Sunday, February 23, 2020

A Comparison of Public Accounting

This was my first week at my new job, and oh boy! I went to the client on the first day and was immediately busy-busy-busy. My hopes for a leisurely orientation week and mild 40-50 hour weeks were not realistic; it seems public accounting, no matter where you work, still has demanding hours during busy season and relatively stressful demands, but I'm happy to say that I think I'm going to be equally happy working here as I was with my job in Bellevue.

That being said, there are definitely differences. I'm not sure if these are company differences, differences between Big 4 and national-sized firms, or because of different countries' cultures.

Immediately there were some things I missed about CLA:
  • A travel monitor–I'm used to always having two monitors (sometimes even three) and now I only have a small laptop screen to work on. No one else seems to mind, but I'm considering buying a travel monitor for myself. 
  • A dedicated desk space–This was a long-standing debate at CLA but by my last few months I had my own desk with my name on it. At my new job, I don't think anyone has a dedicated space, not even partners. Everyone groups along the open bench spaces in order to sit with other people on their immediate team, and if you need to take a phone call you move your laptop to one of the sound-proof booths that are scattered around. I don't think this will be as big of a frustration for me here, because I'm only expecting to be in the office very sparingly. 
  • Standing desks– this was a real treat at CLA and when I was in the office I loved being able to move up and down at the push of a button. I'm re-learning what a bummer it is to sit at a conference table 10 hours a day.
  • Jeans in the office–I loved the "dress for your day" approach that CLA took. I think that people who work exclusively in the office here might also dress more casually (it's hard to tell because I've only been in the office a total of 6 hours) but I need to always be dressed ready to go to the client. 
  • Always understanding the inside jokes–I know that the longer I'll be in this job, the more stories and jokes I'll be in on, but often times the conversations around me are happening in Polish. I don't resent anyone for speaking in their native language but I do feel a little left out. 
  • Traveling–Yes, there were times where the traveling was too much, but I liked the variety I had at my former job. I got to visit really cool places because of my job, and sometimes Cameron even joined me. Although overall I think the stability of working in the same city all the time will be a nice change, I would have liked to be able to travel (especially to different countries). Alas, most likely my only out-of-town traveling will be to Warsaw for trainings. 
  • Client variety–Similarly, I liked working with different clients every few weeks. I think now my whole job will be focused on one (maybe two) clients. Luckily, I will at least be working on different subsidiaries every week or two. 
  • Per diem–Hand-in-hand with traveling was the per diem. I often tried to eat cheaply so that way I felt like I was earning a little travel bonus. If the few times I will travel, I'll just be reimbursed for costs. If I want, I can even apply for a company credit card.
  • Onboarding process–I know that I started in a very traditional route at CLA. I was right out of college and started with a group of other recent graduates. The first week was training and about month later I got further training in Minneapolis. I know I'll be in Warsaw for training next month, but I would have liked more than the quick half-day overview I got on day one. Similarly, I don't feel like I've been introduced to all of the important people I'll need to know and I definitely haven't been told how to contact IT on my own. 
  • My commute–It was unusual to live as close to the office as I did, but I liked that I could walk to the office and then any to-client travel I had was reimbursed by CLA. Although I'm walking distance to PwC's office, I'm never going to be there. Instead, I'm paying about $2.50/day for bus tickets to the client. I know it's not much but it still is a slight downside.  
  • Unlimited PTO–I took full advantage of this at CLA, and I typically took off up to six weeks a year. I'm not 100% sure about my leave, but I know Polish law requires I get at least 20 days paid time off, and I likely qualify for 26 days because of my work and university experience. Polish law also requires that everyone take a consecutive two-week break at some point during the year. 
There are a few things that I think are going to be better at PwC. Unfortunately, some of the in-office benefits won't really be relevant to me since I'll be at the client 95% of the time, but I'll still list them out here:
  • More consistent hours–Even though public accounting still is a demanding job that mandates   long hours, the work-life balance still weighs heavier on the "life" side in Poland. 
  • Overtime pay–I'm a salaried employee, but legally my hours have to average out to 40 hours/week. To get around that for busy season this time of year I am expected to work 9 hours days and during other parts of the year 7 hours are the average. And, I get paid overtime (I believe it's 1.5x during the week and 2x on weekends). While I would rather not take overtime, I don't feel as much resentment for long days when I feel like I'm being compensated for it. 
  • Lunch breaks–No one eats lunch while working, which used to be my norm. Every day the team always takes 30 minutes to eat together in the kitchen to have a social break. It's a reminder that even while at work, you don't just have to think about work. This daily ritual is a little weird for me right now because I'm used to eating on my own schedule, but I think once I'm used to it it will be really nice. 
  • Work-provided iPhone–I remember when I was at CLA it was strange that I was using my own cell phone plan for work-related phone calls. It's a little cumbersome managing my work and personal phone, and I think some people just migrate all of their personal use onto the work phone, but I fell like a true professional on a work-phone. 
  • Nicer backpack–It's a little smaller, but a much hipper look and much more adjustable. It's sleek, and I don't feel like I'm wearing a target that advertises "I'm an auditor" all of the time. 
  • Monthly massages–CLA used to have this but stopped providing them after the office grew too big. I doubt I'll sign up for these very often, but maybe I'll make a point to go into the office on the massage day of the month. 
  • Purchase points–I haven't read into it too much, but I think that I will get ~$40/quarter to be used for certain purchases. It sounds like most of my co-workers use this for gym memberships or on gift cards to be used for work clothes. I'm going to see if I can buy a bus pass with it. 
  • Company credit card–I'm not sure if I'll even apply for this since I won't be traveling much, but having a company card is far less cumbersome than requesting for reimbursements and waiting a month to actually get paid back. 
  • Coffee and tea–This was provided at CLA too, but the coffee culture is quite entertaining. Anytime anyone wants to refill their mug, they invite the whole team to join them. Three or four times a day, everyone gets up and takes a few minutes. From what I can tell, this is another excuse to take a mental break from work and to socialize with your coworkers, and it happens both in the PwC and client office.
While some of the details are different, many things are the same. Everyone does some light complaining about the work demands and their frustrations with the client. The workroom is more jovial once the managers are out of the room. When you've worked a long day or long week, you get to complain/brag about it. Because of the work demands, you become close to your coworkers.  I miss my old coworkers, and still am part of some of their group texts and Snapchats–I even participated in an international water-drinking challenge with them this weekend–but I'm optimistic that I'll befriend my new coworkers here, too.

I didn't take any photos at my new job (I thought that would be weird during my first week) but here are some other photos from the week:
Last Saturday I had a "Goodbye to Housewifing" party. As always, there was a spread. 

My times for the water-drinking challenge. I drank a gallon of water in 1hour 40minutes.

Chugging along.

Getting back to my old routine of weekend hikes. 

Hiking along the Skawa riven near Wadowice, the birth town of Saint John Paul II. 

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