Ep. 37: Luke Harris - A Change in Accounting Studies

December 23, 2019 | 12 Minutes

Luke Harris joins Count Me In to talk about accounting studies, research, and volunteer work to help accounting students and young professionals in the industry understand the demands of properly preparing for today's workforce. Luke is a Risk Assurance Associate at PwC and has won the IMA Young Professional Leadership Experience, various scholarships and academic recognitions, and has volunteered for multiple organizations throughout his studies. He has passed both the CMA and CPA exams, is a CISA Candidate, and continues to remain involved in his associations and organizations to further develop his academic and professional skills. In this episode, Luke will detail the impact of his international studies, a particular are of interest in his research, and explains how he's been able to balance all these shifting priorities through his young career. Download, listen, rate, and review now!

: (00:05)
Welcome back to Count Me In. I'm your host Mitch Roshong and this is IMA's podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. For today's episode, we're going to take a look at the education that is impacted by our changing industry. As we hear Adam talk with Luke Harris, associate at PWC as he explains his recent accounting studies and the experiences he's found most helpful in entering the profession. Let's listen to their conversation now. 
Adam: (00:37)
So I understand you studied international accounting and logistics globally. Can you tell us a little bit about where you studied and what the most interesting aspects were of accounting in each country? 
Luke: (00:47)
So I first studied internationally in France as part of a one semester exchange program. I was based out of Rin just about two hours by train outside of Paris. And this afforded an abundance of opportunities both personally and academically. Knowing that there were international standards that varied from the generally accepted accounting principles, views in the United States. I was really interesting to me going into it. But after taking a variety of classes, I actually noticed how similar the two sets of standards really are and how much they're converging with recent standards updates. For instance, the revenue recognition standards and the least standard, both of these making gap more principles based to align with Ivers, which has historically been more principles based. I noticed that with logistics. I believe that my greatest aha moment was realizing no matter how small of a business you going to be are if not directly connected to the global network of trade. You are more than likely just only once removed from multinational firm, whether upstream from a supplier or downstream through or consumer of your product or service. And that was really big for me, realizing that there's really no way to avoid the global effects of currency fluctuation, cyber risks, sustainability and economic and political environments, which of course necessitates a many ways in which we can hedge those risks, which I find really interesting. I later studied logistics and Chile, which was remarkable physically speaking, just seeing the port in Valparaiso, the only major port in the whole country was incredible, but then learning the political and economic past and the influence that the U S and other countries have had in affecting their economic system was just amazing. 
Adam: (02:32)
So I've read you've done some research in cyber warfare. How have you been able to connect your international business studies to what you've learned about cybersecurity needs? 
Luke: (02:43)
Good question. My main takeaway from my research and studies is that this is an area anyone working on any sort of network I should feel competent with. And I mean anything. If you check your emails, convinced an online ordering, utilize any cloud computing, this is something you need to be familiar with. And somehow we think as the cloud gets more pervasive, it gets safer, right? As it gets larger, it gets safer as if there is a security in numbers that somehow more users make it safer. But when you think about it, that rationale is flawed. When I am using, say, Amazon web services, whether directly or indirectly through my school or work, I am opening myself up to a field of over 1 million users. And of course I'm relying on both the provider and servicer for adequate separation controls. And, uh, let's say if modern ground transportation, puts the country at our fingertips, it's the online web and cloud computing that have put the world at our fingertips. Now, the unfortunate side to this, the other side of this is that it has put us in our organizations within reach of bad cyber actors across the world, right? So that can be really intimidating knowing that really any bad cyber actor from around the world could potentially access my data if it's not properly secured. Your complication with mini servicers can also cause problems with cyber warfare specifically? I was shocked to find the ability and motivation by many nation States, uh, to disrupt multinational corporations. And if you look at the major cyber attacks happening in the past few years, many perpetrators were in nation States. But at the same time, it's almost as if many MNCs have placed the concept into sort of a buzzword box and not fully grasp the gravity of the issue at hand. Secondly, if studying cybersecurity, I believe it is very important to not limit your research to your country of business even if you don't have international dealing because you again are more than likely just once removed from an a multinational corporation and you do have international exposure if you are on any sort of public network. 
Adam: (04:52)
So how have your various volunteer activities benefited your career. 
Luke (04:58)
