Current Position: Audit Associate, PwC
Previous University: Berklee College of Music
Undergraduate Degree: Jazz Drums, Electronic Production
Q: You made a dramatic shift from music to accounting. Can you tell us about that process?
A: As an undergraduate, I studied jazz drums at the Berklee College of Music. I was in a band junior and senior year—writing music, recording, and playing shows all over the Boston area. It was one of the best times of my life. But I had no interest in the starving artist life.
I’ve always been interested in finance and I like what I do at PwC. I work with private investment companies, which is as close to the cutting edge of finance as you can be. And it’s not like I had to give up my music. I’m still writing music and releasing new songs.
Q: Why did you choose Northeastern’s MSA/MBA program?
A: It’s the perfect program for career changers. It provided a seamless transition from the arts to accounting. There were people in my class who majored in philosophy, history, anthropology, and the arts. The program starts you out at ground zero and teaches you from the ground up.
Before we even arrive on campus, we receive a booklet of accounting exercises to orient us to thinking like an accountant. The information and exercises are accessible to any newcomer who may be doubting their ability to transition to this new profession. Then, we had an orientation week of networking events and topical seminars, followed by a one-month semester with two courses—an accounting course and a humanities course in organizational behavior.
This semester provided a firm foundation and introduction to the study habits we would need to carry us through the remaining 14 months. The content gave us beginners a running start to catch up with students who had exposure to accounting concepts as an undergraduate.
Q: How did employers view your liberal arts background?
A: My background in the arts was seen as an asset. I worried that no one would take me seriously—that they’d assume my head was full of fluff. But that wasn’t the case. My music background turned heads in a positive way. The big accounting companies realize that liberal arts majors have been trained to think outside the box and find new ways to do things.
Q: What transferrable skills did your background provide?
A: In college, I was constantly working in ensembles of up to a dozen musicians. Everyone is working as a collective to produce something bigger than themselves. It’s the same way in accounting, where everyone is working toward a single product. You have to learn to read the various working styles of others and understand what each person brings to the team. You have to know how to synchronize yourself with others.
A music student also learns to take criticism on the spot and in front of other people. You have to be willing to accept that criticism and use that criticism to improve.
“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.