Katie Swauger; Alexis Diehl, SAA senior vice president; Kim Anderson, SAA faculty advisor; Shelby Lowery, SAA president, and Jennifer BrandOn September 30, 2021, the Student Accounting Association held its second meeting of the fall semester, which was its first in-person meeting since March 2020. This meeting featured two guest speakers: Jennifer Brand (’17 BS, accounting), a senior internal auditor with PPG Industries, and Katie Swauger (’18 BS, accounting), a senior tax analyst at American Eagle Outfitters. There were 62 students in attendance.

Kim Anderson, professor in the Department of Accounting, had both Brand and Swauger in her intermediate accounting classes, and both held leadership positions in the SAA. “Jennifer and Katie were fantastic students both inside and outside of the classroom. It’s wonderful to see how they are progressing in their careers, and I appreciate them giving back to IUP by speaking to our current students,” Anderson said.

After graduating from IUP, both Brand and Swauger began their careers with the Big 4 public accounting firm, Deloitte, in their Pittsburgh office. Brand worked in audit, whereas Swauger worked in tax. After working for Deloitte for 2.5 years, Brand left for an internal audit position with PPG, and Swauger left for a tax position with AEO. Brand and Swauger spoke to the students about some of the rewards and challenges of working at Deloitte, why they left public accounting for positions in industry, the IUP classes that best prepared them for their careers, and information regarding the CPA exam.

SAA meeting with Jennifer Brand and Katie Swauger While at Deloitte, Brand audited TMT, hospitality/gaming, manufacturing, and education and nonprofit industries. Brand mentioned several benefits of working at Deloitte, including the PTO (paid time off), well-being cash bonuses, and having the opportunity to work from home. The challenges she faced were busy season hours, travel, and the repetitive nature of the work. When transitioning employment to PPG Industries, she enjoyed leading and assisting with various PPG audits, exposure of acquisition audits, and being able to expand her network. She mentioned the following IUP classes that had great applications to her career: the principles courses, intermediate accounting, auditing, and business communication.

During her time at Deloitte, Swauger primarily worked on tax exempt clients, such as hospitals, schools, and private foundations, and a few corporations, partnerships, and individuals. For Swauger, the benefits of working in tax at Deloitte included having a routine work location with no out-of-town travel and working with the same colleagues, which promoted close friendships. The challenges included the duration of the busy season and having a large number of clients. When starting her employment with AEO, Swauger has enjoyed the shorter 40-hour work week, having only one company to prepare taxes for, and having a hybrid model of working from home and the office. She mentioned the following IUP classes that had great applications to her career: corporate tax, intermediate accounting, and excel finance class.

Lastly, they talked about how they obtained their 150 credits to sit for the CPA exam, and some advice when preparing for it. Brand obtained the required number of credits by taking community college courses. Swauger created a self-designed minor to get the required number of credits by taking courses in intensive writing and communication. They both mentioned that many employers offer resources to help study for the CPA exam at little or no cost. They also mentioned that some firms reimburse for passing parts of the exam. They noted these are important things to consider when looking for full-time opportunities.

Written by:  Alexis Diehl, SAA senior vice president