Alumna: Accounting '96
Alla Kashlinskaya has been with KPMG LLP since graduating from Towson almost 20 years ago. She is currently a director in the mergers and acquisitions tax practice.
When did you first become interested in accounting/auditing?
After moving to the United States from Russia, I felt it was essential to pursue a degree that could help me get a job. My research showed that accounting was a major which attracted job offers. Also, I was interested in tax because I saw firsthand how tax issues affected people in Russia. There was an outcry when Gorbachev tried to institute a tax similar to a sales tax—people could not understand why they had to pay more than the sticker price. Tax is more than just numbers—people get emotional about their money. So I went into accounting knowing that I wanted to end up in tax.
What was one major challenge you had to overcome as an undergraduate?
As an undergraduate, I had a 4.0 GPA, but could not get an internship. Four or five interviews produced zero offers. The problem turned out to be I did not understand the concept of selling myself to potential employers. During interviews I would expect the interviewer to be impressed solely because of the achievements outlined on my resume, so I did not say much.
I am forever grateful to a counselor in TU's Internship office. She took it upon herself to conduct follow-up calls on my internship interviews and discovered the problem. She then worked with me for several months to shed the notion that presenting all the great things about yourself at an interview is not bragging, impolite or wrong. Her advice was that everything I said during an interview should show how qualified I am for the job. Our work paid off. My next 13 on-campus interviews resulted in 11 job offers.
Which professor had the biggest impact on you?
I owe a lot to Professor Barry Buchoff. As my faculty adviser, he helped me in many ways, but I am especially grateful that he pushed me to join Beta Alpha Psi Accounting Honor Society. He insisted that I join BAP, despite my objections that I didn't have the time for the meetings (I worked three days a week) or the money for the dues (I was an immigrant fresh off the boat, after all). He was right. BAP helped me understand the world beyond the classroom, identify opportunities in accounting and tax, meet employers (including KPMG), and make friends in the process. I still value and appreciate his advice, now probably more than I did 20 years ago. I talk to him before undertaking major career steps—for example, going on a rotation to London and on another rotation in the Washington National Tax practice of KPMG. At graduation, I gave him a t-shirt that read, "The Best Advisor." I'm not sure if I got the right size, but it was definitely the right fit.
Based on your experiences, what's the best advice you'd give to Towson accounting
Take advantage of all the accounting clubs and organizations available at TU. Yes, good grades are important (believe me, I worked hard to get them too!). But BAP prepared me for the first couple of years of my career better than any classroom learning.