Lynn Dikolli advises her students that the key to success in public accounting – or any profession, for that matter – is to be a beneficial presence.
“Don’t just be there, but make a difference wherever you are—whether through the questions you ask or the work you do,” said Dikolli. “People recognize when someone has been a beneficial presence on the team – and then they want them to be on the next team. That’s very important, especially in the public accounting world because it’s team-based work.”
And Dikolli practices what she preaches. Prior to joining UNC Kenan-Flagler, she enjoyed a successful auditing career with KPMG and founded a business in Perth, Australia – experiences she’s used to become a beneficial presence in the Master of Accounting Program classroom.
“Lynn is very dedicated to her students and spends an unbelievable amount of time with them – teaching, mentoring and preparing them to become accounting professionals,” said Jana Raedy, associate dean of the MAC Program and Ernst & Young Scholar. “They benefit from the experience and deep knowledge that she brings to her audit courses and the strong connections she maintains with the profession.”
An award-winning teacher, Dikolli clearly enjoys being in the classroom with her highly motivated students. “Professor Dikolli is awesome. It’s obvious that she really loves what she is teaching, and you can tell by her spirit that she wants us to love learning it as well,” one student wrote. She is “really passionate about audit and I could feel it in class,” another wrote.
MAC students appreciate the professional skills they learn along with the technical knowledge. For instance, in her applied auditing seminar she uses a simulation called “Three Days at the Office” in which students work on all aspects of client engagement and then present to an external committee from a professional service firm. The simulation gives students valuable experience for what they will likely encounter when they start working.
“I’ve had a lot of feedback from past students that most firms gave them simulations in the first couple weeks,” she said. “While everyone else is panicked, my students say, ‘We’ve got this. This is even easier than what Dikolli had us do.’”
She also encourages students to embrace a global mindset and explore opportunities for international travel, which Dikolli said played a big role in attracting her to the accounting profession. While with KPMG, she lived in Canada, Bermuda and the Netherlands and worked with clients in the Philippines, U.K., Switzerland and Eastern Europe – experiences she says were beneficial to her career.
“I often got another project because people said, ‘Oh, you know what that culture is like. You know what they’re thinking,’” she said.
In addition to the opportunities for global travel, public accounting is a great place to start in the business world because it teaches the language of business and requires you to look at companies through a very different lens, Dikolli said. “It’s a great launching pad for your career – whatever it’s going to be.”
The majority of MAC graduates go into public accounting at one of the Big Four professional services firms – Deloitte, PwC, KPMG and E&Y – where they work with a wide variety of clients and are exposed to a variety of industries, business structures and management styles. From there, Dikolli said, graduates can go into any other aspect of business with a good understanding of which industries, businesses and management practices they like best.
And accounting firms value the well-rounded MAC graduates from UNC Kenan-Flagler, she said.
“A lot of schools teach to the CPA exam – very technical, theoretical knowledge. I take a much more practical approach because I want students to be effective on client engagements and in the professional service firm environment. I push my students so that they can be a beneficial presence, and I think the firms appreciate that.”