Pivot from accounting major to Big Four senior associate
Showing up is half the battle. Just ask Sukriti Nayar (BBA12). Through a networking event, she met the Big Four accounting firms and launched her career—first as an intern and now as a senior associate for global accounting and consulting firm KPMG.
She approached a career in mergers and acquisitions consulting through the lens of finance and accounting, and has positioned herself with an expertise unmatched by her peers—and sometimes her more senior colleagues.
Read how Sukriti’s degree gave her transferrable skills to use wherever she wants to go.
#1: Build a competitive skill set
When Sukriti came to Iowa, she was considering biomedical engineering, medical research, and prelaw. But her accountant parents convinced her to pursue a business degree that could take her anywhere. That’s when she chose finance and accounting. Now as a business consultant, she uses a skill set that rivals her peers’.
“My finance and accounting background has given me a solid technical understanding of how a balance sheet works, how an income statement works, what regulatory bodies are at play,” Sukriti says.
“I'm in an industry that values age and experience, and being able to talk intelligently about accounting and finance has helped me prove my credibility.”
#2: Master the art of communication
Sukriti recognized early on that clients rely on business consultants to break down complex topics, give them insight into their problems, and communicate resolutions effectively, both in person and by email. As a sophomore, she mentored students in the Business Communication Center, and she was a head tutor her junior and senior years.
“Business students don’t even realize how much communicating they have to do and how important it is in their day-to-day jobs,” Sukriti says. “Tutoring was one of the best things that I could have done to prepare me for my job. It helped my writing to walk through hundreds of essays with people and I learned how to communicate constructive criticism and how to think through setting up and drafting formal writing.”
“Oral and written communication is extremely important,” she says. “It goes a long way in demonstrating your professionalism and professional competency.”
#3: Turn classroom challenge into workplace advantage
Sukriti still considers an intermediate accounting course the hardest thing she’s ever worked on. She was kicking and screaming all the way through the final, but when she made it through, she was extremely grateful for the challenge.
“After that semester, I had an unbelievable amount of respect for my professor because I realized that he was making sure that his students were prepared to go out into the real world,” Sukriti says. “It was character building. It was hard. Mostly, I learned the value of someone who believes in your potential.”
She established such a rapport with professors that she had no problem dropping by their offices to chitchat or ask, “What job should I take? Where should I move?”
“Learning how to work with faculty and be comfortable with direction really helped me entering the workforce in an environment that’s much more hierarchical,” Sukriti says. “Creating professional relationships and learning how to maintain them has helped me to network and engage internally with my own higher ups.
“I feel comfortable walking into a room with the CFO and walking him through something that I have done. Tippie built up my confidence to be able to hold my own in that conversation.”
#4: Consult for a Big Four consulting firm
After the accounting career fair, Sukriti applied to every Big Four internship program. The result: she snagged one with KPMG in Minneapolis. She audited a plastics manufacturer, a Fortune 500 food manufacturing company, and a large asset management firm.
What proved most valuable was networking within KPMG during her internship. That’s how she landed a spot on KPMG’s two-year rotational program in Chicago. After fine-tuning her interests, she accepted a full-time offer as a senior associate for KPMG’s integration and separation advisory team.
“When a company has decided to merge with another or has decided to separate part of itself, we come in and help the company figure the 5,000 or 8,000 individual steps they need to take in order to be two completely separate companies,” Sukriti says. “We find a way to resolve issues as they arise and help companies through what can sometimes be the most tumultuous period of their lives. I like that we're able to break down what could be seen as very overwhelming tasks into actionable steps to get clients through the finish line.”
#5: Be a lifelong mentor
When she graduated, Sukriti knew she wanted to join Iowa’s Young Alumni Board because she appreciated the alumni who came before her for their commitment in helping Iowa students succeed.
Now as a committee leader, she has helped overhaul the Young Alumni Board’s mentorship program with two focuses: connecting Tippie interns with alumni in their base cities and matching up Tippie students with alumni advisors to discuss everything from which classes to take to how to maximize their time at Iowa.
“I’m extremely heartened by the overwhelming response that we received this year,” Sukriti says. “We went from 0 to 100, and had 100 students who expressed an interest in having a mentor through the yearlong program. I'm mentoring two students, and we have 100 active alumni who are participating in the program all over the country.”