Nov 12, 2010

Breaking the mold: steering clear of the Big Four

This post is in no way meant to belittle the career choice of any person I do or do not know.  It is solely my personal thoughts on an oft thought of topic.

A little over three years ago I took my first college Accounting class: Introduction to Financial Accounting.  Among other good things that came from that class (such as meeting my future wife), I learned many new things about Accounting.  I was introduced to assets and liabilities, the Accounting cycle, debits and credits, and the basic set of financial statements.  I also learned early on that I had been blessed with a talent for Accounting; with studying and repetition I was able to understand well the once foreign topics that the class covered.

Going into that first semester I was anxious to see how well I would fare in Accounting.  I had no prior experience or background in Accounting, and had only recently been turned on to a degree in Accounting after my brother-in-law recommended I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  But after just my first successful semester in Accounting I was fairly certain that I would continue with the degree and eventually pursue a career post-college.

As I continued taking Accounting classes, I learned early on that the consensus career a graduate in Accounting should pursue is in public accounting.  And the pinnacle starting point in public accounting is with the "Big Four." (Talk about a buzz word.  If you ever want to impress upon Accountants that you know what's up just mention the Big Four and you'll have them tricked like a blond on April Fool's Day.)  I didn't know much about the Big Four back then.  What I did know was that they are highly respected in the Accounting world and that I wanted to work for them when I graduated.

As I began to ask around what it was really like working for a Big Four firm.  I spoke with many people and did some research on my own, and very quickly I learned that most everyone said the same thing about working for a Big Four firm.  In a nutshell it was this: "You get hired, you make good money, you work crazy and long hours for 3-5 years, then you take that experience and use it to get you a job somewhere else."  (I did speak to and have met people who are set on developing their career solely at a Big Four firm but they are in the minority.)

Most everything sounded fine and dandy about the Big Four firms.  They are very prestigious so I figured working there would be great for my resume.  They pay well.  They have many resources.  They have great benefits.  You gain valuable experience.  But one thing that everyone kept saying started to bother me: the long hours.

Initially I thought that the long hours was a bit of an exaggeration.  "Come on," I thought, "there's no way someone can actually work 70 (or more) hours a week."  But they can.  And they do.  Especially during the even-busier-than-normal tax season (roughly January to April).  This presented a major problem for me.

First, I was nearly married at this point to my beautiful bride, and the value of my personal free time increased dramatically.  I hadn't even ever worked a 40-hour work week at this point in my life, much less a 70-hour work week.  The thought of working 11-hour or more work days did not sound appealing at all.

But then the devil on my shoulder would start to shout, "Hey!  You'll be making $50k a year!  Don't worry about it man!  Tough it out!  It's worth it!"

Dudley Dawson wrote an amusing post on this topic titled "PwC, Deloitte, E&Y, and KPMG: Big 4 employees modern indentured servants."  He writes:
The definition of indentured servant is: a form of debt bondage worker. The laborer is under contract of an employer for usually three to seven years, in exchange for their transportation, food, drink, clothing, lodging and other necessities. Unlike a slave, an indentured servant is required to work only for a limited term specified in a signed contract.

Big 4 employees are not necessarily under contract, but there is an invisible contract keeping most of them employed for far too long.  Normal human beings would not agree to working 70-115 hours per week, but they see the carrot dangling.  They see the Partner pulling down huge figures and sitting in meetings where other executives do nothing but pretend to be busy, shake hands, and exchange millions of dollars.
Well, is it worth it?  Is burning yourself out for 3-5 years worth the "extra" money and the good looking resume?  I am sure for many people, it is worth it.  I am sure for many people at the Big Four firms they do really well there.  I am sure there are many who come out of the Big Four and end up with great paying careers ahead of them.  I am sure that many people who have left the Big Four firms never regret their choice to work there.  For me, I don't think I would have been one of those people.

I have a beautiful and hard-working wife.  I have a son who I love immensely.  I have friends.  I have many hobbies.  These are the things I enjoy.  For me, choosing to work at a Big Four firm would mean choosing to sacrifice for at least 3-5 years these things that I enjoy.  That's not worth it to me.

Let me repeat myself from above: This post is in no way meant to belittle the career choice of any person I do or do not know.  Every person in this world will go through the same decision process that I have gone through.  Many will decide how I have decided.  Many will decide to go work for a Big Four firm.  Many will decide none of the above.  To each his own.

As for myself, I am happy in my non-Big Four career.  I enjoy my time at work and my coworkers.  I also greatly enjoy my time off from work and the time I get to spend doing the things I enjoy.   I don't know how many other soon-to-be or recent graduates are going through the same back and forth argument that I went through.  Maybe I'm the only one that arrived at the Big Four crossroads and stood there for forever, wondering whether to go left or right.  I chose the right, by the way. :-)

I hope that this post might serve as some level of motivation to even one person out there who has decided against the Big Four firms.

