Big 4 Exit Opportunities – From PwC to Equity Finance with Joey SantaBarbara
James: So Joey, where did you go to college and how did you get into accounting?
Joey: I went to Stonehill College in Easton, MA. Pretty good business school from an accounting standpoint.
James: Yeah. So, why’d they let you in?
Joey: I have no idea. I think it’s because my brother went there. That’s why they let me in. I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to be in business. My class picked majors in 2008 during the financial crisis, and accounting was kind of the backbone of the business majors. There were still relatively stable jobs available right out of school, so it’s what I picked.
I thought accounting was challenging, a couple of my buddies were doing that, so I chose Accounting. The Big Four firms did some recruiting out of Stonehill, but they have GPA requirements just to get an interview. I was a little below the GPA requirement, which I think it was a 3.5 and I had a 3.4 or something like that, something stupid, so I didn’t get an interview. I ended up at a mid-tier, regional CPA firm doing non-profit audits and all that jazz, just to get my bearings.
James: Did you know you wanted to do audit versus tax within the accounting realm?
Joey: Yeah. I definitely wanted to audit versus tax. Audit, looking back now, is definitely a lesser of two evils, mostly because you can get pigeonholed easier in tax. It’s harder to get business experience and everything out of tax, so definitely audit. You could see the accounting side of the business, and you get face-to-face time with clients, so that’s what I wanted to do.
After a year at my firm though, I was working on small jobs, and I knew that I didn’t want to stay in audit forever. The next jump was getting to the Big Four, which I thought would give me some more audit experience and give better exit opportunities down the road. So I submitted my resume to a buddy that worked at PwC, got an interview, and was offered an Audit Associate position. It was definitely a lot easier for me to get an interview as an experienced hire than a campus hire.
James: And you submitted your resume through your friend and they kind of helped push it along?
Joey: One of my buddies is in the tech audit practice at PwC and he submitted it for me, so it was kind of a launchpad from there.
James: And he’s happy because referring people to the firm is some of the easiest money you can make.
Joey: Yeah he got like three grand or something like that. For nothing.
I mean, looking back now, I mean going to the Big Four is probably the best thing I did, especially in accounting, because you do learn a lot. You get to work with smart people, young people, people that want to move ahead. But accounting is not for everyone, so you have to make a decision on what you want to do.
James: What were your days like, both in busy season and non-busy season?
Joey: I guess non-busy season you’re always on something, you’re always prepping for something, so you have to be organized. Whether you’re in planning or post fieldwork or closing down a binder, you’re always doing something on one of your jobs, or you’re getting pulled onto another job, so it just depends on where you are. On a non-client day, I’d be prepping for planning work or reviewing work papers on the closing tab of the job just to get the file done to file it away for that year.
James: So you weren’t working remotely with your PlayStation on trying to win a few Stanley Cups?
Joey: Yeah, exactly. Just go over every now and again just to make sure that the screensaver wasn’t on. No, I was young when I was there, so I always had someone above me. I was only a senior there for like three months, so I didn’t really get to enjoy the complete flexibility, but that was probably better for me.
James: You came in as an Experienced Associate and then got promoted your first year?
Joey: Yup. I got promoted to Senior that next year.
James: Did you go through a busy season as an associate?
Joey: I did, yeah. As a third year I was in pharma, and I’d kinda get crushed at all times of the year because of the deadlines were so spread out.
James: Meaning when the audits are due?
Joey: Yeah the audits. You’d have like a September 15th deadline for your June 30th close, then you’d have a November 15th for your September 30th close.
James: Got it.
Joey: But every job was pretty reasonable. I think it sets you up if you want to move to an investment banking job if you can get that or a PE job like I did, you’re ready for the hours and the deadlines.
James: In busy season, what were some of the hours? Is the work’s the same but there’s just a lot more of it? How does that actually work?
Joey: It depends on the job. My public would be a month and a half, a little bit of rope there, but I’d say the first month you’re not working crazy hours, maybe 8:30 to 7:00, but then when you’re getting towards the end of it, it all depends on what shape you’re in, but midnight is not atypical for closing week.
James: So when you got promoted, had you already started looking for new jobs?
Joey: Yeah. I knew that I wasn’t going to be there for the long term, definitely wasn’t going to be on partner track, so I’d started to look and started to figure out what I wanted to do next. Since I wasn’t sure, I just took a bunch of interviews and listened and talked to people and networked, which helped me land my current job. It’s a similar environment to PwC in that it’s young people that want to work hard, the work is challenging and there is some pressure, all things that I wanted, so I thought it was a good fit.
James: And what’s your job now?
Joey: I’m a manager of the Growth Equity finance team at a Private Equity firm in Boston.
James: So that’s more of a finance role than an accounting role. Did you go right into that role from PwC, or did you go into an accounting role and then work your way to the finance side?
Joey: I of went into a General Analyst role, where I could do fund financials and that sort of thing. Then I was promoted to Senior Analyst where I had to review that stuff and then to Manager where I get special projects, I do valuations, and then I review some fund financials.
James: Looking back at PwC I know you said it was probably one of the best things you did for your career, what do you think helped out the most from your time working there?
Joey: Just the client base that they have, the resources, and the people. Whenever you had a question, which for me was all the time, being young at fresh you really don’t know a lot about anything, really. I learned a lot about the practice and about accounting from doing the work. At PwC you have so many resources and people that are so smart that can help you along and guide you along the way.
James: Not to mention, I think I saw you at the Christmas party at least two or three years after you had already left.
Joey: Exactly, yeah. I’d always want to go back. I still miss that environment. My fiancée actually left a year ago and she’s like “Aww I miss it so much.”
James: Is it weird going from PwC to a smaller PE firm from a people perspective?
Joey: A little. At Big 4 firms you’re on different teams every couple months. Here I work with the same people every day, so it takes some adjusting.
James: So what’s your future looking like? What are you thinking?
Joey: I’m pretty content where I am right now, just what I’m doing and who I’m working with, I’m fortunate enough to have really good bosses and it’s still challenging and keeps me working hard, but now that I have my MBA I’m trying to leverage that to do something at the next level. Not sure if that’s on the deal side or investment banking, but exploring my options.