Tax Offers Many Paths to Success
A conversation with Rory Backman, lecturer and MST alum
Rory Backman is currently an Associate Manager of Income Tax Accounting at Starbucks as well as an instructor of Tax Provisions for the Master of Science in Taxation program. After graduating from the MST program in 2012 (then referred to as MPAcc-Tax), Rory started out with EY where he remained for 6 years. EY allowed Rory to grow and gain a lot of knowledge in a short amount of time. “The amount that you learn within your first 2 years of public accounting, it’s like one of those charts of exponential growth.” There came a point however when he was ready to step outside of public accounting, but he still wanted to keep his focus on tax.
The connections and skills he developed during his time at EY did not go to waste. Rory joined a team of 4 at Starbucks, working in their income tax accounting department. Two out of the 4 were prior colleagues from EY who helped to guide him through the new processes and network of people at Starbucks. “I already had that core base with the two people I had worked with at EY, so it made the transition relatively easy all things considered.”
Rory’s role at Starbucks allows him to utilize his knowledge of tax in different ways. Instead of preparing tax returns for multiple clients and helping the audit team verify a client’s tax provision, at Starbucks Rory creates the income tax provision and is in charge of many internal deliverables, some of which go all the way up to the CFO. “There’s a lot of different ways I have to manipulate our internal data in order to get it ready for the different internal stakeholders.”
Rory loves the challenges and opportunities for learning that his role at Starbucks provides him. “It’s never very static. Over the past couple years there has been a lot of legislative changes that we have had to keep up with. It’s a constant learning but also a constant challenge. Now we know what the tax impact is, how do we get that on the tax return or how do we account for that within our income tax provision?”
As for having a work-life balance? “I have been at Starbucks now for almost 5 years and I think I have worked maybe 2 weekends.”
When asked if he felt a lack of career choice after completing an MST program, Rory said he had past classmates who were able to completely transition to roles like being fully technology-based or recruiters. Many companies, both public accounting and industry provide opportunities for rotation to different departments or client groups. This provides a higher level of flexibility in the trajectory of one’s career.
What advice would he give to students who have concerns about limited options within tax: “One of the more important factors is proving yourself at whatever job you’re at. This means communicating well and proving that your quality of work is good because this could influence whether you are able to participate in a rotational program. But you’re not limited whatsoever.”
Rory’s story is just one example of where a background in taxation could lead you. The path he took was right for him but there are no predefined set of steps. Rory reminds us that a career in Tax offers a variety of opportunities that are ever-changing to meet your needs and interests.
Written by Kelsey Burks, MST (Class of 2023)
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