Accounting Alum Transitions to Data Analyst

Kelley Sinnock, 2016 Bachelors of Business/Accounting, 2017 Masters of Professional Accounting, current PwC’s Client Experience Group

Kelley Sinnock, a Foster double dawg, graduated with her undergraduate degree in Business/Accounting in 2016 and earned her Masters of Professional Accounting in 2017. Kelley provided us with insight on how her educational choices at UW continue to help impact and shape her career, of which you can read some highlights below or watch the video above.

What are some reasons for students to consider a career in accounting?   

There’s so many different ways that people can branch out after starting in accounting.  And I think what’s cool is when you’re in a client-facing role, you’re getting to learn the ins and outs of so many different companies, public, private, different industries, and not necessarily isolated just to the location you’re working in.  I started in accounting, but now I’m doing data analytics, which kind of requires the same skill set.  But it’s just a different way of thinking about things, a little less regulated.  It allows for a little more creativity. So there’s just so many different routes that you can go.

When I was in the MPAcc program, there were a lot of opportunities that were especially helpful when I started full time at the firm.  The coursework was much more relatable to what I was doing in real time in my job as an auditor, really diving into the financial statements and doing analysis on the annual 10k and disclosures and looking at it from an investor’s point of view, versus just doing the calculations of accounting that you do more of as an undergrad.  Another benefit of the MPAcc program, too, was being able to do the winter internship.  So that was about 10 weeks, doing a year-end audit, working on an engagement team at PwC.  And just being thrown right in.  That time I spent during that winter quarter was really valuable when I went to start full time at PwC.

Can you talk at all about how the program helps prepare students for internships?   

I think what’s unique about the MPAcc program is that it’s less about homework and practice problems, and it’s more so about coming to class prepared to have a thoughtful discussion.  Learning to talk with others in the profession, both your peers and professors, helps simulate conversations you will have with your future team and clients.  And the projects that we worked on in the MPAcc program, as far as reading cases, and really diving into the disclosures and financial statements from an investor’s point of view, really helped me understand what it was that I would be auditing a few months down the road.

Can you talk about the skills that the other recent hires are bringing to your firm?   

We understand that the UW has a great accounting program, and everyone comes to us with that basic level of accounting knowledge.  But what we’re looking for are the things that you can’t necessarily teach– the communication, the leadership, the problem solving.  The tech is something that’s a huge emphasis at all the big firms right now.  And any way that you can dive into learning automation tools, data analytics, data visualization, that’s going to really set you apart.

Tell us about your work at PwC

I started at PwC, in Audit, and did that for about three years.  And then I applied for what we call our Digital Accelerator program.  That was a two-year tour where I learned how to use various automation technology, data workflow, robotic process automation, data visualization, as well.  I learned how to use all these tools really well, and then helped everyone else at the firm learn how to use them.  I taught them how to implement solutions on their engagement teams, and just become more comfortable with integrating these tools into their everyday work.  And from there, I recently accepted a position on our Client Experience Team as a Data Analyst.

This is the team behind what we call the Difference Makers, which are changing the way we interact with our clients, and internally on our engagement teams at the firm, to set ourselves apart from competition, and just further those relationships with each other.  I’m looking at site traffic and metrics around that, reporting to various stakeholders and using a lot of data analytic and data visualization tools.

One of the things that attracted me to the firm in the first place was the different opportunities that you could pursue once you start at the firm.  Even if you’re starting in audit, or tax, or consulting, there’s so many opportunities beyond that.  And it’s just really voicing what you’re interested in and keeping up those relationships with people in your network.  And that’s why I’m still at PwC today is because I’ve had the support of the people that I work with to really help me find something that I’m passionate about.

If you were going to give advice to an undergrad who’s thinking about doing a graduate accounting program, what advice would you give them?   

If I could give advice to someone who is looking into doing the MPAcc program, I would say, just immerse yourself in all the opportunities that the program has to offer.  And really take advantage of the networking opportunities with the professors, and with other students.  Go to some of the extracurricular events.  Tech and digital is really a point of emphasis right now.  So, take advantage of learning various data analytics, data visualization tools, and arm yourself with that knowledge to really set yourself apart when it comes to applying for a job in accounting or your internship, or whatever career path you decide to take.

Anything else you want people to know about the MPAcc program?

Some of my best friends today are friends that I made in both the Undergraduate Accounting program and in the MPAcc program.  We had a really tight-knit group.  We, there were about 12 of us that rented a house in Lake Chelan for Memorial Day weekend during the master’s program.  And that was probably one of my favorite memories of the year.  And a lot of them I work with today, or they work at some of the other big accounting firms, and we stay in touch often.  The relationships that come out of this program are lifelong.

Learn more about the specialized Master of Accounting programs at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.