Success Stories
MS Tax Alumni
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June 5, 2020 |
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From Big Four to High Tech, Tax Alum Blazes Trails

Robert Patterson credits GGU with giving him the confidence to embrace a non-traditional path toward an innovative and ambitious tax career with the Big Four, multinational companies, and the state of Kansas.

By Jenny McKeel
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Robert Patterson, MST 2004, has enjoyed a storied career as a tax practitioner. Currently, he serves as a Microsoft director, ensuring internal control over financial reporting across all functional  tax and trade areas. Previously, Robert worked on initiatives related to global and domestic tax compliance and policies with the Big Four accounting firms, multinational companies Walmart and American Express, and the state of Kansas where he helped draft tax legislation. But when he first began his career, he wasn’t sure where he was headed.

“Success is the journey, not the destination,” said Robert. “That’s how I always saw it. The path to success is not as defined as one would think. There are many roads and avenues.”

From Merrill Lynch to GGU

When Robert interned with Merrill Lynch during his senior year at Pacific Lutheran University, his instinct said to follow his curiosity about what he didn’t know. Today, Robert believes those unknowns can compel your career trajectory. At Merrill Lynch, he discovered that large organizations like Merrill Lynch incur expenses in the multimillions for tax consulting and compliance to the Big Four consulting firms. He diligently pursued his curiosity about that aspect of the tax area, which ultimately led him to GGU’s Master of Science in Tax program.

“There was a multitude of learnings that I got at GGU that differed from anything I’d seen previously,” said Robert. “IRS codes, payroll and employment tax, toolsets and databases. I gained tools that could really unlock doors to new opportunities.”

The Road to the Big Four

Robert used his time at GGU to build powerful networks with professors, students, and valuable professional contacts who he met on lunch breaks. He prepared exhaustively for an important career fair during hiring season and received offers from all Big Four firms. He also introduced his GGU peers—who were more introverted and cautious—to the hiring employers at the career fair.

“That day, 100 percent of my cohort got interviews. I took each person around to the hiring managers, and they all transitioned into job opportunities,” said Robert. “I knew how accomplished my colleagues were. Helping them transition into roles was the true reward of the process.”

Then, Robert made a bold decision. He rejected all of the employment offers from the Big Four. After asking detailed questions of the hiring managers and their staff, and analyzing the insights they shared, he realized accepting one of those offers could result in being pigeon-holed in one specific area.

“GGU was a light in my eyes to all the opportunities in front of me,” said Robert. “I saw myself at the Big Four but it was a path that I wanted to own. I wanted to position myself for greater autonomy and exposure to different areas within the tax world.”

CPA Rising Star

He took a position with a smaller firm in Washington state that appreciated his diverse areas of interest. There, he worked with clients and focused on specific tax issues that compelled him. Eventually, he transitioned to a new position with one of the Big Four, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), in Seattle. Because he gained confidence and valuable experience at a smaller firm, he was able to leverage his advanced skills at PwC to work directly with partners and clients. Robert’s successes serving clients at PwC garnered two accounting awards: the Washington State Society CPA Rising Star award and PwC’s Chairman’s award. These experiences, and the empowerment they afforded, opened doors that led to greater opportunities at Ernst and Young, multinational companies Walmart and American Express, and the state of Kansas, where he drafted two bills that were enacted. The road eventually led Robert and his wife to move to the Pacific Northwest, where he joined Microsoft as a program manager overseeing Tax and Trade. Along the way, he earned an MBA from Morehead State University, an MS in Operations Management from University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, and a graduate certificate in State and Local Taxation from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The Power of Education

“My parents instilled important values in me,” said Robert. “My father was raised in Philadelphia and when he retired from the U.S. Air Force, he continued working. He was always learning computer science applications. I benefited from his energy, learnings, and knowledge-sharing.”

Robert’s mother, raised in Alabama, was a teenager in the Selma, Alabama Bloody Sunday protest. She was among the young protestors who survived the brutality of Alabama State Troopers. Following this powerful and enduring life experience, she enrolled in a local community college in Alabama, post-segregation. In the face of aggressive discrimination, she showed up every day well-prepared and earned high marks, knowing that the value lay in simply being present in the classroom. Then, she made a bold decision. She moved her family as far north as they could go—to Alaska, where she completed her BS in Nursing and returned later to earn her PhD.

“She took those learnings about diligence and preparation throughout her life. Those thinkings and styles that my parents gave me influenced me as a young man and as a professional,” said Robert. “I don’t have to repeat what they have done, but through empathy I was able to learn from them and understand their experience.”

Throughout Robert’s career, his experience at GGU has continued to reverberate. He’s referred people he’s met at other institutions and employers—40 individuals in total—to GGU.

