Following their spring graduation, Oliver Fontaine ’24 will start an assurance staff position at the Hartford office of Ernst & Young. They spoke with us about landing a job at a “Big 4” firm before graduating, the joys of being a Campus Ambassador, and the power of networking.
“Accounting is the language of business,” says Oliver Fontaine ’24. “It is embedded in every organization, including for-profit, not-for-profit, and government agencies. Accounting is a field that has so many avenues for exploration and professionalization.”
When Fontaine began their studies at Simmons, they wanted to major in Mathematics. After taking coursework in financial mathematics, they switched to the Accounting major. “I loved all my accounting classes. After doing some research in the field, I thought it would be wise to make the change.”
In mid-October, Fontaine applied for an assurance staff position at Ernst & Young (EY), one of the “Big 4” accounting firms. “After having two 30-minute interviews with assurance managers, I received a job offer by the end of October. I will start this position in the summer or fall of 2024, and will join their Hartford office. I feel so relieved and rewarded to have my post-grad plan set this early. Celebrating this achievement with my loved ones made me so happy.”
In their forthcoming role, Fontaine will review and audit companies’ financial statements. “We need to verify our clients’ inventories and assets, as well as other line items. This evaluation shows stakeholders, like employees, customers, and shareholders, the level of trust they can have and that the organizations are reporting appropriately.”
To land a job at EY right out of college is an impressive achievement. “As one of the ‘Big 4’ accounting firms, EY has offices all over the world. They provide a wide range of services concerning taxes, auditing, consulting, and more. Their client base is international and diverse, representing numerous industries, including manufacturing, technology, not-for-profits, and government agencies.” In recent years, Simmons graduates have had astonishing success in the accounting field. For the third year in a row, 100% of the graduating classes of accounting majors have received full-time job offers well before graduation, and 80% of these graduates have accepted prestigious and competitive positions at EY.
Fontaine received excellent accounting training at Simmons. “Professor Ray Pfeiffer is my primary accounting professor and advisor. I have classes with him twice a week and I always feel welcome stopping by his office,” says Fontaine. “Associate Teaching Professor and Interim Director of the School of Business Erin DeCurtis has made me feel so supported in my internship and job searches.” In particular, Fontaine found the Accounting Internship courses (ACCT or BUS 370A and ACCT or BUS 370B) to be crucial for their success in the job market. “I learned how to network, tailor a resume, and interview successfully. Part of this course sequence is creating and making goals for ourselves, and the professor is there to support you. The courses also featured Simmons alumnae/i panels that supported our networking and professionalization.”
A major reason why Fontaine was drawn to Simmons is its smaller, more intimate atmosphere. “I value the small school feel. At Simmons, all of my professors know me by name and encourage their students to go to their office hours to ask questions. It has been easy for me to make friends outside of my program and across class years. Moreover, the Boston location is great for internship opportunities and recreational activities.”
Fontaine is so invested in the Simmons community that they work as a Campus Ambassador, offering tours of the academic and residence campuses to prospective students and their guests, and completing various administrative duties within the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. “I just love Accepted Students Day,” they say. “There is so much energy on campus with all of the prospective students who are excited about Simmons. It is a pleasure to welcome them into the space.”
Regarding advice for Simmons students and aspiring accountants, Fontaine emphasizes the importance of networking. “When I network, I’m connecting with professors and discussing my goals with them. They help point me to promising individuals who work within my desired profession. I conduct informational interviews and ask people about their journeys.”
Fontaine has had formative networking experiences with Simmons students and alumnae/i and through the Simmons chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, an international accounting, finance, and information systems honor society. In fact, they landed an earlier internship with Beacon Hill Associates, LLC (a small Boston-based accounting firm) through a connection with a Simmons classmate. In winter 2024, they will begin another internship with CohnReznick (a mid-sized advisory, assurance, and tax firm with headquarters in Sacramento and an office in Boston), an opportunity that emerged after meeting a representative from the firm at a business event at Simmons.
“Not every networking activity is going to get you an internship or job offer, but it’s important to learn about your industry and form relationships with people in it,” they advise. “Connecting with people in this way is very beneficial in the long term.”