C-P-A. The three letters that every accounting student fears. So, what does “CPA” stand for? Certified Public Accountant. In order to practice and provide opinions on accounting matters in the U.S., one needs to obtain a CPA sometime in their career. The rewards of having a CPA are great, but most students stress out about the exam and the preparation required for the exam itself.

But the fear is unnecessary; the CPA is not as bad as it sounds! The CPA exam is actually a misnomer. It should be the CPA exams. To pass the CPA, an individual is required to achieve a score of 75 (it is not 75%, but rather a weighted score of 75) on all four exams. The four exams that must be passed within 18 months of each other are Audit and Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting, and Regulation. Each exam is four hours long.

Image result for cpa exam

Preparation for the first exam should begin a few months before you actually plan to take the first exam. Reason being: you need to apply to your state board to gain permission to take the CPA exam. Each state has different requirements that it needs to review for each candidate before the candidate is granted permission to schedule for their first exam (or given an “NTS”– notice to schedule). For example, Ohio requires a student to have 150 credit hours before sitting for the first exam. Additionally, candidates must complete 30 hours of accounting and 24 hours of business courses prior to applying for the NTS. More information on other states and exceptions to the rules, you can go to the NASBA website.

Once you have received permission to take the CPA exam, the studying can begin. Most students choose to use software called “Becker” or one of  hundreds of other software programs to help prepare for the CPA. Purchasing the software itself is expensive, but most accounting firms will provide you reimbursement for the  software if you end up working for them.

A year ago, I never imagined that I would be taking and sitting for the CPA. However, here I am, one year later and I already have one exam under my belt. The exam is not as hard as people tell you it is and as long as you come prepared, I am sure you will do fine. Best of luck to all my future test-takers!

HR + Brainpower + Snacks = Magic


What do you get when you combine a real-life HR business problem, a room full of PepsiCo products and snacks, and brainpower from 8 of the highest-ranked HR Master’s programs in the United States?


The 2018 HR Invitational Case Competition!

The lovely Team OSU-Fisher: Adam Daniels, Ashton Preston, Whitney Flight, Billy Dunn

Every February, the Fisher College of Business invites teams from 7 of our peer schools to participate in the “External HR Case Competition,” giving students an opportunity to stretch their problem-solving muscles against students from other HR master’s programs across the country. This year, we had teams representing Cornell, University of South Carolina, Texas A&M, Rutgers, Minnesota, Illinois, and West Virginia University– and competition was fierce! (okay, friendly, but fierce)

The case competition is structured such that the business problem is presented by the sponsoring organization at 8:00am on Friday morning and teams have 24 hours to generate a solution, organize a pitch, and prepare to defend their ideas in front of a panel of judges from the sponsoring teams. This year, PepsiCo and Eaton co-sponsored the competition, providing both a challenging, real-life HR problem and a variety of Pepsi and Frito-Lay treats to keep teams sufficiently sustained over the course of the weekend.

The Case

The case is kept top-secret until the big reveal the morning of the competition to ensure no team gets an advantage. This year, the challenge turned out to focus on compensation. Specifically, Eaton wanted ideas for how to structure compensation for a new branch of the business which was home to mostly software developers and engineers. These folks did not fit into the traditional compensation structure, and they needed a compensation system to match and reward innovative product development. It was a doozy!

A variety of solid and creative ideas surfaced with the ultimate goal of driving innovation and retaining tech talent at Eaton. Some of my favorites include Hackathon, training simulations, and spot awards for extraordinary ideation. All of these were strategies to appropriately reward employees for innovation and to ensure they felt that the company invested in their success. Competition was tough and I am proud to report Ohio State took third overall.

Basking in the post-presentation glow.

Last year, I had the honor of representing Ohio State on the external team, so this year was all new for me as an observer. Although I wasn’t judging the competition, I sat through all the presentations and was able to glean some insight into what judges look for in a winning teams. A few of my takeaways are below.

Are you answering the question? But really, are you?

1. Answer the question. I recall a piece of general feedback from the judges last year. I remember it so vividly because it was both shocking and accurate. He said, “You’d be surprised how rare it is for us to see an answer that actually answers the question.” Thinking back on the day prior when we were prepping our presentation, it was so easy to lose sight of the “why.” You get caught up in wanting to be different, or creative, or edgy with your idea that you lose sight of the reason for the Ask in the first place. I cannot stress the importance of returning to “why” in every step of the ideation process, and especially when organizing your pitch.

