Pamela Yang, MSA/MBA'96, is taking over our Instagram account @damoremckim this week to share her experience in our Master in Accounting/ Master of Business Administration program. Follow along!

Q: What has your career path looked like so far?

My career path looks great and I have the MSA/MBA to thank for that! Right after I graduated, I joined Coopers & Lybrand (now known as PricewaterhouseCoopers) as an auditor. Many of my clients were in the financial services sector, so I became interested in the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) program. In 2000, I joined Harvard Management Company as its manager of tax and internal audit, and continued to be working on the CFA Charter. In 2004, I became director of investment and operation and eventually rose to senior vice president, overseeing Trust Investment and Operation for the Harvard endowment. After 18 years with Harvard, I joined State Street Global Advisors last year as managing director, head of charitable asset management, overseeing over $3 Billion of assets for non-profit clients including endowment and charitable assets. 

My experience at Northeastern changed my career. I had planned to become a French literature scholar and professor, but this program broadened my horizons and allowed me to discover the financial services and investment management industry. I now lead a team of 30 professionals, managing assets for over 200 clients.

gspa alumna pamela yang headshot
Pamela Yang, MSA/MBA'96. Photo by Adam Glanzman.

Q: Why the MSA/MBA?

The program taught me so much in just 15 months. In addition to the accounting and technical knowledge, the acceleration of the program pushed me to work very hard, which propelled me headfirst into succeeding in my current role. The high expectations of the program raised my personal expectations forever.

Q: Where did you attend school for your undergraduate degree and what did you major in?

For my undergraduate studies, I attended Beijing Foreign Studies University, and earned a BA in French Literature. Then, I obtained a MA in French Literature from the University of Cincinnati. I was working toward a PhD in French Literature at New York University before I came to the Graduate School of Professional Accounting at the D'Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University. 

Q: What skills from your undergrad major have you been able to apply to your post-grad career?

Since my undergraduate major is so different from my current career, I would say there are no tangible connections between French language studies and investment management; however, as a liberal arts major, I am an avid reader and have a very open mind. So, the intangible part is critical here: the quest for knowledge, the creative mind, and the insatiable appetite for new ways to do things played an important role in shaping my career. Over the years, I have recruited many people who have liberal arts backgrounds and obtained graduate degrees in business, as I always found them to be more open-minded and creative.  When you have a diverse knowledge base and different thought processes, you can create a really dynamic, forward-thinking team.

 Q: What's your favorite memory of your time in the MSA/MBA program? 

One of my favorite moments was when Professor Tim Rupert was teaching a class on a tax topic using an example of chickens falling out of a wagon with their feathers flying everywhere—so funny! 

 Q: Where's the most fun place you've had to travel to for work?

Some of my favorite places I have traveled to include Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Asia, and every corner of the U.S. One time I found myself in the nuclear bunker of a private home in Beverly Hills—crazy!   

Q: What surprised you the most about the industry/what's a stereotype that you've found untrue?  

Some people think accounting is boring and that everyone wants to work in finance. However, in my years of experience, I have yet to find any great analysts who are not good at accounting! In order to be a good equity analyst or any type of investment analyst, employees have to be able to dissect financial statements in accordance with their accounting knowledge. If the numbers don't tell a clear story in their minds, they can forget about being great analysts.

Look at Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger: they constantly talk about generally accepted accounting principles and revenue recognition. You have to be very familiar with accounting principles to be a good investor. I received my CPA first and when I took the CFA exam, I aced it, especially level two, which was focused on valuation, mergers and acquisitions. My finance major peers had a hard time preparing for level two. Meanwhile, I did well thanks to my strong accounting knowledge. Don't ever underestimate the power of knowledge in accounting. It is the starting point in this industry. 

Q: What do you think the future of the accounting industry looks like?

I don't really know. Artificial intelligence will take over a lot of basic functions for audit and accounting. However, when it comes to judgment, you still need human intervention.