When Leonardo Kim took his first accounting class while pursuing his online MBA through Kelley Direct, it’s safe to say he never envisioned himself working as an auditor for the Indiana Department of Revenue.
“I hated it,” said Kim.
But time and experience have funny ways of shaping a person’s perspective. And for Kim, who is now pursuing a Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) at the Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis, accounting has become the gateway to a rewarding career with unlimited potential.
“I had a stereotype in my head that accountants were just bookkeepers,” he said. “I thought CEO and COO titles were only for people who had finance degrees. I was wrong. The MSA program has helped me really understand what accounting means and the true potential I can achieve in an accounting career.”
Kim’s journey into life as a government auditor was anything but ordinary.
After graduating with a degree in violin performance and composition with a minor in piano from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, Kim started his career as a general manager with McDonald's. He had worked part-time for the fast-food chain while in college, and upon completing the company's management training program in Oak Brook, Ill., Kim looked forward to working his way up through the organization.
But the musician-turned-manager wasn't satisfied with the direction his young career was taking. The McDonald's management development system was too restricted in its focus, and Kim didn't like that the business knowledge he was gaining seemed limited to the practices of the fast-food giant.
“I thought it was a very narrow view of the world of business,” said Kim, who quit his job and began the Kelley Direct program. “Even though I had experience as a manager and gained many strong managerial skills while at McDonald's, I still felt like I lacked basic business knowledge.”
“As a leader in your profession, you have to be well-rounded. I always wanted to get an MBA to help fill the void of not having a strong business education, and Kelley was on the top of my list.”
After zipping through the Kelley Direct program in just 20 months, Kim again found himself working for a global giant in the services industry. This time it was Starbucks. And, as before, he found himself unfulfilled in his career.
“I had laid out a 2- to 3-year career path with my Starbucks recruiters, but after two years things were not moving as quickly as I would like," he said. "I did a lot of soul searching, and a friend told me to look into accounting. Once I did, I found what I wanted to do in business.”
In the fall of 2013, barely two years after finishing his MBA., Kim was preparing to enter his second master’s program at Kelley. But his aspirations to attend the Indianapolis MSA program full-time – students can complete the program on a full-time or part-time basis – unexpectedly changed after a meeting with a Kelley Indianapolis Career Services advisor.
With his mind now focused on a career in accounting, Kim visited the KICS office to get help changing his résumé and cover letter to better appeal to accounting recruiters. While there, he was encouraged to apply for two accounting internships that had just posted – one with Rolls Royce, the other with the state. With no significant background in accounting, Kim thought both opportunities were long shots.
"But my advisor told me that I had a strong résumé and that recruiters will be looking for transferable skills," he said.
Kim’s interview at the state Department of Revenue resulted in a full-time internship as an individual tax analyst. Two months later, he was offered a full-time job and began his new career in June.
“With my MBA in hand, some of my friends told me to just study hard for the CPA,” Kim said. “But I know the Kelley MSA will prepare me for my career beyond the CPA exam. There are a lot of places that offer accounting degrees – undergraduate and graduate – but they’re not the same.”
“This is the best thing I've ever done. I've probably never been so happy in a career.”