Rachel Ogden, BS’11, MSA’19, always knew she wanted to study business, but it wasn’t until she took a chance on accounting that she found the right field to suit her interests.
During her undergraduate studies years ago at the Kelley School of Business on the IUPUI campus, Ogden had narrowed her major to either accounting or finance.
“As an undergrad, I thought finance was the sexier, more exciting major,” she remembered. “But I discovered the entry-level jobs in finance were often in sales, which didn’t fit my interests. Well into my finance degree, I took an accounting position and really enjoyed it. I could have switched my major to accounting, but I didn’t want to tack on two more years. I wanted to finish.”
After earning her Kelley degree in finance—and spending a year abroad teaching English in China—Ogden accepted an accounts payable position at a startup in California. She enjoyed the challenge of a small company and worked her way up to cost accountant. But as the company grew and the roles became more fixed, she recognized she needed to become a CPA to advance further in her career.
“I was 24 credits short of the 150 required to sit for the CPA exam, and the Kelley Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) Program at IUPUI provides 30,” she said. “I really enjoyed attending Kelley for my undergraduate degree, so it wasn’t even a question of where I would earn my master’s degree. There aren’t very many programs of this kind, and I knew Kelley is a very respected business school.”
This time around at Kelley, Ogden was a more active student. She became involved in the Graduate Accounting Student Board (GASB), helping to plan professional development, networking and community service events. Ogden, who eventually became president, says GASB not only allowed her to become more involved as a student, but also helped her recognize career options after graduation.
“Through GASB, I connected with Kelley alumni and attended professional events where I learned a lot more about the accounting field. These experiences helped me realize I wanted to make a career of public accounting,” she said. “I discovered I really liked the fast-paced nature and constantly evolving challenges, which is hard to find at any given company.”
In fact, those experiences helped Ogden land a job.
“I’d attended a ’CPA for a Day‘ event at Dauby O’Connor & Zaleski (DOZ), a firm specializing in affordable housing. They invited me back to interview for an internship, and I landed a spot in assurance,” she said. “Just having those opportunities to meet people you might not meet on your own was critical.”
Ogden wanted to be certain she was entering the right field of business. She decided to attend a panel discussion at Ernst & Young, where she gained face time with an accountant in risk assurance. Remarkably, that exposure culminated in a second internship during her graduate accounting studies.
“I did the internship in assurance at DOZ during the winter and the EY internship in risk assurance over the summer,” she said. “I experienced a mid-size accounting firm and also a Big 4 firm, while learning assurance and alternatives to assurance, which were skills I didn’t have at the time. It was incredibly valuable to have both of these experiences.”
Eighteen months before she graduated, Ogden signed an offer to become a staff accountant at DOZ. Ultimately, it was a position she discovered through a GASB event.
As she shifts her career focus to public accounting, Ogden is confident she’s found a fulfilling profession with endless opportunities. With a Kelley master’s degree in accounting, she’s positioned for lasting career momentum.
“There are so many opportunities to take accounting in any direction you want. Every company needs at least one of us, so you can find a career that works for you in any size company,” she said. “Companies are out there and ready to hire you. Attend a Kelley event on campus—employers will come to you.”
Ogden plans to sit for the CPA exam shortly after graduation. She feels the courses and the faculty at Kelley prepared her for the exam and a fulfilling career, regardless of which path she chooses.
“Kelley professors are genuinely interested in what they do. They love teaching, and they put thought into how they deliver content,” she said. “I’ve had professors stop in the middle of class and say, ‘I feel like you’re not getting it; I’m going to approach it a different way.’ They really read the room and are truly invested in everyone’s success.”
As Ogden prepares to begin her career in accounting, she is surprised by how much she has come to enjoy a field she once eschewed as less sexy and less exciting. She now thinks of accounting as an investigation of the financial books—a puzzle to solve.
“You have to find evidence that the numbers are correct,” she said. “As an intern, I once found a $1 million mistake. Typically in corporate accounting, you see one little piece of the puzzle, but in auditing, you see the whole company works together. That’s so interesting. You get to put what you’ve learned in class into practice a lot sooner than when you start in payables or receivables, looking at something small.”
Ogden says the professional development and industry insight she gained during her experiences in the Kelley MSA Program at IUPUI were unlike anything she could’ve achieved on her own. She says these opportunities, combined with the relevant and topical education through her degree, signal to future employers that she’s a solid choice.
“Some people have degrees and fall into accounting, but having a Kelley MSA and a CPA offers employers confidence in the things you know,” she said. “It makes you much less of an unknown quantity when they’re evaluating you for a position—you’re a better risk.”