MAC provides expertise for graduate to chart his own career path
Dominick Viramontes (MAC ‘15) earned an accounting degree because he wanted to be an expert in something.
Even in business, he says, people respect accounting skills. “You tell them, ‘I know some accounting,’ and their eyes light up.”
So when the opportunity came along to apply to become a Postgraduate Technical Assistant (PTA) at the Financial Accounting Standards Board, he jumped at it.
FASB is the entity that writes the rules that accountants follow when working with businesses and nonprofits. It is, for new MAC graduates, the accounting equivalent of clerking at the Supreme Court (well — the Supreme Court has 36 clerks each year, FASB employs just 20 PTAs).
That experience and his UNC MAC education have led to a career he couldn’t have imagined — that he didn’t even know existed — just a couple years ago.
From Chapel Hill to the top of the profession
FASB’s PTAs end up earning expertise in accounting’s most fundamental rules, the standards and principles accountants follow.
“It was really cool,” Viramontes says. He had a talent — and thanks to UNC, the education — for delving into accounting and developing the knowledge that FASB needs.
“Research I learned in Financial Reporting A and [Financial Reporting] B from Jana [Smith Raedy, Dean of the MAC Program],” he says. “I wouldn’t be here if she didn’t tap me on the shoulder.”
In another class, doing financial statement analysis, a professor suggested Viramontes had a talent for digging deep. “It was really intense, analyzing someone’s financial statements and trying to figure out if they had committed fraud,” he recalls. “One professor said, ‘You should get your PhD.’”
For a year, Viramontes and his fellow PTAs helped FASB understand complex accounting questions and write the rules that eventually become industry standards, part of the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) that are the bible for the field.
Because he had studied finance as an undergraduate business major, Viramontes was assigned projects in accounting for financial instruments: hedging, classification and measurement of financial instruments, and accounting for credit losses.
The experience gave him the opportunity him to become an expert on those topics. He spoke to accountants at accounting firms and to companies affected by potential rule changes. He was even involved in organizing an industry forum to get input from small banks on one of the issues he researched.
After years of learning about accounting in college, working at FASB was “like seeing behind the curtain in Oz.”
It was also a chance to develop a whole new set of professional relationships. “It’s almost like another alumni network," Viramontes says.
“Here are people who are at the top of their accounting programs,” he says. “Everyone’s looking to make friends. You’re all interested in similar things. I met a lot of really cool people there.”
Opening new doors, and stepping through them
The role at FASB gave Viramontes more career choices, too. After immersing himself in the rules of accounting, Viramontes took a job where he could continue to do similar research.
He now works in Chicago at Analysis Group, a firm that supports lawyers involved in complex business litigation. He works with other accountants, as well statisticians, economists and other specialists. The job allows him to continue to explore accounting standards and how they’re applied — properly or improperly — in businesses.
“Lawyers hire us to do the analytics on a case, [for example], one company’s suing another for a merger and saying ‘Did you follow GAAP?’,” Viramontes explains. “You add that legal spin on to it as well. What holes can you poke in their logic? It just adds another layer of complexity, which makes it more interesting.”
It’s also opened his eyes to other career possibilities. Though he’s not going back to school (yet) — he’s too busy learning — he says his MAC has provided a foundation for a career that could lead him any number of directions.
“I find it hard to believe I couldn’t take what I’m learning here and apply it to a bunch of different business settings,” he says.
As Viramontes was finishing up his undergraduate degree, he was uncertain about whether he should take another year of school to get his MAC. That uncertainty has vanished now, he says. “I wouldn’t be here now if I didn’t do that.”
>> Learn what it takes to follow Dominick’s path