Anna Jones, MAcc’ 17 was first introduced to the world of accounting while working at Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. As part of the Global Security department, her role focused on analyzing the crime statistics aboard ships and reporting those activities to the countries in which they took place.
“Their Internal Audit department was looking for a staff auditor who had knowledge of the business but didn’t necessarily have an accounting background,” she said. “I became part of the Internal Audit department and loved the work.”
Once a quarter, Jones and another member of the internal audit team would board different cruise ships under assumed names and audit the ship’s financials as well as the on-board processes deemed high-risk by the business.
“I realized that this is what I wanted to do in my career but I also knew that it would be hard to climb the corporate ladder without the fundamental accounting knowledge that almost all internal auditors have from their undergraduate or graduate degrees,” she explained.
Becoming a non-traditional accounting student
Each Master of Accounting (MAcc) cohort at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business is comprised of students with varying lengths of professional experience. And with nearly half of each class coming into the program with non-accounting backgrounds, students are exposed to talent that has a rich diversity of perspectives and a variety of industry and academic experience.
Jones fit both of these demographics. The Hampstead, New Hampshire native came into the program with a little over two years of work experience at Royal Caribbean and she was an undergraduate political science major at Clemson University.
“One of the reasons the William & Mary MAcc appealed to me was if you have a certain GPA in undergrad, you didn’t have to take an entrance exam,” she said. “That was helpful as a working professional. But what really drew me to the program was their experiential learning opportunities like the Integrated Winter Field Experience and the DC Trek.”
Jones participated in both during her time in the program and she says those experiences have had a significant impact on her professional path moving forward. For example, her internship during the winter session at a public accounting firm solidified her desire to pursue internal audit as opposed to a job with the Big Four public accounting firms.
“I’m really glad I did it because it taught me that it’s not what I wanted to do. I can look back now and know that it wasn’t a good fit for me. Now I’m in a role that I am passionate about at an organization that I am excited to grow with,” she explained.
And she said the DC Trek was not only a great way to visit organizations like the SEC that she would otherwise be unable to gain access to, but it was a good way to get to know her classmates early on in the program.
“Relationship building was the key takeaway for me in the program,” she said. “I became really close with my classmates. Now, I’m able to go back to that network when I have an accounting question at work and I can ask for help.”
Climbing the corporate ladder
Today, Jones is an Audit Manager at Truist, the sixth largest bank in the United States which formed as a result of a merger between SunTrust and BB&T in 2019. She was initially hired out of the MAcc program as a Staff Auditor at SunTrust and was promoted to Senior Auditor and then to her current role within three years.
“I wouldn’t have gotten my job if I didn’t have the William & Mary MAcc. It would have been harder to open those doors,” she said.
Her managerial role primarily involves project management of audit engagements within the company. Jones is responsible for planning, scoping and developing the audit test plan and organizing resources effectively. She says she regularly serves as the audit representative for her business partners through attendance in bank meetings.
“My role as an Audit Manager is to add-value to the organization through the management of the independent evaluation of internal controls and key business processes and development of members of the engagement team,” she said.
Her current goal is to continue to learn as much as possible as a new manager about the merger process and financial services through the lens of internal audit.
“Internal audit gives you a broad knowledge about how a business works. I can be working on a project in one area of the organization for three months and then I get to work on an engagement in a different part of the bank,” she explained. “The fact that I’m continuously learning really excites me.”
Her advice to other potential non-traditional graduate accounting students?
Apply to the program, work really hard, and make lots of connections.
“I don’t have any regrets and I don’t think any of my friends from the program who worked before they did the William & Mary MAcc have any either,” she said. “We’ve experienced so much more growth and potential in our fields now that we have this degree.”