Image result for the golden circle idas why how what sinek

2. Give them a road map. If this problem made it to the case competition in the first place, you can bet it’s complex. You can also bet on the fact that the organization has likely tried most of the obvious solutions. So think about it: the last thing you would want after having pored over an issue for months is an idea you can’t wrap your head around. So, your role as a consultant is to find the intersection between simple and clever. You want the judges to walk away with a clear understanding of the idea, and an even clearer understanding of how to go about implementing it. Give them a road map.


3. Don’t be something you’re not. People think that in order to win, you have to have all the answers (or at least convince the judges you do). This just isn’t true–at least not anymore. It is refreshing to see a team present with humility and authenticity–to be thought partners rather than parents telling them what they should do. Offer your recommendation, and what you believe are the positive consequences that will result from it. The best consultants built trust and buy-in by solving the problem with their client.

These are just a few of my musings after reflecting on last weekend. As always, I was impressed with the respect and graciousness of all teams that attended. Not only was it a robust learning experience for students, but I think Eaton got some exceptional ideas for solving their challenge.


The 5th annual Wells Fargo Investment Thought Leadership Forum

Last December, a handful group of students and I were given the opportunity to assist “The Wells Fargo Investment Thought Leadership Forum” in New York City. The conference, that took place in the prestigious Plaza Hotel, hosted top-notch discussions on market, credit, banking, and the broad economy. The speaker list included several of the world’s most known and successful investors and managers including Howard Marks (Co-Chairman of Oaktree), Larry Fink (Chairman and CEO of BlackRock), Michael Bloomberg (founder of Bloomberg and 108th Mayor of New York City), and Jamie Dimon (Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase & Co). Furthermore, we felt even more privileged knowing that, among the 1,500-member investor audience representing more than $3 trillion in capital, our group represented the only school present at the conference.

The group with Professor Sheridan!

Our trip started on December 6. Myself and Jared Ablass, SMF student from Canada, had to catch our flight to New York at 2 PM. We arrived at LaGuardia around 5:30 PM and went directly to the Airbnb we rented for the two days trip to drop our bags– and off we go we were, already on our way to our first meeting/dinner with an alumnus from the program.

Arriving in NYC!

The day of the conference, we decided to walk to the Plaza hotel. All of us agreed that a morning walk on 5th Avenue could not hurt.

After a quick breakfast in the hotel and a welcome remark by Jonathan Bock, managing director at Wells Fargo and organizer of the conference, we started the day with a word from Howard Marks. The discussion focused on today’s incredibly challenging low-return investment environment. Mr. Marks emphasized his presentation on today’s uncertainty in the macro environment and the fact that this uncertainty might not lead to high prospective returns in the future because of central banks keeping rates low.

Following Howard Marks was a highly anticipated panel (composed of leaders from Wells Fargo, Apollo, BlackRock, and CalPERS) giving their thoughts on some of the most pressing issues facing the economy (from tax cut all the way to technology). Among other things, the panel was explaining that the tax reform is expected to be powerful for cash flow-oriented companies (as they will have more cash in hands) and particularly for investment bankers on expectations of M&A.

The lunch discussion with Michael Bloomberg was, in my opinion, one of the best discussion of the entire conference. I particularly enjoyed listening his point of view on climate change. As mentioned during the discussion, Mr. Bloomberg explained that while the federal government is clearly a part of the environmental solution, it is more important to see both the innovation and environmental improvements coming from corporate and city leaders in response to citizen demand for cleaner air and water.

Finally, the heavily anticipated closing discussion between Jamie Dimon (Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase & Co.) and Mike Mayo (Large Cap Bank Analyst at Wells Fargo Securities) focused on Mr. Dimon’s catalog for success during his time at the head of one of the biggest financial institution in the world.

A discussion with Jamie Dimon!

We closed this great day with an alumni dinner at a fine restaurant in Manhattan. We had the chance to share this meal with a couple of alumni working in the Big Apple.

Alumni Dinner in NYC!

This diverse group of motivated students coming from all around the world (including myself) are extremely grateful for the opportunity that was given to us by Professor Pinteris, Professor Sheridan and Fisher College of Business. In my opinion, an event like this one is what sets the Specialized Master of Finance apart from other programs and gives you the belief that one day, you’ll be in the shoes of those highly successful individuals.

The entire group with Professor Pinteris and Mr. Bock!


