Tom Schalk BBA ’15, MAcc ’16 Has Found Success as a Financial Analyst for the Minnesota Timberwolves
When Tom Schalk, BBA ’15, MAcc ’16 arrived on William & Mary’s campus for his freshman year of college, he had his sights set on two things: living up to the potential of a promising college basketball career and earning his degree in business from the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. Over the next five years, Schalk was able to achieve both of those goals and earn his Master of Accounting (MAcc) degree.
“On the athletics side, I was impressed with the culture of William & Mary basketball. They prioritized more than just basketball and promoted a healthy balance with academics. I was drawn to the school because of that and found once I got there that the liberal arts focus exposed me to many different things,” he said.
But ultimately, Schalk knew he wanted to pursue a career in business. After developing a strong relationship with a professor in the Mason School, he entered the undergraduate accounting program with an open mind.
“I always loved math in high school and took a couple of accounting classes before coming to William & Mary,” he explained. “During my first few years in the business school, I especially enjoyed working in teams because it simulated a real-world professional environment while we gained the technical skills we needed to be successful.”
Balancing Athletics and Academics
Schalk experienced success on the court as well. By his senior year, he was named as a team captain and by the end of the 2014-2015 season, he was awarded the All-Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) league's most prestigious honor, the Dean Ehlers Leadership Award. Schalk also achieved his goal of balancing academics with basketball and was recognized as a two-time CAA All-Academic Team member and a four-time William & Mary Provost Award winner.
“William & Mary offered me a lot of great opportunities. It’s a unique place to go to school and it ended up being a perfect fit for me for a variety of reasons,” he said.
And Schalk’s positive experience at the Mason School made the decision to stay for a fifth year to earn his graduate degree in accounting that much easier.
“The MAcc program allowed me to develop the technical skills I needed to prepare for and pass the CPA exam. I also honed my collaborative and communications skills which ended up being a large part of my first job out of school. The transition from student to working professional came with some challenges, but it would have been more challenging had I not received that preparation from the Mason School,” he said.
Landing a Dream Job in Professional Sports
Following graduation and armed with two accounting degrees, Schalk took several months off to study and sit for the CPA exam. He passed all four sections and moved back to his native Minnesota prior to starting his new job as an Assurance Associate at PwC.
He remained at PwC for nearly two years before he spotted an opening with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the local NBA team.
“PwC is a great company. It was never necessarily my intent to transition into the sports industry, but it certainly was a dream of mine to work in sports. I have such a passion for it,” he explained. “I thought this was an amazing opportunity and I was very eager to apply for the opening. I was excited to get the job and I’ve been loving it ever since.”
As a member of the Timberwolves back office, Schalk works as a financial analyst. He says the technical aspect is the same, “accounting is accounting,” but there is no such thing as a normal day.
“It’s always changing. I have typical accounting responsibilities like month-end closes, financial reporting, and reviewing financial statements. But depending on the time of year or dynamic changes within the organization, I get pulled in on all sorts of projects,” he said.
For Schalk, that could mean providing projections to the NBA for revenue sharing purposes, making calculations for salary caps, or doing the due diligence revolving around the sale of the team.
“On paper this was my dream job but it easily could have been a situation where it ended up being a job that wasn’t what I thought it was. Fortunately, it really has been everything I could want and more. I enjoy working with other like-minded individuals and working in a strong team environment,” he said.
He says the job also comes with some nice perks like tickets to games and meeting the players at the annual holiday party.
“I have been very lucky in my career. The education I got at William & Mary opened the door for me to get a job at a company like PwC and earn my CPA license which were experiences that led me to my current job,” he explained. “The best advice I can give others who are looking to follow a similar career path to mine is to remember that your career is not a sprint. Work hard in the moment and the in-between jobs will help you reach your goals. Look at every opportunity as a way to build the foundation for you to get to the point where you have the skills and the confidence to then take on your dream job later.”