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Calling all Ex-Big 4 to MBA-ers!

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Calling all Ex-Big 4 to MBA-ers! [#permalink] New post 09 May 2011, 17:06
Hi Everyone,
Just started looking at this forum for almost a week now and it's quite amazing to see the breadth of insight and knowledge within all these posts. I'm just beginning the GMAT journey, having just recently completed the CPA journey via a parallel forum (CPAnet), and wanted to reach out to the gmat club community and see if there was anyone else who is in or has been in my position. I'm currently doing audit at one of the Big 4's and am based out in San Jose. My current plan is to apply to b-school once I have 4 years of work experience. For me, b-school makes a lot of sense for someone who has been doing public accounting but knows that they don't want to stay for the long haul. But it's weird because I rarely hear of Big 4 employees going to b-school, most people who quit the firm leave for an industry position. So I'm hoping there is someone out there I can relate to.
I guess my questions are:
How long did you do public accounting before you applied and what would you say is a good amount of time to work in public accounting before going to b-school? Why did you want to get an mba? How would you say your experiences in public accounting have helped you in getting admitted or helped develop the skills necessary in being successful in b-school? How did you get recommendation letters - did you ask the managers or partners you worked with? Or leverage the feedback/rating system within the firm?
I know there a lot of questions there but feel free to answer whatever.
Thanks and nice to meet you!
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Re: Calling all Ex-Big 4 to MBA-ers! [#permalink] New post 09 May 2011, 18:00
Hey I'm also working in deloitte for over 1.5yrs. Right now am studying gmat for May 27. I'm applying to SMU and NUS MBA in singapore. Recommendation letters u should get them from the people who knw u best (in my case are my managers rather than partners). Google for wharton mba essay, there's one who worked in the big 4 before.

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Re: Calling all Ex-Big 4 to MBA-ers! [#permalink] New post 09 May 2011, 22:44
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Welcome to GMAT Club!

I'm in a slightly different position as I will be completing a PT program while staying with my Big 4. Perhaps my responses will still hold some value for you:

1) How long? I'm a Senior 3, so coming up on 5 years with the firm. I expect to be promoted to manager this year. I think anytime from Senior 1 on is acceptable for U.S. MBA programs- with that one year of review/staff management experience you'll have better insight for essay/interview answers as well as a much better grasp of how our clients operate.

2) Why an MBA? I work in a niche consulting practice, not in a traditional tax/audit role, and many of my colleagues are now being hired from law school and PhD programs. I was an undergrad campus hire. While not required for me, per se (I have a non-CPA certification that is relevant in my field) I do feel the need to further my education to remain competitive and on the partner track, which is my goal for now. I always did expect to continue my education to the master's level. Also, I have a strong desire to teach in the future and a brand name MBA (I will be attending Chicago Booth this fall) should help to open doors when I want to make that jump in the future.

3) Experience/skills? Everything! :) Big 4 has a lot of excellent connotations for grad school applications, namely good work ethic, relevant professional experience, good understanding of accounting (obviously). I, too, was surprised to not find more MBA applicants from the vast Big 4 ranks. However, I think a lot of B4 employees these days have already done a master's of accounting just to qualify to sit for the CPA, and they are inclined to see their education as complete. It will be interesting to see how the credentials for CFO roles, etc. change as our generation gets more and more senior. For now, I think many CFOs only have CPAs, but I think it will be much more important for them to have broader business exposure in the near future.

I do think that more important than convincing the admissions team of your qualification for an MBA program, is convincing them that the MBA program is necessary for you to end up where you want to go. So I would focus more on that side of the equation.

4) Recommendations? I had my closest manager and my department's executive director write mine. Both are people I have excellent working relationships with, and both have had significant exposure to my direct work product, as well as have witnessed my managerial skills in action. I did leverage their previously prepared feedback from our formal review system to help frame my request- i.e. they both received packets with drafts of my essays, highlights of our working relationships including quotes from favorable feedback they'd previously provided.

Regarding other posters who've taken similar paths, I know Nink is ex-Big 4 and ended up at Yale (has he graduated now?). Hope that helps!
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Re: Calling all Ex-Big 4 to MBA-ers! [#permalink] New post 10 May 2011, 05:05
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1)How long? I applied with 5 yrs audit experience. Experience running an engagement and managing staff was important during my essays and interview. It also gave me more better insight into the positions available should I leave, stay to manager, etc.

2) Why an MBA? I think you need to decide this one on your own first. What do you like about work? What do you dislike? Which client environments do you think you would fit best in? One of the best parts of Big4 is having variety, so use that to make a decision about where you want to go. Another perk is options already on the table. If you just want to switch to a reporting role at a client, then you won't need the MBA. More than happy to discuss/PM if you have specific thoughts. Decide what you want first, and then make the bridge from your current skills (you'll need to do that not only to get in, but then to get the job, so better to be well rehearsed).

3) Experience/skills? The Big 4 names (like other big name companies) help establish your baseline skills. Having said that, your accomplishments will be rated against other Big 4 applicants, so think about ways to differentiate yourself from the crowd while bringing the same skills to the table.

