McIntire alum Osato Aibangbee (M.S. in Accounting '16) is firmly devoted to the numerical and the spiritual. A deep commitment to her accounting studies helped her obtain her undergraduate degree from American University in Washington, D.C., before progressing to McIntire's M.S. in Accounting Program and earning her master’s degree a year later.
Though she had planned to enter the job market after doing some traveling upon graduation, Aibangbee, born and raised in Brooklyn, was surprised to find herself moved to suddenly pursue an internship doing service work in the Dominican Republic. For six months, she committed herself to humanitarian acts with a missionary organization in the island nation before returning to New York to accept a position at professional services firm EY.
We recently caught up with Aibangbee to find out how she’s made the adjustment from the rigors of college coursework and philanthropic endeavors to the challenges of professional life.
What first inspired you to do service work, and what can you tell us about that experience?
During 2017, I interned with Envision DR, a ministry of the Christian Missionary Alliance based in Santiago, Dominican Republic. I worked with a team of missionaries in Cibao, a region in the northern part of the country. Before 2016, I actually never considered missionary work as something I wanted to do, as I had originally decided to take a year off after my master’s degree to teach English in Spain and travel. However, at the beginning of 2016, during a fast with my church, I felt a calling to serve in the Dominican Republic.
After passing my CPA, I traveled to Santiago. Over the course of six months, I worked alongside the missionaries and local churches, teaching English classes and vacation Bible schools, evangelizing and praying in the community, putting on sports camps, and building friendships. My experience in the Dominican Republic was nothing short of incredible.
You had to make a pretty substantial transition when you came back to the States to start your career. What do you find most challenging and enjoyable about what you do at EY?
I'm a staff accountant in the health care industry, so I audit private hospitals in the NYC area. As a "staff 1" employee, I'm assigned a few lower-risk accounts to audit and perform follow-up procedures, which often includes conducting walkthrough interviews confirming the team's understanding of the clients' processes. Aside from client-serving work, I try to stay involved with recruiting efforts at the firm and professional networks such as the Professional Women's Network and the Black Professional Network.
Having said that, one of the most challenging things on the job is work-life balance. After being a student for more than 18 years, getting used to working the long hours of a full-time job is an adjustment. Just starting out my career, I want to do the best that I can and exceed expectations, but at the same time, I have to make time for the things I love to do outside of work and spend time with my loved ones.
Can you recall any experiences during your time at McIntire that connects with what you're doing now?
My whole experience at McIntire directly relates to the work I do now as an audit staff member at EY; McIntire really equipped me to excel. The communications classes strengthened my presentation skills and ensured that my business writing is focused and concise. The coursework covered in "Accounting Policy" and "Special Topics in Financial Reporting" made me aware of the impact that new accounting policies have on a company's financial statements and, in turn, the importance of my role in auditing those statements.
Another key takeaway was understanding the connection between changes in accounting policy and company behavior. Pairing that knowledge with refined critical-thinking skills gave me the confidence to take my participation with my engagement team one step further. I pivoted from solidly grasping the audit concepts to learning how to ask my team and clients the right questions to form a well-informed opinion based on the information presented. Knowing how to work with people is a crucial skill in accounting.
What would you tell any current students interested in an accounting career?
Complete the CPA exam before you begin working. I'm sure you've heard it 100 times, but if you are interested in accounting and plan on starting your career at an accounting firm, try your best to get it done as early as you can.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box in terms of career options. Just because you studied accounting doesn't mean you automatically have to work at one of the Big Four firms doing audit or tax. Really think about your interests and hobbies and try to incorporate them into your accounting career.