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Samuel Smalley, MSA/MBA’19, is taking over our Instagram account @damoremckim this week to share his experience in our Master in Accounting/ Master of Business Administration program. Follow along!

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

There is a creeping suspicion that within a decade or two, a sizable chunk of this industry will be run by robots. The concern, particularly by outsiders looking to break into this profession, is that automated intelligence will make this industry less accessible to newcomers by making certain lower level functions obsolete. This is only partly true: I have firsthand seen the automation capabilities my firm has access to, and it has eliminated many hours spent on repetitive, low-risk tasks. In my opinion, this will only give newcomers greater access to more complex, judgement-based work, necessitating technological expertise beyond your financial calculator and Excel spreadsheets.  

gspa alumnus samuel smalley headshot
Samuel Smalley, MSA/MBA’19. Photo by Adam Glanzman.

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

I played professionally in a band I formed in college, playing shows around Boston and the Midwest for two years. There was also a time during which I taught music at the Boys and Girls Club in Allston. Right after graduating from Berklee, I worked at a beach side restaurant in New Hampshire, where I lugged dishes from dusk until dawn. There I was promoted to bartender, but when the summer finished, I decided I never wanted to work in a restaurant again. I spent the fall studying for the GMAT, working as a supervisor at Walgreens, and got my Northeastern offer the following February. I knew I wanted to start my career in New York, so I made it known early on, and ultimately landed an internship spot with PwC, where I now work full time as an audit associate. 

Q: Why the MSA/MBA program?

This program is perfect for career changers. The most common reaction I get when I tell people I studied music is “Wow, that’s quite the switch!” The only related class I took in my undergrad was an introductory economics course my freshman year, which may seem daunting to some. But the MSA/MBA program is tailored to students who have little to no academic experience in financial and accounting coursework, which made for a seamless transition from the arts to accounting. It made entering this field viable from any direction.

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

I went to Berklee College of Music. I was a drummer, and studied electronic music production. 

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

A music curriculum will seat you in multiple ensembles across a diverse range of styles, of anywhere between five to a hundred people. Being constantly shifted around like this builds a resilience to discomfort, necessitates rapid adaptation and improvisation, and fosters profound teamwork. Being able to perform with little time to rehearse in front of strangers means thinking under the heat of the spotlight and having to merge my ideas and skills with everyone else’s. Music is most beautiful when the performance is greater than the sum of its parts, meaning pride and ego take a backseat to form, composition, and tempo. The work my team and I do at PwC reflects this. Although we perform and produce our own bits of work individually, our ultimate goal is always the same. Effective teams realize their work is the sum of all individual efforts. 

Q: What surprised you the most about the industry or what’s a stereotype that you’ve found to be untrue?

The accounting industry is very fast paced, especially when you work at a firm that cares about being at the technological forefront of business. Accounting firms are now placing a huge emphasis on being technically proficient, not only in terms of accounting expertise, but as drivers of technological innovation.