Few accountants go on to pursue a doctorate, and even fewer join the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB). Jake Sigler is fortunate to find himself doing both and is grateful for the opportunities.
After graduating from the NC State University Jenkins MAC program in 2012, Sigler worked for Ernst & Young (EY) in their Charlotte office as an auditor for four years. While working on a variety of clients, including both public and private engagements, Sigler said, “I always had questions about why the decision-makers of accounting firms and businesses took specific actions.”
He started speaking with several NC State professors to gain their insight into possible career moves that would combine his interests with the skill set he had attained at EY. With their guidance and Sigler’s interest in research, he applied and was accepted to the Ph.D. program at the University of Arizona.
Currently, Sigler is pursuing his Ph.D. and is an economic research fellow at the PCAOB in Washington, D.C. It is a one-year appointment that allows him to use propitiatory data in economic studies. “I work with inspectors, standard setters and economists to better understand how academic research can impact auditing regulation and the PCAOB,” Sigler said. “My research focus is on how clients’ IT environments affects the external audit and how the auditor reacts to complex IT environments.”
How did this unique opportunity develop? Part of Sigler’s motivation to pursue a Ph.D. came from his desire to see how government and regulation impact business. While applying to Ph.D. programs, he looked into possible fellowship and internship opportunities at different government agencies and regulators.
“I talked to many former fellows to develop a sense of what research the PCAOB desires,” Sigler said. “From my conversations and my interests, I created two separate proposals related to the PCAOB’s technology initiative.” Both proposals were reviewed and approved by PCAOB members.
He intends to complete these studies, present them to the PCAOB for approval and submit them to accounting research journals.
Sigler credits the Jenkins MAC audit and research classes for preparing him well for his current line of work. “I still use my audit class notes when I have to explain results from a study or come up with research topics,” Sigler said. “Meanwhile, the skillset attained from the research class directly relates to using primary sources in identifying standards I need to reference.”
When asked what advice he would give individuals looking to pursue a Ph.D., Sigler pointed out that academic research is what a Ph.D. program is based around. “You develop skills in statistical and economic analysis and not technical accounting,” he said. “Finding what research topics interest you is essential. Talk to your professors and see where your interests and experience may fit into getting a Ph.D.”
As for working for the PCAOB, Sigler thinks that auditing experience is key. “Understanding how to conduct an audit is critical to see how your work will influence the goals of the PCAOB,” he said.
Sigler believes he has been provided a unique opportunity that will differentiate himself from others in the academic field.
This story is the second in our “Life After MAC” series. All Jenkins MAC alumni are encouraged to share their stories with us. If interested, email, Andrea Young.