Blog Archive

Monday, July 24, 2017

RSM's externship helps participant "reach for the stars"

Michael Babick, a junior at Texas Tech University, recently attended RSM’s technology and management consulting-focused Pathways externship program in Minneapolis and shared his thoughts on his experience:

The past two and a half days have been a whirlwind in the Twin Cities, but I couldn't be happier! RSM flew me up to Minneapolis for their 2017 Technology and Management Consulting Pathways [externship] program. My trip started Monday when I left DFW, on my birthday, to fly up to MSP. After a quick and easy flight, I took the light rail into Downtown Minneapolis and checked into my hotel, The Marquette, where RSM had booked us rooms. The plan was to explore Downtown Minneapolis, but by the time I got settled in I decided I'd rather kick back, get some work done, and call it a night early ... after all, I had a lot to look forward to the next day.

Day one kicked off with a quick breakfast and a welcome from Pat Vance, technology and management consulting principal at RSM. The day was filled with technical trainings detailing service offerings, Q&A with consultants, lunch with the partners and principals, a client sharing their experiences with RSM, team building (it turns out tech consultants aren't the most talented artists), a presentation on what stewardship means at RSM, and finally the food tour. Oh my gosh. The food tour ... so good, five words: chipotle maple glazed chicken wings.

Day two was really a chance for us to challenge ourselves and step outside of our comfort zone. RSM's Bottom Line Simulation showed attendees what it's like to be responsible for business development at a firm. From defining your values and other key characteristics, which potential clients consider, to determining a break even and sending the proposal to the client. While the team I was matched with didn't win, it was still a blast and showed not only just how intense the consulting world can be when competing for business, but also the challenges and huge weight that come with that responsibility.

All in all, this was an amazing opportunity to see what technology consulting is like in an accelerated timeframe. Looking back as I write on the plane home, I'm so happy I applied for the program back in April. I got the opportunity to meet some incredible students and peers, RSM employees, and learned more than I would have ever expected. The program was put together incredibly well, it seemed as though the RSM employee to participant ratio was 1:1 at times, the energy in the room was contagious thanks to the program leaders and I wouldn't doubt that every student who attended left the office feeling as though they could reach for the stars, and the stars would be within reach.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Interview with Ayesha Ali, IT Risk Associate in Chicago

Introduce yourself and share three fun facts about yourself. 

Hi! I’m Ayesha Ali! And I…
  • am the first one in my family to graduate college
  • go to a concert at least once a month
  • love donuts 
What is your favorite part of working for RSM?

I love how RSM truly values its employees and is committed to providing work life balance. I expected a lot of late nights at the client and coming to the office on the weekends to keep up with the workload. I was pleasantly mistaken. While I do have a long night once in a while at RSM, most days I’m home before 7 p.m. with no work to do at night. I’m able to come home, rest and come back into the office the next day relaxed and ready to go.

Also, the people here are truly one of a kind. The members of my department are all incredibly friendly, intelligent and hard working. Working alongside these individuals has made my experience here even more delightful.

You were hired as an experienced associate, how did you integrate yourself within the team so quickly?

Because I had experience, the team had a lot of faith in me and immediately assigned me onto an engagement. There’s no better way to learn a company’s methodology than going through an audit right from the get go. Everyone was very patient with me while I adjusted to RSM’s culture. Also, my in-charges really took me under their wings as mentors to me, and that helped me feel welcomed into the firm.

What has it been like working with you team members thus far? Any fun stories?

Working in teams on engagements, as opposed to working by myself in my past jobs, makes it easier to develop great relationships with my coworkers. I truly felt like I was part of a team, where my coworkers had my back. It’s always hard to learn a new methodology and many of my in-charges were extremely patient in my transition.

Furthermore, I dislocated my knee in January and was on crutches for two months. During that time, my managers were so understanding and allowed me to work from home when getting to a client site was difficult. The days I could actually make it to the client, my team members really helped me out by buying me lunch, filling up my water bottle and making sure I got home safe.