Why I Enjoy What I Do

This year, I have had the unique opportunity to be a graduate administrative assistant (GAA) and act as a student ambassador for the Master of Accounting (MAcc) program at Ohio State. My role as a student ambassador is simple; I assist with prospective student visits, answer questions about the MAcc program, and assist the graduate programs office in any way needed. All right, it is a bit more complicated than that, but you get the point.

When I was offered this position a year ago, everyone told me how awesome it was– especially since there is a lot of free food (which sold me on the role instantaneously). However, after one semester, I realized something: all the stuff that I listed above is great and fun, but that is not truly why I enjoy this role.

I love my job not because of the work I do, but because of the people I meet. Students come to me on a daily basis asking for advice on a variety of topics: about keys to doing well in undergrad to get into the MAcc program, how to get a job/internship, and just life in general.  This is what professionals call “mentoring.” I love to mentor others! The best part about mentoring is not giving the advice, but it is when students come back to me a few months later and tell me they got that job they were working hard towards or they got into the MAcc program. When people share their success with me, that is what makes me happy and gets me juiced up in the morning. That is the best part of mentoring. Seeing the smile on someone’s face and knowing that you played some role in that.

If you told me a few years ago that I would enjoy mentoring others, I probably would have laughed it off. However, this role as a GAA opened my eyes to the impact I can have on others. Upon graduation and entering the workforce, I will continue to mentor others and form connections. I want to have an impact on the world beyond myself. So next time when you go to someone for advice on getting that job, let him or her know how it worked out because that truly will make their day ten times better.

Core Team: An Integral Component of the Fisher MBA

As I reflect through the past five months of my Fisher MBA experience, one thing that kept me going through this rigorous and fast-paced program was my core team. Yes, you heard that right – ­my core team! Go, Team #3!

Fisher heavily emphasizes the concept of team. Just before you officially start your MBA, you go through a three-week pre-MBA term. At the end, you find out who’s on your core team, the team you will be working with throughout the first year of your program. Just to offer a glimpse of how a pre-MBA term looks, this is where you get to know about the program structure, professors, resources at Fisher and Ohio State. At the same time, you get to attend executive lunches, seminars, career roundtables, and speaker series.

The whole entering class is divided into teams of four to five, with people not only coming from different backgrounds but also from different parts of the world. The diverse nature and vivid experiences that every individual brings to a team make you appreciate the power of such a setting. We, as a core team, faced our first challenge on the very first day we got introduced to each other. As a part of Fisher Challenge, we had to present a case analysis on one of the budding organizations in Columbus and propose an innovative way to help increase the firm’s profits. This was the first group exercise with my team and to date, we’ve delivered on many such assignments. We ended our pre-MBA term with an experiential learning program with all core teams at a location little outside of Columbus (called “Summit Vision”). This was absolutely one of the experiences that I’ll add to my special memories from Fisher for the rest of my life.

A pic from Summit Vision (I am on the extreme left, along with rest of my team)

Over time, as I’ve progressed through the MBA program, these are the people who’ve become a big part of my Fisher family. It’s not just the assignments inside class, but the other experiences. Recently, we all planned a day out at the Columbus Zoo. It was definitely a stress-reliever after the end of our first term and simultaneously gave us the time to know each other better in a setting outside of the class.

A pic from the Columbus Zoo

Overall, working in a team setting has not only helped me in learning the art of coming together as a team to solve a problem but to also appreciate different leadership styles operating within the same team. It, in a true sense, gives you the flavor of how your post-MBA corporate life would be.

Tip: Join Student Government

This year, in the spirit of involvement, I decided to join the Master of Human Resource Management (MHRM) student council. Every graduate program here at the Fisher College of Business (including MBA, MHRM, MAcc, SMF) has its own council representation that is responsible for being the collective “voice” for the students in the program.

Each council is comprised of students who are elected by their classmates. For 2-year programs like MHRM and MBA, the council is primarily 2nd-year students. For 1-year programs like MAcc and SMF, obviously all council members are in their first year. Each council decides how to delegate responsibilities amongst members and establishes the scope of what they hope to accomplish as a team over the course of the year.

Meet the MHRM Council

“Chief of Everything”

Kate Clausen – President

“Comedic Relief”

Jen Marchese – VP, Professional Development

“Queen of Funds”

Megan Condon – Treasurer

“The Details”

Kelly Mayer – Case Comp. Co-chair

“Stubborn Negotiator”

Irinka Toidze – Case Comp. Co-chair

“The Height”

Matt Shaffer – Social Chair

Obviously, we have a good time. But we also take our jobs very seriously. I view the role of MHRM Council as the heartbeat of the MHRM program. We are the eyes and the ears of the students, and it’s our responsibility to keep the pulse of what Fisher students are experiencing, saying, and feeling about the MHRM program. Then, the most important part: what we do with that information.

