Featured Article: Former PCAOB Intern Reflects on Professional Growth Gained During Internship

Working at the PCAOB: A dream come true

By Justin Daniel Scott

This article was reprinted with permission by the Wisconsin Institute of CPAs.

When I was deciding where to work for the summer of 2013, I knew I had many options. A faculty member at my university strongly encouraged me to apply for an internship at the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) in Washington, D.C. Seeking to open as many doors as I could, I applied for the position. After a lengthy interview, I received an offer from the PCAOB. As a Milwaukee native, the idea of spending a summer working in a city far removed from my home was intriguing. I have also never been to the nation's capital, which only added to my interest in the opportunity. Since I was seeking diverse experience in accounting, I gladly accepted the internship offer from the PCAOB. For the first time in my life, I was moving to another city.

My experience working at the PCAOB was everything I dreamed it would be. As an intern for the Office of Research and Analysis, my job was to compile and analyze information to provide support for the other respective divisions, including Inspections and Enforcement. I was assigned projects that were designed to assist the PCAOB in identifying potential financial risks that would require action by the organization. From organizing spreadsheets, to gathering information from public and private sources, I helped the PCAOB achieve its objective of protecting the investing public. It was satisfying for me to know the work I did was for the benefit of the public good. I was happy to be working at an organization that believed strongly in ethics and integrity so investors were not taken advantage of.

I grew both professionally and personally during my time at the PCAOB. I expanded my technical knowledge, and learned how to account for investments for large companies, as some of my work dealt with projects revolving around them. Because of my work there, I knew about derivatives and hedges before I saw them in the classroom setting. Since I worked with large spreadsheets, I was also able to learn Microsoft Excel skills that served me well at positions since the PCAOB. My knowledge of Excel was fairly limited going into the internship, but my skills were developed so much that I ended up teaching Excel as a teaching assistant at my university two years later. While living in the District, I also developed critical soft skills, such as adaptability, independence, and communication skills, because I was required to utilize them to survive a new city.

The skills I developed from the internship benefitted me beyond that summer. When I returned to Wisconsin, I continued to pursue my bachelor's degree in accounting at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. During my senior year, I interned at Scribner Cohen & Co. SC in Milwaukee during busy season. After receiving my bachelor's degree, I enrolled in the Master's in Management-Professional Accounting program at UWM. While a graduate student, I was also a teaching assistant, charged with instructing students on how to use Microsoft Excel. On top of my obligations as a student and instructor, I studied for the CPA exam in my spare time. A few short weeks after graduating with my master's degree, I passed the fourth and final part of the CPA exam. Before my final year of school, I was also fortunate to receive and accept an offer to work at the Milwaukee office of Baker Tilly, a large regional accounting firm. I know all of these successes are attributable to the outstanding start I had in Washington, D.C. My accomplishments after the summer of 2013 all were possible because of my internship at the PCAOB.

I truly enjoyed my summer internship in the nation's capital. The sightseeing and professional opportunities presented to me truly made the experience worth it. After coming back to Milwaukee, I knew I was a different person from when I left. In addition to the city itself, the people I met there were amazing. The managers I interacted with were all great individuals, who were integral in my development at the PCAOB. Also, my friendships with my fellow interns were some of the strongest I had in my lifetime. Many of the interns, including me, were from places far away. Because we didn't know the city very well, we were able to bond, and had to rely on each other for support. I keep in touch with some of the interns, and I am glad to still be able to call them my friends. My experience at the PCAOB was one of the best I ever had, and I wouldn't have traded it for the world.

Justin Scott is a staff accountant.