www.accountingdegreesonline.org: Guy, please give us some background about yourself and your accounting program?
Guy Mawhinney: I am from Haverhill, Massachusetts. I always planned on attending college for some sort of business degree and when I graduated from high school, I had decided I wanted to pursue a degree in international business as well as accounting, I thought that I might be able to somehow combine them and pursue a career in international accounting.
Since I was interested in the international aspect of life, I decided to look at some colleges outside of the US. Montreal being only five hours away seemed to be close enough to home but also far enough away culturally to intrigue me. McGill University had a great combination program allowing me to study accounting and business in general, coupled with courses in culture and language of a particular region of the world.
www.accountingdegreesonline.org: Why did you choose McGill’s accounting program?
Guy Mawhinney: Having already started learning French and being in Montreal I decided to go for learning about France. It was important for me that McGill’s accounting program had strong ties to the new international standards.
www.accountingdegreesonline.org: What did you like most and least about McGill’s accounting program?
Guy Mawhinney: Canada is further than the US in their roadmap for adoption of IFRS and it gave me a real competitive edge to learn about IFRS as it is becoming increasingly important in America.
The one downside of obtaining the degree from McGill was not learning US GAAP and accounting standards as well as US taxation. Not that Canadian GAAP is very different but there are a few things that I had to learn when I came back to the US.
www.accountingdegreesonline.org: What did you do after McGill?
Guy Mawhinney: After I graduated from McGill with a Bachelor of Commerce with concentrations in Accounting and International Business, I decided to move back home and go right away to get my masters in order to quickly obtain my CPA. Bentley University being one of the best accounting schools around was a fairly easy choice. I spoke with many employers who have been very happy with the Bentley graduates they have hired. Bentley’s program in Accountancy offered very detailed courses that have real life applicability.
They also had the option of pursuing jointly a certificate in taxation which people I have talked to have said is a great asset when looking for a job. One of the most important things for me when I was looking at schools was that the accounting program had a strong career services office. It is difficult to get a job in a public accounting firm without going through the fall accounting recruitment process. Bentley had every big name accounting firm in the country on campus and I was able to participate in dozens of interviews that were conducted right on campus. That is how I obtained my first accounting job.
www.accountingdegreesonline.org: What advice to you have for people who are in the process of choosing an accounting program?
Guy Mawhinney: An important thing to look for in an accounting program in my opinion is to see if the program offers any type of specialization or electives that interest you. For me, after completing my undergraduate degree, I realized that my long term goal was going to enter the field of forensic accounting. It was important for me that Bentley offered not only many electives on the topic but also a graduate certificate if I ever decided to truly specialize in the field.
Also important for me is class size. In my many business classes, it never really bothered me how many students were in the class, but when it comes to accounting classes, which is your intended career, it is imperative to have that close contact with a professor and be able to ask questions and learn from professors who have working in the profession, which can be difficult to get in a large classroom.
One thing in particular I liked about the program at McGill was the world renowned professors. It was important to me to be able to learn from some of the best. All professors had real world experience and had done a lot of research as well. It was a great mix of international professors who all brought different views to accounting which I liked due to my interest in the international.
www.accountingdegreesonline.org: Can you remember a school project that was especially rewarding?
Guy Mawhinney: My favorite university project was in my first semester at Bentley. It was for an IT auditing course. The project was basically to find a company in the area and perform a mock audit of their internal controls. So we got in touch with a marketing company and went in and met a few times with the CFO and the people in the accounting department. We were able to interview them and observe certain business processes. We then had to compile a report detailing what we observed and if we believed there were any deficiencies.
The last part was making recommendations to the company in order to help them better secure their resources. This hands-on project taught me a lot because it showed me kind of what some people in the profession actually do. It gave me experience dealing with a client and how an auditor sees different processes when he or she goes into an unknown corporation. It was great to actually put skills to use and see that the client appreciated some of our suggestions and hopefully implemented some.
www.accountingdegreesonline.org: Did you take advantage of your school’s career services office?
Guy Mawhinney: The career services office at Bentley was one of the driving forces behind my decision to go there. I basically felt that I could get a decent accounting degree from many schools, but what was really important to me was making sure I could find employment after graduation because that is really what everything is for. Bentley students are well accepted by employers around the country but especially in the Northeast.
The first important part about the department is their expertise on resume writing and helping you with mock interviews. This was very important for me to make sure I could stand out once it came time for the interview. Then the career services department set up a huge career fair with hundreds of companies and they all came to Bentley and set up a booth. It was great to meet and talk with so many firms at one time, and you could hand out your resume and find out who you were interested in contacting.
Then the school had a website which listed all the available internships and full time positions. It provided for a link to apply for an interview on campus with the employer. After a few weeks you got an email indicating whether the company had invited you for an interview or not. I went on about a dozen interviews on campus with different CPA firms. It was great that they came to you. That is about where the career service department stops helping you out and the rest is up to you, hopefully they call you to schedule a second interview, this time though at their firm.