I think our most noble duty is to represent the interests of the students by passing along feedback to faculty and staff with regard to possible additions or revisions to the program. In a field where technology advancements are affecting nearly every aspect of what HR professionals do—recruiting, talent planning, compensation, training, you name it—it is critical that our curriculum is agile enough to keep up with current best practices. And I feel fortunate to belong to a school that respects its students and actively listens to our suggestions.

Beyond being a bridge between students and faculty, the MHRM council also puts on additional events to engage outside of class and keep the Fisher MHRM community alive. This year, we’ve had football tailgates, pumpkin picking, bar crawls– and this week, we went to a comedy show.

For professional development, we just had our first event of the year. It was a TED Talk-inspired event (no surprise for those of you who know my obsession). The idea was inspired by some feedback we had heard from last year—students want more opportunities to engage with smaller companies that may not have a presence on campus, and they want to do it in ways other than traditional networking. So we brought in HR Professionals from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Marathon Petroleum, CoverMyMeds, and Cardinal Health to talk about innovative things they are doing in the HR space. It was really exciting to be able to interact with some folks we don’t normally get exposure to and the event was a great success.

On the whole, it is really rewarding to be able to give back to a program that has served me well in my time here. It also gives me a chance to stretch my leadership muscles in preparation for future roles I may have.

My Favorite Class at Fisher

My favorite class this semester, and thus far in the MBA Program, has been Organizational Coaching with instructor John Schaffner.  This course not only provides the opportunity to learn more about yourself as a leader and how you can improve, but also how to bring out the best in others to help them achieve their personal goals. As an added bonus, Professor Schaffner is hilarious and makes the class very engaging.

I spent seven weeks in this course with about 25 other students.  The class began with each student personally reflecting, and included an exercise where we had to create our “Life Map.” This map looks like an EKG reading, where the peaks and lows are representative of the best and worst moments of your life over the years.  While this exercise is very personal, it allows you to be introspective, and by going through a coaching session with a partner in the class, you gain additional insight into how some of your life experiences translate into your style of leadership.  After completing our life maps, we spent the remainder of the course completing additional exercises to learn more about ourselves and then practicing different strategies for developing and maintaining a coaching relationship.

Sample EKG Reading to give an example of what the Life Map looks like!

Coaching is a co-active relationship, and as the coach, you work through the process of deepening the client’s self-awareness by asking the right questions to help them realize they truly are capable of solving any challenge they are experiencing, whether personal or professional.  Through practicing effective listening, awareness, and communication, you are able to develop skills that are critical to success in any leadership position.

Fisher just recently introduced a course called LEAP+TC (Leadership Effectiveness through Applied Projects + Team Coaching) where students gain hands-on experience managing a project with a non-profit organization in Columbus to further develop leadership competencies, practice team building skills and apply the skills they’ve learned in the classroom.  I’m glad to have the opportunity to learn more about coaching to better prepare me for my career post-MBA!


Endless Possibilities at Fisher

While sitting down with a prospective candidate of the SMF program and Nicholas Denker at lunch the other day, I had time to reflect on what Ohio State has to offer students. You should know the vast amount of resources you have at your disposal here at Fisher College of Business, although I can’t name them all within this short blog post!

Just within the first half of the year, I have learned from professors who have very recent work experience, professors who hail from other nations and give new perspectives on issues, and even a professor who was in the armed forces. All have been excellent and helpful. Just because this is a large school does not mean professors are not able to meet with students. Professors always encourage us to stop into office hours to see them.

Also, the wide variety of working professional and academic professors is a huge benefit to students. Their experience and connections give students more knowledge than we know what to do with. They expect the best out of the class and, in time, the transformation from student to professional takes place.

This is Professor Kewei Hou during an interview explaining his research. Professor Hou is currently teaching the Derivatives Markets course.

The SMF program brings in speakers from all different types of industries, as well. On most Friday mornings, there are presentations (set up by Fisher faculty and staff) featuring a variety of leaders. You can come in and listen to industry experts who are actively working. Not only will you be able to gain insight from their presentations, but a select number of students each week can have lunch with the speakers to ask any questions that come to mind. This perk is not limited to just the business college. The entire university brings in highly-regarded speakers. Just this past week, OSU  hosted J.D. Vance to talk about his work, The Hillbilly Elegy.