Oct 17, 2010

President Boyd K. Packer's General Conference Address

I have never seen such public outrage over a talk delivered in an LDS General Conference than after Boyd K. Packer's October 2010 Sunday morning talk.  Surely the political developments of the last few years have caused many people to be more aware of the topic of homosexuality, which is the topic that President Packer spoke on (among others) that caused so much public outrage.

President Packer's remarks on homosexuality were not the first of their kind.  I am not sure, but I would estimate that the topic of homosexuality has been spoken of at least 34,582 times prior to President Packer's address.

Spencer W. Kimball spoke very similar words to President Packer's in his book The Miracle of Forgiveness.  One section of his book reads:
But let us emphasize that right and wrong, righteousness and sin, are not dependent upon man's interpretations, conventions, and attitudes.  Social acceptance does not change the status of an act, making wrong into right.  If all the people in the world were to accept homosexuality, as it seems to have been accepted in Sodom and Gomorrah, the practice would still be deep, dark sin.
A couple pages later President Kimball says more on the topic:
Clearly [homosexuality] is hostile to God's purpose in that it negates his first and great commandment to "multiply and replenish the earth."  If the abominable practice became universal it would depopulate the earth in a single generation.  It would nullify God's great program for his spirit children in that it would leave countless unembodied spirits in the heavenly world without the chance for the opportunities of mortality and would deny to all the participants in the practice the eternal life God makes available to us all.
Make no mistake, President Kimball does not mince words anywhere in his book, and he makes no exception for the topic of homosexuality.

But as always the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that no matter what type of corrections in life one needs to make, God and the Savior Christ are always waiting with undying patience and open arms to welcome us back into their fold.

Aug 25, 2010

Some Simple Things

I get a kick out of some of life's simple things that a child will take pleasure in.  In such a complicated world it's refreshing to see them be amazed at and enjoy things that we take for granted.

Some of Caleb's simple pleasures are airplanes that he sees in the sky, lights of any kind, ceiling fans, standing fans, cell phones, and bodies of water (such as the tub or the pool).

Aug 1, 2010

Seeing Something for the First Time

Had a cool experience in church today. There were three guys who were visiting who came to Sunday school; one of them, John, has been coming for several weeks now and we already know each other. But for the other two it was their first time visiting. Despite being first-time visitors they were outgoing and seemed to enjoy their time there even if some of the topics we covered were new and probably a little confusing.

We were invited by the teacher to share favorite scriptures that we had read in our personal study in the month of July. A lot of us participated and it ended up that that was all that we did for all of Sunday school.

John, who has been coming for several weeks now and is seriously considering joining the LDS church, raised his hand to share something that he had read in his scripture study.  He asked us all to turn with him to 1 Nephi 3:7, which was what he wanted to share with us.  It reads:
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
To me, this was just 1 Nephi 3:7, a scripture that I've read many, many times. When he first said which scripture he was sharing I thought "Yep, we all know about that one." But then as I sat there and listened to his simple testimony regarding that scripture and the truth in it, I was moved by the Spirit of God. It served as a bit of a wake up call to me, making me think to myself, "This is a really special scripture."

I was glad I was there today so I could hear that man's testimony and be reminded of a very special truth contained in the Book of Mormon, even one that I've already read many times before.

Jul 28, 2010

Doing Data Entry for Family History

A few weeks ago I was listening to a man at church instruct about various ways to help out the family history cause. I have always been interested in personally compiling my own family history, though admittedly it is not one of my top priorities.

In the middle of his lesson, though, he mentioned something about being able to to indexing, or data entry, for the church's unindexed family history records right from your home via an internet connection. I was interested. Especially since I now know myself to be very proficient at data entry thanks to my data entry -- er, accounting -- internship.  :-)

I went over to the Family Search website later that day and found a link to what he as talking called "Help create free public access to the U.S. census indexes and other records!" It turns out that yes, we can help out even in a small way with genealogy. If you go to that link above and follow the instructions it will walk you through everything you need to do to register and start helping out.

It is interesting, too, since you get to pick what specific records you want to index. There are lots of different types of records you can index; some as 'generic' as World War II draft cards (classified as "Beginning" level) and others as complex as Philippine birthing records from the 1700's ("Advanced" level).

If you are a novice to indexing they walk you through the process with very specific instructions and lots of examples. And if you somehow get a record that you just can't make out, there is always a "Return Batch" option.  :)

Here's the link again if you are interested:

Jul 25, 2010

The Story of Eli Herring

We learned about a very interesting story today at church in Sunday school. The lesson was on keeping the Sabbath day holy. The story that was included to illustrate the point of keeping the Sabbath day holy is about Eli Herring. Here's a summary of his story:
Eli Herring
Projected as a first to third round draft choice, Herring made the decision to forgo a professional career so he wouldn't have to work on the Sabbath, and wrote letters to each NFL team saying as much. He was still drafted in the sixth round of the 1995 NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders, and Raider senior assistant Bruce Allen flew to Provo and offered Herring a three-year, $1.5 million contract. Herring rejected it. His starting salary as a teacher at Mountain View High School was around $22,000 a year (link).
 It tells a lot about Eli's character that he was able to stand by his beliefs despite having to turn down a large sum of money. There is more to the story, and it is very interesting. I suggest reading Eli's full story here.

