Charting Her Own Course
Sarah Saunders, Jenkins MAC 2013, created her own career path and found her perfect role at Epic Games.
During kindergarten, Sarah (Hopkins) Saunders announced that when she grew up, she was going to be an accountant like her mom, who worked for years at Big Four accounting firm EY.
“I always knew that’s what I wanted to do. Being a CPA was my end goal, and I wanted to do everything I could to get there,” Saunders says.
She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in accounting from the Poole College of Management, during which time she checked off the boxes by participating in the college’s Accounting Internship Recruitment (AIR) program, joining EY’s Emerging Leaders Program, and interning at EY.
“I knew I needed 150 hours to get that CPA license, so getting my master’s degree was next,” she says. To Saunders, there was no question of where she would go.
She enrolled in the Jenkins Masters of Accounting (MAC) program, graduated in 2013, obtained her CPA designation and moved to the Charlotte area to work full-time in EY’s auditing group. During her six years at EY, Saunders had the chance to support three companies through three IPOs – an opportunity few young accountants get to experience so early in their career.
And though she was deeply appreciative of her years at EY, she was ready for a change.
“It was a hard decision because EY was all I had ever known. For a lot of accountants, public accounting is the main goal when you are fresh out of college. I vividly remember during my first semester of the MAC program when my professor asked us where we wanted to see ourselves in five years. It was an easy question for almost everyone to answer – except me,” Saunders remembers. “All but two people in the class had a clear plan – work in public accounting and transition to an industry position. At that moment I realized I had never really thought about what I would do after I became a CPA. Up to that point, my main goal was to be a CPA and I did it by 23. So I really had to soul-search about what I wanted to do next.”
She found that opportunity at Cary-based Epic Games, developer of the popular online video game Fortnite.
In May 2019, she joined as the accounting manager of the company’s newly released PC game store, where she’s had the chance to build accounting systems for the store from the ground up.
“Unlike working with different clients at EY, I now have one ‘baby’ that I get to focus on,” Saunders says. “It’s really the perfect role for me – it’s challenging in all the right ways while also providing some stability in terms of my work-life balance.”
Finding your own path is something Saunders feels passionate about, which is one of the reasons she’s served as a mentor in Poole’s undergraduate accounting mentorship program for the past five years.
“I think it’s so important for students to connect with someone in the field they’re trying to enter into,” she says. “I really try to listen to the student and not push what I’ve done – but help them to find their own path.”