From Managerial Economics to an Accounting Career

An Aggie finds her path to accountancy

A version of this story originally appeared on the Graduate School of Management's blog

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to go to UC Davis not once, but twice.

My undergraduate experience at UC Davis was a confusing time. I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be, but I knew that I was in the right place. Through my managerial economics major, I attended my first accounting course. I was immediately hooked! What drew me in was how satisfying it was to overcome the challenges that the coursework presented.

As I learned more about the field, I discovered how dynamic accounting research is and how important the field is to the protection of our capital markets. I felt even more secure in my decision to pursue accounting when I learned how much opportunity exists in both private and public sectors. If I chose to stay in public accounting, I would gain experience with a variety of the biggest companies in the world. If I chose to go private, I could advance through a company faster than those without a CPA or public accounting experience. It was a win-win career choice for me!

Preparing for accounting in college

Navodi Weerasinghe on the stairs.
Weerasinghe​ with her Becker Ambassador team. (Photo courtesy of the author)

Pursuing accounting as an undergraduate at a research-centered university was definitely a challenge. I had to be proactive in my own professional development. I started my accounting journey during my sophomore year at the Internship and Career Center. I met with career advisors, attended professional workshops, and had the student advisors review and re-review my resume. Additionally, I used the school’s career website to intern wherever I could.

Even though my first internships were not accounting oriented, I still learned many skills that translated over into my accounting internships. My first internship was with the International House Davis. My position — business intern — was a simple front desk job. However, whenever I had free time, I began recording new front office practices to help the organization run more efficiently.

I also had the honor of working at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a refugee resettlement organization. There, I documented the history of refugees since their arrival in the United States. The last non-accounting position I held was brand ambassador for Becker. Yes, the company was a CPA testing firm, but I led a team in their marketing efforts on the UC Davis campus.

I get it! These positions are quite different, and aren’t even finance or accounting oriented. However, in accounting interviews, I proudly say that the International House taught me to appreciate and recognize efficient business structures. I say that IRC taught me to be detail-oriented and work with clients effectively. I say that being a brand ambassador shows that I am a leader. My eclectic work history has really showed me that any experience you have is what you make of it. It’s up to the individual to stand up and do more so they can be more.

Once I felt more confident with my resume and networking skills, it was time to put them to use with the UC Davis accounting clubs. I found myself in Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) and the Davis Accounting Society (DAS). In these two clubs, I learned more about the field, gained client-service skills, and had face-time with recruiters from the big accounting firms that I one day hoped to work for.

These student organizations are what I remember most about my time as an undergrad at UC Davis. There, I was encouraged to pursue leadership roles and was inspired to be the best I could be. I consider the people that I’ve met through these organizations to be family that I will be connected with well past my graduation date.

Why choose accounting graduate school?

Accounting program plays hockey.
Weerasinghe​ at a Becker-sponsored social with multiple on-campus organizations. (Photo courtesy of the author)

After I interned, joined clubs, and attended professional workshops, I still felt like something was missing. I didn’t realize what this “thing” was until I attended an information session for the UC Davis Master of Professional Accountancy program offered by the nationally ranked Graduate School of Management.

I expected the same recruitment speech I had heard time and time again, but I walked away with a realization that this program would support me in achieving my career goals. A realization that I could have a graduate community that lifts me up. A realization that it would help shape me professionally and prepare me for a career with high demand for new graduates. So, I applied!

The program administrators stood by me through the entire application process. I met with Assistant Director Alex Minnis so often that it felt like I became a permanent fixture in her office. I visited classes and was welcomed by faculty with such open arms that I knew MPAc was right for me.

When I found out that I had been accepted into UC Davis a second time, I literally jumped in the middle of the coffee shop I was studying in. Everyone stared, but I didn’t care. I got in! 

MPA class
Weerasinghe​ with graduate classmates and staff. (Photo courtesy of the author)

The MPAc experience started immediately. The program’s professional boot camp, career fair, and challenging curriculum kept me focused yet left time for enjoying Davis and making new friends.

Sure, the program is challenging during recruiting and exam season, but the staff and students band together to help each other. It’s a very collaborative learning environment, a community so incredible that I consider them family.

Launching an accounting career

Navodi Weerasinghe headshot
Weerasinghe's first year on the Davis Accounting Society board. (Photo courtesy of the author)

I’m looking forward to taking the CPA exam and starting my career in September. Through MPAc, I was offered an audit position at PricewaterhouseCoopers only a month after the school year began.

I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity to attend this hallowed institution twice in my life. I’ve established long lasting friendships and had a high quality undergraduate and graduate education that will carry me through my career.

As my final graduation with UC Davis approaches, I can’t help looking back to the day I first stepped onto this campus. If I went back to that day, I wouldn’t change a moment of my time here.

Amanda Weerasinghe finished her bachelor's in managerial economics at UC Davis and is currently a masters of professional accountancy candidate at her alma mater. 

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