I hope that I will perform just as Eli did if I ever am faced with a similarly difficult situation.

Jul 19, 2010

Repost: "Why I Still Bleed Dodger Blue This Morning"

Here is a beautifully written piece over at True Blue LA chronicling one fan's Dodger fandom geneology. It's a great read. Here's an excerpt to get you interested (click here for the full article):
In 1947, Jackie Robinson came to the big leagues. Who doesn't know that? That fall, the Dodgers took on the Yankees in the World Series, the first of those epic contests that were to define post-World War II baseball. A long way from New York City, in a small, unremarkable Virginia town called Elliston, the employees at the local meat-packing plant decided to have a World Series pool. But there was a problem--no one in that southern plant would put any money on the integrated Dodgers. Finally, the organizers approached the woman who would someday be my grandmother. Until that moment, she had never paid any attention to organized sports. But as her co-workers explained the situation, she found herself growing angry. And she finally exploded, saying in the polite vernacular of the times, "Good Lord! We don't let the colored people do anything else. Why can't we at least let them play baseball?" And with that she pulled a dollar out of her purse and placed it on the team from Brooklyn.

Jul 18, 2010

Why does misery love company?

Sometimes when things are going bad for myself it makes me feel better about my situation if I hear someone else is going through the same thing. I know I am a bad person. I do not think I am the only person that sometimes feels like this, but I don't use that for an excuse either. It is a selfish feeling, and I always feel guilty when I feel myself feeling better when I hear about someone else experiencing similar hardships to myself.

I think feelings like this come from two sources: selfishness and a longing for understanding from others about our tough situation. I'd like to think my feelings comes from the latter.

Jul 17, 2010

LeBron James & "The Decision"

LeBron James has never been one of my favorite players. It's nothing in particular about his personality, it's just that he has constantly been compared to and elevated above the best player on the team that I root for, the LA Lakers. I recognize that he is a fantastic basketball player and is phenomenally athletic. He's just on the wrong team for me to really become his fan. "The Decision" changed that.

So much has already been said about LeBron James' "Decision" from a couple of weeks ago. Many, many a great writer have penned excellent summaries of all the points involved in the situation. While the stories range from overly protective to ridiculously wild, I will try to stay somewhere closer to the middle with what I hope to be two fairly common sense points.

If I'm LeBron James and I am objectively evaluating the events leading up to my signing with the Heat, I would admit that (1) the situation I manufactured was not good for my reputation, and (2) the team I chose is probably not the team with the best chance of winning a championship. I'm not sure which of the two points is more important to LeBron so I'll start with the first one.

The situation LeBron manufactured was not good for his reputation. I know that LeBron has publicly said before that he hopes to be the first pro athlete billionaire (link).  With that in mind, he is surely not feeling good right now as his once blue-chip image now has now had a major flaw exposed. Turning his back on the Cleveland Cavaliers is no the issue here, but the manner in which he did it.  Stringing them along for the first few weeks of free agency. Leaving everyone in the dark. The 1-hour special devoted just to him and his decision. It was tacky. Leaving Cleveland would have already been a huge blow to their franchise. Why make it any more by announcing it on live television without giving them a heads up?

In my opinion this major crack in his image is nearly irreparable. If he wins a championship with Miami everyone will talk about how it should have been Cleveland that he took to a championship and how he did not do it on his own but instead rode on the coattails of Dwyane Wade. If Miami does not win a championship and this Superstar Trifecta experiment fails then even more 'I told you so's will be piled on top of him. It's really a lose-lose situation for him.

The team LeBron chose is probably not the team with the best chance of winning a championship. This is the more debatable of the two points, but I still think it's pretty clear that Chicago was his best bet of competing for a championship for the next 4-5 years.  They have a budding point guard superstar in Derrick Rose, a defensive rock of a center in Joakim Noah, a reliable offensive power forward in Carlos Boozer, and other various role players to complete their roster.  Right now, Miami's roster consists of: LeBron, Dwyane, Chris Bosh, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mario Chalmers, and Mike Miller. And the rest of their roster is going to be desperate minimum-salary veterans who are chasing a ring. I suppose we will never be able to say exactly how well Chicago would have done with LeBron. I think it would have been an amazing team.

In a way LeBron did get exactly what he hungers for: publicity. Can even bad publicity add positively to your image? I don't know. The common sense answer to me is 'No', but I'm no economics expert.