Skip to main content

Tyler Riola, an IT advisory associate at KPMG, graduated from St. Edward’s University with a Master in Accounting in 2014. As he’s transitioned from school to career, he’s learned some key lessons. Here, he offers his best advice to his younger self — and to you.

Understand that a textbook example is a best-case scenario.

Those examples from class serve as a great foundation. “In the real world, you’re dealing with actual people,” he says. “They change their minds, they do things differently than you expect. You’re not by yourself working on homework problems, you’re working with a team toward a common goal: delivering quality solutions to complex problems.”

Be sure you like people at least as much as you like numbers. 

“Before I entered the accounting industry, I assumed that accountants were quiet, and they worked by themselves,” says Riola. “But we’re actually talking to clients — phone calls, in-person meetings — almost every day. We’re talking through their problems and trying to figure out solutions.”

Know that your job is often to be a translator.

Accounting can get very technical very quickly, but that doesn’t mean your client will understand the details the way you do. “You have to be able to see the problems that clients don’t even know they have, describe them in ways that help them understand what’s going on, communicate the possible consequences if the problems aren’t addressed, and then provide solutions,” says Riola.

Focus on the people you’ll meet.

You’ll learn and synthesize huge amounts of information during your classes, but the value of your master’s degree also comes from the connections you develop with professors and fellow students, who will help you along your career path. “I’ve stayed in touch with my classmates, and I’ve made more business connections through them than any networking event I’ve ever been to,” says Riola. “A classmate helped me get the job I have now, and I think those connections will be valuable even 10 years down the road. Your classmates today have the potential to be the controllers and CFOs of the future, so it’s important to stay connected.”

Don’t expect to find a clear-cut answer for every problem.

Thanks to fast-changing technology and businesses, the rules are constantly changing. These days, the best skills to develop are critical and creative thinking. “We constantly have to be thinking ahead so we can address clients’ problems and ensure that they’re complying with the laws and regulations,” Riola says. “We’re forced to think through issues and use professional judgment.”

The Master of Accounting (MACT) program at St. Edward’s University helps students develop deep technical expertise in areas including accounting research, advanced federal taxation and fraud examination. CPA pass rates for St. Edward’s University graduates are among the top five in the state.

Erin Peterson is a freelance writer.