4) Recommendations? I had my primary manager and partner write for me. They need to both corroborate your essays/resume and offer insight into what you are like in person, so make sure you pick people who can do both.
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Re: Calling all Ex-Big 4 to MBA-ers! [#permalink] New post 10 May 2011, 06:31
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As you might be able to tell from my username, I am a former Big 4 auditor. I did a Master's in Accounting right after undergrad and spent 2.5 years at PwC. I left a few months after I was promoted to senior associate and went into a primarily operations based role at a bulge bracket firm on Wall Street, where I have been for 3.5 years. I'll be starting my full time MBA in August.

I think the biggest issue Big 4 employees face is why you need an MBA. If you plan on staying in (public) accounting, I think you have a difficult task ahead in answering that question. You likely have to explain, to the point above, that the controller/CFO/oversight role is changing and an MBA will be necessary down the line, and do so in a very convincing way. If you are changing industries, you can address the question ultimately by saying that an MBA will spring board you in a new direction. That's a much easier answer in my opinion.

As for why more Big 4 employees don't do their MBAs, to the point made above, why do they need to? That's what makes the answer to the first question so difficult. None of the partners at PwC that I know have their MBA.

Feel free to PM if you want to talk more.
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Re: Calling all Ex-Big 4 to MBA-ers! [#permalink] New post 10 May 2011, 06:38
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I am an odd, so I am not sure how much my answer can help.

How long did you do public accounting before you applied and what would you say is a good amount of time to work in public accounting before going to b-school?

1 year, I will have 2 by the time I start.

Why did you want to get an mba?

Actually wanted to leave audit because my goals were not within this role. I want to move into Management consulting and possibly move into a public office role.

How would you say your experiences in public accounting have helped you in getting admitted or helped develop the skills necessary in being successful in b-school?

To get admitted: 1- Big 4 name
2- Analytical skills are not an issue
3- Teamwork
However my strongest point was not in public accounting.


How did you get recommendation letters - did you ask the managers or partners you worked with? Or leverage the feedback/rating system within the firm?

I asked a Senior Associate; that said my strongest point was outside of work, I started a nonprofit.
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Re: Calling all Ex-Big 4 to MBA-ers! [#permalink] New post 10 May 2011, 17:31
Wow, thanks for the responses all. There is definitely a lot of insight in here as well as some good practical advice. If there's anyone else out there please speak up but I think this is a good resource for people who are in my position. (even if only a few)
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Re: Calling all Ex-Big 4 to MBA-ers! [#permalink] New post 11 May 2011, 11:22
hey guys,
do you know how successful are managers at big 4 in getting admitted (consulting, not audit)
i have the opportunity to work at a big 4 as a manager, i would be a manager with less than 2 years of work experience (they are hiring me for my unique expertise in a subject)... would the little WE be considered a plus when applying (due to the fast progression ) or do you think they wouldn't respect the manager title due to the few years of WE.

anyways, i am thinking about applying to MBAs with just a few months into the new job (i would ask my former employer for recommendations) and would have 15 months of WE as a manger by the time of matriculation. Do you guys think i should wait another year or just go for it. I just turned 27 (graduated late from college due to personal reasons) so i dont want age to be a factor if i apply to HBS.

thanks guys!
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Re: Calling all Ex-Big 4 to MBA-ers! [#permalink] New post 11 May 2011, 12:22
Here's my 2 cents:

I was in audit at PwC for about 5 years. I knew from the start I wasn't interested in making auditing a career, just wanted to get the most out of it before I left. Initially, I wanted to go straight from PwC to b-school but I got an opportunity to be a part of a new financial reporting group at an insurance company that was led by a former senior manager of mine. So I've been doing that for a little over a year now and have submitted b-school apps for fall of 2011. After getting a perspective of public and private accounting I know that accounting just isn't for me, which is one of the main reasons I'm pursuing an MBA.

I think the Big 4 experience is highly regarded by most adcom's because it implies a strong work ethic, adaptability, experience working in teams, and even leading teams at a very young age.
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Re: Calling all Ex-Big 4 to MBA-ers! [#permalink] New post 12 May 2011, 12:36
Wow this thread is exactly what I've been looking for! After casually browsing these forums for a couple months I was getting the sense that a majority of GMAT Club members were coming from IB or IT backgrounds. It's great to see that the adcoms do appreciate Big 4 experience because I was beginning to think we were going to be at a significant disadvantage when compared to the IB/PE dudes.

I'm on the verge of becoming a Senior Associate in Audit at one of the Big Four and am planning on applying to b-school after 4-5 years of WE. I'm doing a rotation with our Structured Finance group this summer and am hoping to be able to completely transfer at some point. Does anyone out there have any thoughts on the difference between Audit and Advisory with regards to the admissions process? I'm hoping to have about three busy seasons of Audit and two years in advisory upon matriculation and would like to leverage my experiences into a Management Consulting or Corporate Finance role...

Anywho, thanks to all of you for sharing your experiences and hopefully there are more of us out there (on GMAT Club) with a story to tell!

Last edited by beehagit on 12 May 2011, 14:04, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Calling all Ex-Big 4 to MBA-ers! [#permalink] New post 12 May 2011, 12:59
I doubt it matters too much whether you are in audit or advisory. You can't change your experience, right? All you can do is paint it in the best light possible and explain your choices along the way. Your future goals and plans regarding how to achieve them are more important anyway, in my opinion.
Re: Calling all Ex-Big 4 to MBA-ers!   [#permalink] 12 May 2011, 12:59
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