I think the unique situation I was put in caused my coworkers to feel empathic for me and because of their help in the transition and injury, I developed strong relationships with each of them where we work hard together to finish an audit, but we’re also great friends.

How would you describe the team and culture here at RSM compared to other firms you have worked for?

In a word, world class (okay, two words). RSM gives its employees enough work on their plate so that they are busy and challenged. I’m never bored at RSM and I see so many opportunities to do incredible things here that will help the company but also help me to grow as an individual.

Working at other firms, I used to always feel like my head was just above water in terms of my workload. At RSM, that feeling is a rarity. With the audit structured the way it is, I have a better handle on my work and don’t feel like I’m about to drown every day.

Lastly, I can’t stress this enough, the people here are what makes you fall in love with this place. RSM only hires the best individuals and it shows in the great teamwork, the high quality of service we provide, and the professional and friendly attitude to serve with it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Summer Internship Advice

For college students, summer is a time to enjoy the warm weather, reunite with old friends, go on vacation, and also…intern! RSM welcomed 475 summer interns across the country. Some walked through our doors feeling as confident as ever, others walked through a little nervous and unsure of what to expect.

What advice would former interns (now current associates or incoming associates) give this year’s summer intern class? Here is what a few had to say about being a successful intern at RSM:

“Do not be afraid to ask questions … but then be a sponge and learn from the questions you have asked. Also, build relationships with your in-charges, managers and partners.” – Kim K.

“Practice using Excel! And, hang out with the interns outside the office at happy hour or lunch.” – Austin L.

“Go outside of your comfort zone and try to accomplish work outside of the typical intern responsibilities. Network as much as possible. There will be some downtime so having people you can reach out to for extra work comes in handy.” – Garrett L.

“Take advantage of the good coffee in the office.” – Natalie N.

“Go out of your way to meet people! The work environment at RSM is fantastic and meeting as many people as possible is the best way to see how well you would fit in. Save the money you make and do something you will really enjoy with it. A few of your last paychecks could help pay for a trip to Europe!” – Henry H.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Culture: Putting Employees First

By Vineet Anand, PCS Tax Senior Associate, Houston

“Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion.” -Brian Chesky, CEO, Airbnb

Today’s working environment, to put it simply, can be a thrilling ride of working through challenging engagements while trying to achieve the peaks of accomplishment and self-worth. A key driving force pointing to one’s place on this ride is the culture put into action in the workplace.

I have had the pleasure of working in the Houston office of RSM since August 2016. Prior to joining the firm, I took an introspective look into my true professional needs. All signs pointed to culture at the workplace as the key to longevity and I’m happy to report that my tenure here has exceeded all expectations.

The humble roots of the Houston office can be traced back to Margolis, Phipps and Wright, P.C., a local tax firm focused on private client services. Acquired by McGladrey, now RSM, in 2013, the Houston office mixes the best of both cultures as evidenced every day at the office. Always cognizant of the end goal, the firm recognizes the prevalence of different work styles and promotes flexibility whenever possible. The commitment that management has put forth into putting employees first is a testament to the firm’s values and one of the many reasons I’m proud to be a part of the team.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Congratulations to RSM’s 2016 Elijah Watt Sells award winners!

Congratulations to 2016's Elijah Watt Sells award winners! Pictured from left to right: Tony Depiano, Kat Koehl, Dena Konneker, Rosemary Mantle, and Olivia Spooner. 

Five RSM associates were recently awarded the 2016 Elijah Watt Sells Award by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) for outstanding performance on the Uniform CPA Examination.

These associates are part of a select group who passed all four sections of the exam on the first try within the same year and with a cumulative average score above 95.5 on all four sections. More than 102,000 candidates sat for the exam in 2016 and only 58 were honored with the award.

Join us in congratulating:

Tony DePiano, Boston

Tony graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2015 with a degree in accounting. Before joining RSM full-time in Oct. 2015, he completed a 2013 externship and a 2014 internship with RSM.

Tony's advice for others taking the CPA exam: “just crush it.” He also believes that the secret of getting ahead is getting started.