As an individual, studying and working in accounting, I tend to get very focused into one particular area of interest at a time and I feel voluntarily volunteering and I think volunteering has really helped me in this area and it's helped me realize my place in the world as a human characteristic. We share with the over 7 billion of us on this planet. So even though I may be an accountant or a student, and those roles come with particular obligations of ethical behavior, technical competencies and academic orientation. But more than that, I'm an individual capable of having a positive impact on my society in a volunteer capacity, developing mentor, mentee relationships or volunteering with the nonprofits such as professional organizations, your house of worship or your local food bank, or always you can contribute to your community. Just find something you're passionate about and get out there to help as you can. And I think the natural byproduct of this behavior is realizing every activity you engage in, whether in the workplace or without the workplace impacts a variety of people, people you know, and people you may have never met. Consequently, the more you feel connected with those people is a crucial understanding to working within organizations and on teams. And that really touches on a second aspect of volunteering, which is developing empathy in the traditional sense. When volunteering, you are serving a group of people distinctly different than that, which would be representative clients and you're doing a service without monetary compensation. Inherently, this behavior opens up your field of exposure to new people and their lived experiences allowing you to understand new cultures and behaviors of people. It really fosters a profound and pathic understanding a skill, no doubt, beneficial to nurturing personal relationships, but also a skill absolutely required in the world of business. We're understanding of consumer's greatest need is paramount for success. 
Adam: (06:50)
Just from personal experience, I've found that volunteering not only, you know, helps me in all the ways that you've mentioned, but also just on a personal level, you recognized how much value was in the time that you give to whatever you're volunteering for and you just in some ways just feel better as a person. 
Luke: (07:09)
Absolutely. Yeah, there kind of comes with that, like a nonphysical, maybe psychosocial, I don't know, application. Yeah. 
Adam: (07:20)
So as a recent graduate, did you notice the accounting curriculum change as the industry and profession evolves? 
Luke: (07:26)
Yes, I do see change in accounting curriculum. However, from my experience, it doesn't seem that academia is capable or is really designed, in fact, to evolve at the pace private industry evolves, especially in this world where data is exponentially increasing year by year. If you think about the time-frame of publishing a journal alone, it could take years worth of data, months of writing and editing and then months of review before it's even published. And there's the time it takes to disperse the findings, get them in the textbooks, and then convince professors it's worth teaching. So while there is value in this process, I understand that as a student it was very impactful for me to attend conferences and develop professional relationships to make sure I was staying on top of the new information coming out in my field of study. 
Adam: (08:20)
So on that same vein, do you think, do you have any concerns that your accounting degree will be still relevant in 10 years? 
Luke: (08:27)
I do believe the information I learned through my courses will increasingly be less relevant to the current environment of business. But honestly, I'd be very skeptical of a recent graduate who viewed any degree as the certificate of success for today. I view my college career as a prerequisite for success in the area for which I have a desire to work. It is nourished to desire to know and understand. It does improved my ability to analyze issues, brainstorm solutions and implement solutions. But by no means do I view as sufficient for the future or even now for that matter. I believe reading professional journals and books and it's sending conferences and developing relationships with other professionals is really what will make you indispensable to your clients, colleagues and firms. I do hope that academia will continue to have a large impact on establishing the thought processes of the young and the world and I place much value on having that shared four or five year experience where a portion of that education coverage general topics of our world. I'm excited to see what that looks like 10 years from now and hopefully industry professionals will continue to be invited onto university and school boards to have a say and how that evolves. Well, I do believe a lot of the information I learned through my courses will increasingly be less relevant. I believe that real desire to learn is really what will have an impact in the future as data exponentially increases day by day. And we have all of these new technologies coming out. I believe what will be a factor in success for these new professionals will be their desire and ability to learn and adapt. And I believe that's something you learn through a college experience. I think one of the most interesting things for the future of accounting, which I am so glad to be coming in at this stage, is figuring out really on how to report on intangible risks. We have companies like Netflix that have more intangible assets, the tangible assets by far, but with that comes in tangible risks and we really have to consider it us as accountants, are we really even considering those risks deeply enough and are they being shown on the financial statements? And if not, how long will financial statements be relevant if we do not somehow find a way to get those risks either monetized or into some sort of report within the financial statements, to educate those potential investors and shareholders or stakeholders in the company. 
Adam: (10:54)
Now, do you see anything, like, have you seen any technologies or any things that, that would be able to help report on those intangibles that you just talked about? 
Luke: (11:02)
I do believe audits within information systems will continue to be beneficial. Um, but as far as a construct or a platform for presenting that data, um, I have not, I not in the profession yet. So, you know, 12 months from now I may have a better grasp on that. But, I do know there are a lot of academics who are putting a lot of work into this, but I have not seen anything as of yet. 
Announcer: (11:35)
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