Culture That Proves They Care
Aug 01, 2019
Category: Michigan State University
Starting a professional career is hard. What do I want to do, where do I want to work, and who do I want to work for? It’s hard to know for sure before trying something to give a point of reference. I wasn’t sure auditing was the correct accounting field for me or even if accounting was the right career choice, but I’d reached the point of no return with accounting as my major and needed an internship.
Where to go? Everyone seemed to be trying for an internship with one of the large national firms, saying “It’s easier to downsize the firm you work for, but upsizing is harder. You’ll lack experience if you go smaller first.” So, I decided to pick one and add it to my list of firms to check out at the Michigan State University Accounting career fair. I’d researched the firms attending the career fair beforehand, largely looking for firms who had values I felt I could align myself with, because I did know I wanted a healthy culture to work in. Cohen & Company found itself being added to the list.
Cohen & Company’s table was right before the large national firm I had chosen to apply to, so I stopped there first. Attending the Cohen & Company table was a tax accountant named Ashley, someone I would soon look forward to seeing around the office every day during my internship. I expressed my interest in the firm and my hesitation in applying for one of the large national firms because of the culture they notoriously represent. She understood, sharing her story of coming from a Big Four firm to Cohen & Company. Her experience confirmed my concerns, concerns such as being an easily replaceable number and not having a healthy work-life balance. She assured me Cohen & Company was different and to not be led to believe that I wouldn’t learn as much.
A few weeks later, I found myself at a second round interview with Cohen & Company where I got to interact with people in all stages of their accounting career, including partners. However, at the time, I had no idea they were partners! They were just everyday accountants, sharing what they love about the firm. One partner, Mike Lorenz, was leading a discussion regarding the firm's employees’ engagement with the community. He shared how the firm has volunteer days where we all shut our computers down and go help at places like the Children’s Center or Habitat for Humanity. He even went into how the firm encourages individual pursuit of volunteering where it matters to employees personally.
At this point, I was excited! The firm was living up to what they stated on their website, what Ashley had said, and it felt genuine when I spoke to people at the firm. When the offer came, I accepted as quickly as I could. I started the following summer and was placed in a room with two staff accountants and a tax intern. Let me just say, I didn’t think a professional work environment could be as fun as it was. Every so often, interesting conversations would come up, such as how The Palace of Auburn Hills was selling EVERYTHING and how cool it would be to own the locker room door, or how the NBA draft was progressing.
Fun happened out on fieldwork too. I was treated like a first year staff member and was delegated real work. I always enjoyed going on fieldwork, seeing the teamwork that took place to help audit work run smoothly and being able to dig into a pile of data to prepare documentation and conduct testing. Needless to say, I found out accounting was definitely the right career path.
There were events that I participated in outside of the day-to-day audit work, too. I was able to play in a mini volleyball tournament after work one day with co-workers, a Cohen Connects event. I participated in a volunteer program with another audit intern, Lauren, where we got to help families in need. All of the Detroit interns got to tour the Michigan Box Company. I even got to interview a Partner out in Baltimore, MD to ask him questions that stemmed purely from my own interests.
Looking back over my internship experience this summer, I can easily say I enjoyed myself. Sure, the work I was assigned wasn’t always exciting and there were days where work was thin, but I always had great people around me. There was always someone I could turn to with a questions, whether that be the staff auditor in my room, Ian, or the audit partner for our office, Cliff. I never felt like I couldn’t interact with the people around me and everyone pitched in to make sure I had a great experience. The culture of the firm truly took a good internship where I learned way more than I ever would in a classroom, to a great internship where I was able to enjoy who I was learning from and the work I was able to do.