Kat Koehl, Chicago

Kat joined RSM in September 2016 after making a career change from marketing and going back to the Ohio State University to get her master's in accounting.

Kat was naturally excited and surprised when she found out she won the award. "I wasn't aware of the award at first, I just knew I wanted to get the exams out of the way while the knowledge was still fresh in my head," she explained. "I worked hard and took the studying very seriously and it worked out."

Dena Konneker, Raleigh

Dena graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill with a Master of Science in accounting in 2016. She joined RSM as an associate in November 2016 and finished the last section of the exam in December 2016.

Dena recommends studying at the pace you're most comfortable when studying for the exam since everyone learns differently and has different goals.

Rosemary Mantle, Atlanta

Rosemary completed her undergraduate degree in accounting at the University of Central Florida and earned her Masters of Accountancy in May 2016 at the University of Georgia. She interned with RSM in the summer of 2015, before joining us full-time in November 2016.

Rosemary's advice to future test takers: know your own study habits and strengths, make a study plan that works for you and stick to it. "The CPA exam was one of the hardest experiences I've undertaken but the rewards have already made it worth the effort," she said.

Olivia Spooner, Boston

Olivia graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Vermont with bachelor's degrees in accounting, finance and economics and a master's degree in accountancy. Olivia interned for RSM in summer 2015 and joined the firm as an associate full-time in October 2016.

Olivia recommends taking the CPA exam as early in your career as possible.

The Elijah Watt Sells Award program was established in 1923 by the AICPA to recognize outstanding performance on the CPA Examination. Elijah Watt Sells, who passed away in 1924, was one of the country's first CPAs, was active in establishing the AICPA and was a leader in advancing professional education within the profession.

Monday, June 26, 2017

4 Keys to Excellence

In the mid-80s, Tom Peters published arguably one of the most influential business books ever, In Search of Excellence. Tom defined eight characteristics of excellent companies:
  • a bias for action 
  • staying close to the customer 
  • autonomy and entrepreneurship 
  • productivity through people 
  • clear and compelling organizational values 
  • focusing on what you do best 
  • operating with a lean staff 
  • finding a balance between having enough structure without getting stuck in it 

While for the most part, these eight characteristics still hold true today, the business world has changed a little (OK, a lot) in the last 30 years. At RSM we take excellence seriously – it’s one of our core values. And I’d say four characteristics of excellence that Peters listed really stand out for us:

Staying close to the customer

For RSM, building enduring relationships with our clients is key. Effective communication and generous listening enables our clients to truly be understood. By continuously developing these relationships, we become true business advisors and assist our clients with achieving their goals.

Focusing on what you do best

At RSM, we are focused on being the first-choice advisor to middle market leaders. This laser focus allows us to be the best at what we do and bring tremendous value to our clients. By staying focused, we are able to be the leading firm serving the middle market.

Having clear and compelling organizational values

At RSM, our five core values drive everything we do. We live these values every day and that makes RSM a great place to work.
  • Respect
  • Integrity
  • Teamwork
  • Excellence
  • Stewardship
Autonomy and entrepreneurship

At RSM our professionals have the autonomy to work when and where works best for them and their clients. And an entrepreneurial spirit is one of key qualities we look for when bringing new people into the firm – someone who is always looking for opportunities to improve themselves and positively impact their clients’ businesses.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Celebrate Good Times, COME ON!

You’ve just completed a big project. You and your team have been working SO hard to support your clients and ensuring you hit all of your goals successfully, and you did it! Congratulations! What better way to celebrate than with those who were by your side through it all? You have met all of your deadlines, and now it’s time to celebrate!

At RSM, we make sure to celebrate our people’s hard work and our post-busy-season events have surely become ones to remember. Hosted once a year, we come together to celebrate each other, our efforts and all our hard work. With food, music, games, generous raffles and prizes, everyone has a great time. Whether you’re mingling with a Partner, or taking selfies with your managers– we come together, not only as a team or an office, but as a family!

