Another MPAcc Alum at the Financial Accounting Standards Board
Steven Whitman is an alum from both Foster’s BA in Accounting (class of 2019) and Foster’s Master of Professional Accounting program (class of 2020). Steven graciously agreed to answer some of our questions about his journey so far. MPAcc class of 2018’s Daniel Verburg received his position at the FASB, and Steven is the most recent alum to be given the honor of working there.
Q: FASB is the organization that establishes financial accounting and reporting standards for public and private companies and not-for-profit organizations that follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).Would you add anything to what FASB is or does?
A: Something I did not fully appreciate about the FASB while pursuing this position was the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of the standard-setting process. The FASB’s standard-setting process involves extensive outreach with stakeholders (preparers, auditors, investors, etc.). The Board publicly deliberates every agenda request from stakeholders and the FASB staff reads all feedback received on proposed and existing accounting standards. The FASB takes its standard-setting role very seriously – each word is highly scrutinized before it can be codified in US GAAP.
Q: Can you tell us about your role at the FASB? For others considering applying for this position, how does it help for moving up in the field?
A: FASB Postgraduate Technical Assistants (PTAs) are assigned to various projects on the FASB’s agenda and provide support to their project teams by performing research on certain accounting topics, writing technical memos, assisting project managers with stakeholder outreach, and presenting in front of FASB Board members or FASB stakeholders. I have experienced all these areas during my first six months at the FASB while working on projects that are at all different stages (pre-agenda research, initial deliberations, re-deliberations, and post-implementation review). It is very rare to have so much exposure to the FASB’s process, which is why PTAs are viewed valuably by the largest accounting firms. Many PTAs exit the FASB to advisory roles at these large firms where PTAs can leverage what they learned while working at the FASB.
Q: Why did you choose UW’s MPAcc program?
A: I felt that UW’s MPAcc program would provide me with important opportunities for advancing my career, including the opportunity to be nominated for the FASB PTA position. I also wanted to complete a busy season internship and gain more experience in audit before starting work full-time. I received my undergraduate degree in accounting from UW, so it made sense for me to stay at UW for the MPAcc program.
Q: How has MPAcc prepared you for your current role?
A: In my role at the FASB, I do a significant amount of researching, memo writing, and presenting. Throughout the MPAcc program, I had the ability to practice and develop these important professional skills. The MPAcc program also has an Accounting Research class, where I learned a great deal about emerging FASB issues and the standard-setting process. The MPAcc program (and the Foster School in general) also emphasizes teamwork, which is an essential skill for working with major project teams at the FASB.
Q: What advice would you give a current undergraduate choosing between MPAcc or a 5th year of undergraduate classes?
A: I obviously think there can be value to both paths, but I would honestly ask myself what I plan on doing professionally in the next 5-10 years. Do I plan to stay in accounting-centric roles (public accounting, financial reporting, internal auditing, etc.) or am I thinking about doing something different from accounting very quickly? I truly think that students who see themselves in accounting-focused roles can gain very valuable experience in the MPAcc program through the analytics-focused curriculum and the busy season internship.
Q: How has COVID-19 affected the world of accounting and skills necessary to succeed?
A: I think that the COVID-19 pandemic will have long-term effects on how accounting work will be done. Before the pandemic, working from home was stigmatized by many – now, it is very clear that accountants can perform a lot of job functions from home. While there are still many benefits of working together with colleagues in an office-setting, I think accounting firms will be far more flexible on where staff work in the future. As far as skills, I think that the pandemic has shown how important it is for employees of all industries to be flexible and adaptable.