Fisher College of Business has a vast alumni network, as well. The success of past graduates helps us as future graduates achieve even more. To be able to go on LinkedIn and see that alumni of Fisher are working at almost every company I look up is reassuring that I can do great like my colleagues before me. These alumni know all too well the difficulties that may lie ahead for students. From my experience, these alumni have responded when I reach out to them and provided great advice for me to move forward with. Put in the work and Fisher will reward you with the knowledge you need to succeed.

The Job Hunt

After being in college for four years, I never thought this day would come:

I have a job! This is not one of those jobs that I had in college or high school where I worked for a few hours a week or even an internship. I actually have a real job where I wake up every day, put on a suit, tie, and help provide advice to others. I guess you could say I am (almost) an adult now…

Many of you must be wondering how I reached this stage and what the process looked like. Well, to be honest, it involved a lot of preparation, stress and free meals!

Step 1: How to get an interview

The first step to getting a job is by locking up the first-round interview. This is probably the hardest step of the entire process, but if you do it right, it is one of the easiest steps. First thing is to have an exceptional resume: solid work experience, leadership, and good grades. The issue is that having a good resume isn’t enough, as it turns out there are hundreds of student who have “exceptional” resumes as well. So, how do you differentiate yourself? Network, network, network!

I learned early on in my college life that it is not what you know, but who you know that will help you succeed in life. So that is what I did. I networked and created connections.

As a result, with every firm that I applied to, I received at least a first-round interview. These firms included all your prestigious Big 4 accounting firms and the top tier-consulting firms.

**A few of the firms that I applied for do not recruit at Ohio State, but that should not hold you back. As long as you network well, you should be fine!**

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Network! – Form those connections

Step 2: How to excel at the interview

Be yourself! Since most interviews are behavioral, just be yourself. You should educate yourself about the role and organization, but as long as you be yourself and have a few stories to tell, you should be fine.

However, if you are like me and decide to pursue a career in consulting, you will need to prepare for the case interview. During a case interview, the interviewer will present you with a business scenario and you are expected to present a logical solution at the end of the interview. These can be difficult, but are really fun! All you need to do is practice– a lot. I ran through close to 30 mock case interviews before my first official case interview.

Step 3: Accept the job

This is the best part! Be proud of where you work, and accept a job that makes you happy. As for me, I will be working in Columbus as a consultant for EY in their financial services practice. I could not be happier and I am excited for a career at EY!

EY is short for Ernst and Young

TED: The Real Reason I’m in HR

I am a complete and utter TED Talks junkie. Seriously. Whenever a professor introduces a TED Talk in a lecture, I am transformed into someone with the excitement of 9-year old girl at a Spice Girls concert in the mid-1990s. I am qualified to say this, because I was in fact, a 9-year old girl at a Spice Girls concert in the mid-1990s.

Girl Power.

Ted Talks (swoon). Why do I love these bite-size morsels of informational goodness? Mostly because they introduce people to extraordinary ways of thinking about ordinary things. I subscribe to the notion that in order to change the world, you have to challenge people on the assumptions they make every day that guide them to behave in the ways they do.

You have to change the way people think.

I say that very cautiously, because I believe there are effective and ineffective ways of doing so. Making more rules, telling someone they’re wrong, telling someone you’re right—typically not very effective in my experience. Understanding someone’s motivation for doing what they do (Fear? Insecurity? A need for power and control?), and guiding them to the realization that the method they’re using to fulfill that need may not be healthy or sustainable—much more effective.

But the first step in all this is truly understanding how the world has come to be this way, and how the world has shaped how people think. How has our history led us to this exact moment in time? That where my one true love, TED, comes in.

I thought I’d share a few of my favorite goosebump-worthy TED Talks below. Ultimately, I credit my commitment to changing the world—using HR as a vehicle to do so—to the four individuals below.

The first, psychologist and author Barry Schwartz talks about how work came to be seen purely as a means to an end and what we can do to change that notion.

Shawn Achor is one of the funniest storytellers of all time. And in this TED Talk, he speaks about the power of positive psychology in rewiring our brains for gratitude and happiness.

Regina Hartley posits that organizations should “hire the scrapper.” She explains why candidates get looked over every day for gaps in their resume and non-traditional work experience. She argues that these are the very people we should invest in.

5-time CEO Margaret Heffernan challenges the notion that competition is the way to get ahead. Unsuccessful teams are comprised of high achievers, while successful teams are comprised of helpers. And she does it all in a fantastic British accent.

If you have a favorite TED Talk, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!