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AUDITOR : Michelle Fernandes

Photo of Michelle Fernandes
How would you describe your job?
I am an auditor for KPMG, LLP, one of the largest public audit, tax, and advisory (accounting) firms. As an auditor I go to different companies and review their accounting books and records to determine if they are sound. We do this by gaining an understanding of the company and verifying different balance sheet and income items through recalculations and reasonableness tests. Once we determine the financial statement numbers are plausible we sign a letter for the company to include with their financial statements. This allows readers of the company's financial statements (for example, stockholders of the company) to gain reassurance knowing that an independent third-party review has been performed and that the company is not misrepresenting its financial performance.

Describe how you got to where you are today. What was your smartest move? What would you do differently if you had the chance?
I believe that I've gotten where I am today through hard work and dedication. Applying myself and putting forth my best effort in both high school and college allowed me to get good grades and ultimately obtain a position with KPMG. But, above all, not being afraid to ask questions and seek help when I was uncertain about a subject or concept always made things easier, both in school and in my career. I think my smartest move was studying for and passing the Certified Public Accountants (CPA) exam right away. It opened many doors for me in my career and I would not be promoted to a manager position in the future without it. It also becomes very difficult to study for an exam when your responsibilities at work start to increase and you gain more experience, so I think it was a smart move to get this accomplished right away.

What advice do you have for young people considering a career in finance? What did you wish you knew?
My advice is to seek out and align yourself with a mentor or a person in your field more experienced than you whom you feel comfortable with. This person should be someone who is also personally interested in you and your success in your career. Once you develop this relationship, you will always have someone to help prepare you for what's ahead because they have already been through it themselves. My mentors have always been there for me to answer questions and provide guidance and to help me gain perspective if I ever feel overwhelmed. They have also become two of my closest friends today.

What personal characteristics are required for someone to be successful in your job?
People skills are very important in my job. My daily activities include going to different client sites and meeting and working with the controller and/or staff level accountants of the company to gain an understanding of what they do on a daily basis, how they performed certain calculations and the rationale, etc. It is not easy to meet with so many new and different people so frequently if you don't possess strong people skills.

What other job could you do with the skills you have gained in this field?
I believe that if I ever left accounting, I could do any other job that requires a business background, because I will have a good understanding of what drives business and profits in a company. A career in accounting is also a great stepping-stone because it allows you to see firsthand how all different departments of a company run. Because you gain an understanding of so many different aspects of so many different companies, you could leave accounting and decide to specialize in any other business field -- or even start your own company -- and be well prepared.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?
Multitasking is always a big challenge at my job. You may be working on the audit of more than one company at once. You may also start one test and be waiting for the support or answers from the client on questions you have regarding one area. If the client is not available to discuss at the moment, you will need to start working on other areas until they are available. I believe that this is a challenge that you will face at any job. As you gain more experience you start to transition, and this soon becomes a part of your daily routine.

Are there many opportunities in your field? What should people do to get started?
There are many opportunities in the field of accounting. CPAs are currently in high demand. In order to get started, you should take accounting classes in high school and college. If you are still interested, you can study for the CPA exam upon graduation from college. Once you get your degree, many doors will open for you in terms of obtaining a position at an accounting firm.

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