By Rob Starr, Big4.com Content Manager
Timothy A. Gagnon is the Professor/Faculty Director MST and MSA On-line Programs at Northeastern University and Attorney at Timothy A. Gagnon, Attorney at Law. This is his second career development interview with Big4.com.
When you talk to anyone with the education and experience to have a valued opinion about what constitutes a career in the Big4, they’ll tell you that times are changing and many of today’s younger generation aren’t willing to spend their entire working lives climbing the long and challenging ladder to become a partner.
Professor Timothy A. Gagnon is no exception and we invited him back to talk with us again about the ingredients included in a career with the Big4, or as the case may be, what are the
best practises even when you intend to move on.
“If you’re thinking about leaving at some point, you need to get yourself the biggest amount of diversity that you can across different subject matter,” he says. “Employers on the private side are quite often not as narrowly focused and they’re looking for some who has some experience.”
He goes on to say smaller firms expect diversity in that they might even require audit be done for part of the year and tax for another stretch. You can only avoid getting this kind of varied exposure if you plan on staying with the Big4 or going into an industry where you’ll only need one speciality like audit. Gagnon simplifies his point.
“It’s more than just knowing if the books are correct. You need to know about various components and how they interact,” he says adding private employers are often looking for the ability to analyze how financial and business aspects blend together.
We also discussed where growing trends like data analytics fit into the puzzle for someone looking to expand their career. Gagnon says that while it’s good to have some knowledge and comfort in working with various IT platforms, it’s not necessary to specialize exclusively.
“You don’t need to be the guy who can put together the computer network, but you should be able to work with the latest technology and understand about the latest programs.”
Among his other accomplishments, Gagnon lists Managing Member at G&R Business Advisory Services LLC, so he understands those looking to get out of the Big4 need to start networking with people outside of accounting. These contacts are also great support networks for CPAs that have questions outside their usual areas of expertise. He feels it’s a good practice to build networks both internally and externally regardless of your future career plans, but this aspect is more important if you plan on working in industry.
We concluded with some advice from Gagnon for people who are still thinking about making partner.
“Although the Big4 has gotten kinder and gentler, making partner is still a tough road. It’s very commitment and time driven and sometimes it’s very hard to have a life,” he says.