Our west-coast employees felt the warm sand in-between their toes at the Pacific Edge Hotel, enjoyed delicious pizza at Basic, or relished the beautiful city views of Downtown LA and the tallest skyscrapers around from the ultra-chic Elevate Lounge during recent post-busy-season parties. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Living Our Values: Stewardship

Los Angeles team supports AbilityFirst

The RSM Los Angeles Audit and Tax teams went head-to-head during the office’s 3rd annual AbilityFirst Eating Contest, raising more than $6,500 for AbilityFirst on Saturday, February 25. This year, the teams took on the Korean Fire Noodles challenge, and the tax team defended their title. 

This annual contest is hosted by RSM’s Abilities Employee Network Group (ENG), one of 11 ENGs that are part of the firm’s Culture, Diversity and Inclusion efforts. Each ENG provides RSM employees with professional and leadership development opportunities, and promotes our diverse professionals in serving our clients with expertise and thought leadership.

The LA Audit and Tax teams had the opportunity to buy “sabotages” for the opposing team (hot Cheetos, chili peppers, King Taco red sauce, Sriracha) or “aids” for their own team (milk, water, soda, refusal of sabotages). Through the war of buying and negating the sabotages, the Korean Fire Noodles challenge raised just over $6,500 for AbilityFirst!

The Abilities ENG is continuing to live RSM’s value of stewardship and raise money for AbilityFirst, with the LA office participating in the 2017 AbilityFirst Stroll & Roll on April 2.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Busy Season Spin Class

Here is a picture of  some of the employees
 that participated in the February Swerve Class!

Especially during busy season for accountants, work can be demanding and work-life balance can be challenging.  At RSM’s New York office, leaders  created “Busy Season Perks and Activities,” including Bagel Mondays, massage chairs and free spin classes, to help employee find more balance during busy season. 

Exercise has proven to be one of the top stress relievers.  RSM partnered with Swerve, an up-and-coming boutique spin studio in New York City, allowing employees to partake in a free spin class.  The studio, located less than a block away from the office, made it easy for more than 30 employees to attend the class during lunch.  The participants ranged from interns to managers and across all lines of business. Some employees even came with their engagement teams! The motivating music, dimmed lighting and inspiring instructors persuaded many employees to buy a package of classes. It was so successful, there is another RSM free class planned for late March. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Q & A with a RAS Associate: Meet Tim Nadler

Tim Nadler
Consulting Associate
Baltimore, MD

In this Q&A with risk advisory associate, Tim Nadler, he shares a bit about himself and how RSM encourages him to be his genuine self at work (and how he’s helping others do the same). 

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.
I love to travel!  I have been to all eastern seaboard states, Texas, Nevada, California, Denver, Ohio, Jamaica, the Grand Cayman, Dominican Republic, Mexico (4x) and Costa Rica (3x). The Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Niagara Falls and Costa Rica have been my favorite if I can have 4 favorites. I have a pet pig. He is a five-year-old Potbelly named Hamilton. His favorite things to do are eat, sleep and cuddle. He is an escape artist and loves carrots. I’ve never done karaoke, but I do sing in the shower.

You started as a tax intern, now you are in consulting for risk advisory (RAS) practice. How did you make that change, and why?
RSM really gave me the foundation to explore career paths during my two internships here in Baltimore; first in Tax, then in Consulting. I was able to see the difference between the two, and I really enjoyed the client interaction that I saw while interning in the RAS practice. Now as a full time associate, I am rarely even in the Baltimore office, which I actually love. Most of my time is spent on site at the client with the team. After my internships, RSM was gracious enough to give me the opportunity to decide how I wanted to start my career here at RSM. It meant a lot to me that the firm was supportive of my exploration of the different lines of business within RSM.

