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Taking the Leap to Work Down Under

When going through recruiting, students often hear from accounting firms that if they are interested, the opportunity to live and work abroad is an option after a few years of employment. It sounds like an amazing opportunity and adventure but for many it never becomes a reality. It takes a lot of planning and dedication and the ability to move far away from family and friends for an extended period of time. Michael Zimmerman (Jenkins Master of Accounting, 2014), was up for the challenge when he was presented with an opportunity to work in Australia.

Zimmerman started working for Ernst and Young in the Raleigh office after graduating from the Jenkins MAC program. After being promoted to a senior associate, he was staffed to work on a large pharma client in Raleigh which was the component of an Australian-owned and ASX-listed company. After two years coordinating the component team in the U.S., he was offered the opportunity to relocate to Australia and serve the client (with others from the team) in EY’s Melbourne office.

According to Zimmerman the biggest challenge he has had while living and working in Australia has been adapting to a new culture, socially and professionally. “I had to quickly learn about new clients, different industry practices, and cultural norms.”

In comparison, the EY Melbourne office is quite larger than the Raleigh office. This was a challenge at first but Zimmerman has also appreciated the social opportunities it has provided. How did the Jenkins MAC help prepare him for this life change?  “The program taught me how to be a proactive problem solver, properly research, and effectively present myself. In a bigger EY office with large multi-national clients in Melbourne, all of these skills are highly valued,” Zimmerman explained.

Now an assurance services manager, Zimmerman has learned that the Australian public accounting environment mirrors the U.S. in many ways. “We use the firm’s same global methodologies and take a risk-based approach with our clients’ accounts. There are still filing deadlines with documentation improvement and inspection pressures.”

Where does it differ? One aspect he says, “is that the Australian environment is more fluid and flexible in certain ways where accounting standards are principles-based compared to traditional rules-based practices used in the U.S.

Now one year into his two and a half year contact, Zimmerman thinks he may like to extend his stay beyond that time period. He feels very fortunate to have this experience and encourages others to look past the initial road blocks they may put up when thinking about this kind of life change.

“Always be on the lookout for the opportunity – it may come from the most unexpected places.  If it is your goal – make it known to your counselor and partners early and then be able to articulate how the experience will help enhance and shape your career,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to speak up and make the leap!”

This story is the first in our “Life After MAC” series.  All Jenkins MAC alumni are encouraged to share their story with us. Email, Andrea Young if interested.