Hometown: Tianjin, China
Current Position: State Street Global Advisors, Managing Director, Head of Charitable Assets
Previous Universities: Beijing Foreign Studies Institute, University of Cincinnati, NYU
Undergraduate Degree: French Literature
Q: You’ve had an extremely successful career. Can you tell us about your current position?
A: At State Street Global Advisors, I am the head of charitable asset management, which means I manage endowment and planned giving assets for non-profit clients. Our clients include colleges, universities, organizations of culture, religion and human services. My work is mission-driven, and I use my accounting and investment knowledge to further that mission.
Q: What role has your accounting background played in your work as a financial analyst and strategist?
A: Many people coming into finance today have contempt for the role of accounting. But if you don’t have a solid accounting background, you can’t do well in finance. When you’re looking at five pharmaceutical firms and all five have new drugs in the pipeline, the only way to conduct a thorough investment analysis is to go deep into the data. When I’m hiring financial analysts, I always give them a quiz about their accounting knowledge to make sure they have those skills.
Q: What convinced you to make such a dramatic career switch into accounting?
A: I was a French literature major and planned to become a professor. I graduated from college in China in 1989 and came to this country to earn my master’s and PhD degrees. I had just completed all my PhD coursework when my father passed away and I realized that I needed a more stable way to support myself since there was a limited market for French literature professors.
Q: Why did you choose Northeastern’s MSA/MBA program?
A: Northeastern was the only program I applied to. I liked the fact that it was accelerated, that it had a high job placement rate, and that there was such a strong practical focus. Up until that time I had been a perpetual student and had no professional experience. I also appreciated all the training in professional skills like interviewing for jobs and professional mingling at social events. I had never done any of that, and my confidence grew during the 15-month program.
Q: In your experience, what transferrable skills does a liberal arts education provide for those entering the accounting field?
A: I hire many people with liberal arts backgrounds because they tend to be more receptive to new ideas. They are well-read, curious, and haven’t been pigeon-holed into one technical path.
“The accounting internship enabled me to build the self-confidence necessary to excel at work and also gave me the opportunity to develop strong relationships within the company that will help me begin my full-time career on the right foot,” says Sponsel.
Never satisfied to rest on its laurels, D’Amore-McKim is taking its MS in Accounting/MBA program up a notch by including a new four-course concentration in Business Analytics. The move is responsive to a major shift in the accounting field that is fueled, in part, by dramatic advances in artificial intelligence and other technologies.
“It’s the perfect program for career changers. It provided a seamless transition from the arts to accounting.”
Undergraduate Degree: Jazz Drums, Electronic Production