to Weber State. After all, would you rather date someone focused on just partying, or one that has a good head on their shoulders, with a firm view of the future, a great grasp of current issues, and a mind to excel and improve their surroundings. As I said at the beginning, sometimes amazing things come as a result of direct decisions to do amazing things and sometimes they come as a result of constant diligence, despite having chosen something that at first may appear lackluster. Weber, to me, at first, was the "safe" choice for colleges, but as I continued through my studies I found that Weber was the secret unicorn of colleges, with amazing professors and a solid program. So, tip #1, don't be afraid to choose the thing that seems most pragmatic, it may surprise you the adventures that a pragmatic base can take you on!
And tip #2, never, NEVER be afraid to push yourself. As I came to the conclusion of my undergrad I felt an itch to push myself to something new. I had gotten comfortable at Weber, so I decided to apply to the University of Utah for my graduate studies. When I first met with their advisers they weren't sure if I would be accepted. Not only was I accepted, but further offered one of the most prestigious scholarships. Pushing myself to change schools at that time was a pivotal moment in my life for following my itch for change (though I still loved my time at Weber WAY more!!). Later, after being promoted to Senior Associate in the KPMG Salt Lake Office, I started to feel that same itch. An opportunity came through a mentor / friend to work in the U.S. Accounting and Reporting Group of the KPMG Zürich, Switzerland office. I've now worked for over a year in Switzerland and experienced amazing cultural and work opportunities. One of my favorite quotes is, "There is no growth in comfort and there is no comfort in growth." Don't be afraid to stretch yourself and see where life takes you! And above all, know that despite any current discomfort, growth brings amazingly beautiful things to life.
WHERE ARE YOU NOW?
Switzerland! I remember for the first several months my wife and I would just look at each other as we drove to the grocery store or just around town and mutually voice our thoughts, "We live in freaking Europe!" But, cool factor aside, I absolutely love my life. I'm the happy husband of a wife of seven years, the father of a three year-old and two crazy fur babies (Labradoodles). We live in a small town just outside of Zürich. Every day I get to look out at beautiful green rolling hills and see the beautiful and massive alps in the distance. We go on amazing vacations and week-end get-aways, we eat foods we've never heard of, we FaceTime family A LOT, and.... we are also still normal humans! Yes, I do still binge-watch TV shows and go to work every day, and I actually love my job! I have now been with KPMG roughly four years, three of which were in the Salt Lake City office, and one in the Zürich, Switzerland office. In that time I have seen so many amazing companies. I have audited all sorts of industries: Sports Betting, Healthcare, E-Commerce, Ski Resorts, Hedge Funds and Alternative Investment Portfolios, Building Materials, and more. Having such a broad experience with the various industries has been amazing in learning more about areas I like, love or hate. Each company I've audited has brought new insights and new friends to my life. Now, in Zürich I have the opportunity to assist foreign companies in their application of U.S. related accounting (whether be it from adoption of U.S. GAAP or compliance with SEC filing requirements). Transitioning to this role has brought many new experiences for me, including the opportunity to participate in an IPO process.
As for the future, who knows exactly. I would absolutely love to spend time working in our firm's department of professional practice (DPP), where colleagues interpret new accounting codification, create trainings for the firm and others, consult with audit teams on technical accounting issues, and correspond with regulators on accounting codification development. I'd also love to begin adjunct instructing at some point, and share my love for accounting and auditing with future generations. Who knows, maybe an early retirement and early second mission is in store! To be sure, I don't fully know what the future will bring, or in what country I will be in, but I will be forever grateful for the growth mindset that Weber State helped instill in me and the continued support and adventurous spirit that my wife and family have shown. GO WILDCATS!!