Any memorable client engagements?
We have a long standing engagement with a local government contractor that we have developed a relationship with beyond our day to day consulting work. As a mid-day break, we go on power walks with key management (on days above 30 degrees and below 85 degrees!) for a little over a mile. We talk about everything besides work – client’s kids in college, vacations, etc. We get some mid-day energy going, and we get some cardio in too! We even keep our tennis shoes in the car so that we don’t get blisters in our work shoes. Overall it develops our connection on an individual level, so when it comes to client work we really are creating closer working relationship and building trust within the client.

Why do you like RSM, what is your favorite part of the firm?
I really feel that the firm understands their employees, giving them the opportunity to grow into what each individual wants out of their own career, while working on firm goals. While in the Baltimore office or at national conferences, the make-up of our colleagues is truly inspiring. We really have some top-notch talent within our firm and it’s great that RSM encourages each one of us to be our best.

You are active in RSM’s employee network groups (ENGs). Can you tell us why you chose to get involved and what you hope to achieve through the group?
I have recently taken over the Pride ENG Baltimore leadership position. The reason that I have decided to be active in this cause is pretty simple to me; people should be able to be their genuine self at work. I wanted to promote the opportunity and environment for individuals to be open, feel safe and be supported for being LGBT within the workplace here at RSM. RSM, as a firm, does a great job at promoting a safe work environment for the LGBT community and I thought I could make an impact by encouraging LGBT allies within my local office as well. So far, Baltimore has been nothing but supportive of the efforts we are making. Way to go Baltimore!

Any advice to an incoming Associate?
Be prepared to LEARN A LOT! Ask questions, be curious, and be yourself!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How to make the most of busy season

Zahra Lalani
Consulting Senior Associate
Chicago, IL

Tell me a bit about your background with RSM.
My career with RSM began while I was in college when I interned with the financial services audit team during my junior year of college. After graduation, I started working with the audit team full time as an associate. This summer, after 3 years with the audit team, I transitioned to RSM’s consulting practice in M&A transaction advisory. Although I’ve technically moved to a consulting role, I continue to help out the audit team this busy season.

What do you think makes an auditor most successful during busy season?

There are quite a few habits and qualities that contribute to being successful on individual engagements and the overall busy season. While it’s true that a great amount of learning and work is condensed in a short, four month period, the skills to success (and mindset to succeed) is an ongoing process throughout the year.

As a new associate, it can be overwhelming to decipher what it is that you are actually responsible for doing. You’re just figuring your way out, learning what different acronyms stand for and mentally cataloging the specific terminology used in your industry. It’s almost like learning a whole new language, and on top of that you also need to produce quality work product!

This can leave you stressed out, not knowing where to begin.

There were several times during my first year where I felt the same way. Looking back through my four busy seasons, I’ve identified five actionable focus-areas for incoming associates to utilize as we begin this busy season:

1. Ask questions
Everyone says this, right? RSM’s culture focuses on personal growth and development as much as it prioritizes quality client service. This meant that I was able to ask anyone above me a question, knowing they would take out time to answer it or point me in the right direction if they couldn’t.

Let’s take this one step further: Once you’ve been given instructions, evaluate which parts you do understand and which parts you don’t. For the parts that are unclear, do some research, dig around on the intranet and read through the relevant documentation. Then approach your in-charge or manager with your question indicating what you’ve considered through your own research. You could be totally off base with the solution you come up with, but developing the “evaluate-research-ask” habit really helped me process new information and absorb new concepts quickly. Pro-tip: Keep a Q&A document on your desktop so you can reference this in the future, so you won’t have to ask again!

2. Understand expectations
At the beginning of an engagement, write down what you want to have learned by the time the engagement is over. If you haven’t worked on any engagements yet, it is reasonable for you to ask your in-charge what their expectations are of you. (E.g. How long should assigned tasks take? What would doing a good job on this project look like?) Write this down! Doing this will allow you to see exactly what you need to work on; it’s much easier for you to self-evaluate your progress when you have clear expectations. Every so often during my first busy season, my peers and I would discuss the types of tasks we’ve completed (read: “Am I being given the same or similar responsibilities as those around me?”); doing this helped me identify if I was on track towards becoming an efficient in-charge. Writing down what you already know how to do will help you identify new areas to focus on in your next engagement.

