Opening Doors to Success
MAC alumni share how the program prepared them for life outside the doors of Nelson Hall and helped them gain a competitive edge in their careers.
Nashiem Bryant knew he wanted to pursue a career in auditing, but he couldn’t decide whether or not to pursue an advanced degree before entering the workforce. “I was already thinking about graduate school in order to gain more credits to sit for the CPA exam, but the decision became an easy one when I learned about the Jenkins MAC Fellowship Program,” he remembers. Through the program, Bryant accepted an offer from Ernst & Young that funded his Jenkins Master of Accounting (MAC) degree at NC State and guaranteed a full-time position after graduation.
Melissa Blackman, another MAC graduate, received a Jenkins MAC Fellowship Program offer from Johnson-Lambert. “I didn’t need a graduate degree to enter my field, but I chose NC State to gain a competitive edge in the future,” she explains. “I especially appreciated how the MAC program helps guide students through the process of preparing for the CPA exam and choosing a career direction. Overall, the support that the Poole College of Management offers was a strong selling point for me.”
While both students have embarked on different career paths since graduating, they have leveraged their MAC experience at every step of the way. For his graduate assistantship with the NC State Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Initiative, Bryant learned the nuts and bolts of the ERM Framework and completed a practicum that provided an opportunity to offer recommendations for implementing an ERM system to the board of a real business. “It was a hands-on project that translates very well to my current role at Ernst & Young,” he remembers. “By the time I graduated and joined the company, I was already confident in my ability to work collaboratively with high-level executives and board members.”
As an assurance staff member at Ernst & Young, Bryant points to other ways that his MAC experience helped set him up for success. “From analyzing financial statements to performing complex equations within Excel, I use the technical and analytical skills from my MAC program every day in my client work,” he says. “But beyond that skillset, the MAC provided a broader mindset. My courses taught me how to determine the tools I needed to get into the nitty gritty of a problem and solve it. They taught me how to be professionally skeptical and ask the right questions.”
Bryant also valued the MAC program’s heavy emphasis on collaboration. In his recollection, at least 90 percent of projects assigned to MAC students involved teamwork. “We had to work together at every stage to get the job done, which was a challenge that reflects the reality of my day-to-day work with Ernst & Young,” he shares.
The MAC strengthened my ability to work on a team with people with different backgrounds and viewpoints.
Like Bryant, Blackman draws a straight line between her MAC experience and the success she has experienced in the years since she graduated. After working in tax-related roles at Johnson-Lambert and RSM, two public accounting firms, she accepted a position as a senior tax analyst at BMC. In this role, she focuses on the income tax compliance side of tax, ensuring compliance with all federal, state, and local income tax filing and payment deadlines. “I completed a tax concentration in the MAC program, which has served me well in the move from public accounting to industry,” she affirms.
Looking back, Blackman can see how the challenges of the MAC program effectively prepared her for the challenges of a career in accounting. “The MAC program really tested my stress management and multitasking abilities,” she acknowledges. “It was tough to balance classes and projects with career development and CPA prep.” As she navigates tax law, in her current role at BMC, she is grateful for her past experience. “There is never a dull moment in my job,” she says. “I’m constantly multitasking between different projects with multiple companies in different tax jurisdictions. Fortunately, I’m able to manage my time effectively because of the foundation I laid at NC State.”
Several years after graduation, Blackman still stays in touch with contacts she made through the MAC program. “I’ve been able to build relationships with a number of other CPAs in a variety of disciplines and companies,” she shares. “The opportunity to make close friends and professional connections who are always willing to give support and advice was one of the most rewarding aspects of my time at NC State.”
In the same way her peers have invested in her own professional growth, Blackman seeks to pass along the knowledge she has gleaned to the MAC students who follow in her footsteps. “My best advice to upcoming graduates is this: Don’t become intimidated by the challenges of the MAC program. It’s a huge undertaking, but one that is worth the time and effort. It will open doors for you.”