3. Understand “why?”
Your in-charge asked you to pick a sample five revenue items for testing. Do you know why? Is it because this is standard firm practice? Perhaps this type of selection is only applicable for this particular client? Well, a good way to build your knowledge base is to understand what you’re doing and how it applies to the overall audit objectives. As an associate you’ll most likely be responsible for carrying out detailed testing that was already designed by your in-charge. A great way to demonstrate enthusiasm is to figure out the purpose behind the tasks you’re assigned. Once you understand why you’re doing the testing you’ve been assigned, you’ll be able to add value to your engagement. You’ll also be able to add appropriate conclusions to your workpapers.

4. Focus by listening

The beauty of working at RSM is that you’re exposed to every part of an audit engagement from the very beginning of your career. This means being looped in on emails to clients as well as being present during walkthroughs, conference calls and face-to-face meetings with top level officers. While you may not be asked to lead meetings, you can still actively participate by listening to what’s being said and taking notes on anything you don’t understand. The content of these meetings usually provide a good context for how the company has performed in the past year, the major operations or revenue streams of their business, and any changes that may have occurred. For example, once I understood how a broker-dealer was recognizing revenue, I was better able to complete the revenue testing assigned to me. Observing these interactions as an associate prepared me to be an efficient and effective in-charge when I was responsible for leading meetings and walkthroughs.

5. Get involved
RSM invests in the communities in which its people work and live. This means there are plenty of service opportunities (i.e. walks, runs, industry outreach). Participate, raise your hand, and say “yes” to internal networking opportunities. Informal social settings often lead to the most interesting conversations. The more people that know you, the more likely new opportunities are to come your way.

How did you find time to recharge? What are some of your best practices to recharge during busy season?
Balance is key. We’re not machines, and even if we were – we’d eventually need a reboot. For me balance, meant engaging the parts of myself that were disengaged during the week.

Here are some things I did during busy season to recharge:

Physical activity
I played volleyball on the weekends to counter the hours of sitting and I spent at least one hour every day at the gym running, even if it was only at 4.5 mph; some days were better than other days. If I had been working at my desk for 3 or 4 hours without moving, I would get up. 

Finish easy tasks before the weekend
It’s hard to enjoy time off when you have lingering tasks, for example signing off without coding your time. I used Saturday mornings to wrap up lingering administrative tasks, so that I could enjoy Sunday with my family without the worry of missing a deadline.

Disconnect to reconnect
I planned dinner with friends for Saturday night and/or brunch with other friends on Sunday mornings. This meant I would be away from my computer, active and maintaining my relationships outside of work.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Living our values: Respect

Joseph Mazza
Office Managing Partner
Los Angeles, CA

One of RSM’s values is respect, which is defined as; a feeling of deep admiration for someone or  something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. Respect is a way of treating or thinking about something or someone. We show our respect for our fellow RSM colleagues in many ways, by thinking before we act, by being polite or timely and by listening to others as much as we talk or just saying “Good morning” or “Hello” when we see people. Respect is also displayed by offering others coaching and feedback.

Over the years, I have participated in many employee career coaching conversations, focus groups and exit interviews. One of the things that has always stood out to me in these sessions is that our people usually want and need more feedback. They like to be coached. This is something I have observed of people at all levels and why RSM has made investments in our feedback tools in the last year. But I have often thought to myself, “If everyone wants more feedback and coaching, then why aren’t people giving more feedback and coaching?”

Which brings me to my interpretation of respect; treat others the way you would like to be treated. If you feel you would like more feedback and coaching, then give more feedback and coaching to others. It is kind of a pay it forward, or good karma concept. If we all give more of it, we will all receive more of it. Additionally, coaching and feedback is a way of showing people we care, and has been proven to reduce employee turnover.

 So, as we start this new year, I’m asking my team to  show how much we care about our colleagues across RSM by providing more timely feedback and coaching. It demonstrates our respect for each other; our people will feel good; and we will have happy colleagues.