“I’ve now taught at quite a few institutions,” said Robert. “And, from the post-graduate perspective, I’ve never seen professors who put in the time and investment like faculty at GGU. That focus on individuals has stayed with me. There’s truly this ‘you matter’ component to what GGU delivers.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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33 minutes ago

Golden Gate University

Congrats to Khwanchat Wongjiantip, the 2020 Outstanding Student in the Doctor of Business Administration program. 👏 🏆 Khwanchat came to GGU wanting to teach at the college level because he loves sharing his knowledge with new students and exchanging ideas with the next generation. He knew the DBA program would be challenging, but close interactions with his professors and other students helped him complete his degree within four years.

Where did you grow up?

Bangkok, Thailand

Why did you choose GGU?

I researched many universities that offer DBA or PhD programs. I was impressed that GGU has had a DBA program for decades and that some if its students come from Thailand. When I applied, this gave me the confidence that GGU would be a great place to pursue a doctoral degree.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

I'm proud that I earned my DBA degree in four years—a long process. I took a couple years to take all my classes, and then I spent almost one year developing my dissertation proposal, which I revised at least 20 times, and defended it. Finally, I spent one year working on my dissertation and getting it approved by my dissertation committee.

What are your future plans?

When I go back to Thailand this December, I plan to apply for a position as a professor in accounting. My future goals involve learning as much as I can in in accounting and also business. I would love the opportunity to teach and shape student success.
... See MoreSee Less

Congrats to Khwanchat Wongjiantip, the 2020 Outstanding Student in the Doctor of Business Administration program. 👏   🏆  Khwanchat came to GGU wanting to teach at the college level because he loves sharing his knowledge with new students and exchanging ideas with the next generation. He knew the DBA program would be challenging, but close interactions with his professors and other students helped him complete his degree within four years.

Where did you grow up?

Bangkok, Thailand

Why did you choose GGU?

 I researched many universities that offer DBA or PhD programs. I was impressed that GGU has had a DBA program for decades and that some if its students come from Thailand. When I applied, this gave me the confidence that GGU would be a great place to pursue a doctoral degree.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

Im proud that I earned my DBA degree in four years—a long process. I took a couple years to take all my classes, and then I spent almost one year developing my dissertation proposal, which I revised at least 20 times, and defended it. Finally, I spent one year working on my dissertation and getting it approved by my dissertation committee. 

What are your future plans?

When I go back to Thailand this December, I plan to apply for a position as a professor in accounting.  My future goals involve learning as much as I can in in accounting and also business. I would love the opportunity to teach and shape student success.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to train working professionals in the Bay Area who are involved in a dynamic, diverse global economy and that’s what I love the most about teaching at GGU part-time. We have a great institution with a legacy of training working professionals and I believe in what GGU does." - Christian Teeter, leadership and international business instructor in the School of Undergraduate Studies ... See MoreSee Less

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to train working professionals in the Bay Area who are involved in a dynamic, diverse global economy and that’s what I love the most about teaching at GGU part-time. We have a great institution with a legacy of training working professionals and I believe in what GGU does. - Christian Teeter, leadership and international business instructor in the School of Undergraduate Studies

GGU is committed to serving our military veteran students. That's why we're proud to announce a $2 million commitment of support from The Helen Diller Foundation toward an ambitious initiative that will provide robust support for veterans along their entire educational pathway. Among other things, the grant will fund the establishment of a Veteran’s Center that will focus on academic, social and career success.

Learn more here: ow.ly/pUB550BzGQb
... See MoreSee Less

GGU is committed to serving our military veteran students. Thats why were proud to announce a $2 million commitment of support from The Helen Diller Foundation toward an ambitious initiative that will provide robust support for veterans along their entire educational pathway. Among other things, the grant will fund the establishment of a Veteran’s Center that will focus on academic, social and career success. 

Learn more here: http://ow.ly/pUB550BzGQb

The San Francisco Business Times reports that COVID-19 is accelerating changes that are making the MBA valuable to more diverse students. More schools are rolling out flexible and affordable programs. Women and students-of-color are opting for part-time and online programs that allow them to work, go to school, and care for their families. Experts say these trends will continue in the age of COVID-19. And among Bay Area offerings, GGU ranks in the top 10 for MBA program enrollment. 👏 🎓 ... See MoreSee Less

The San Francisco Business Times reports that COVID-19 is accelerating changes that are making the MBA valuable to more diverse students. More schools are rolling out flexible and affordable programs. Women and students-of-color are opting for part-time and online programs that allow them to work, go to school, and care for their families. Experts say these trends will continue in the age of COVID-19. And among Bay Area offerings, GGU ranks in the top 10 for MBA program enrollment. 👏  🎓

As we're reaching the end of this year's SGA Elections, our current SGA Team is hosting their last event to bring our community together. Join this event to connect with our SGA Team and enjoy the virtual fun on Zoom!
Register today: tinyurl.com/fall2020sgakickoff
... See MoreSee Less

As were reaching the end of this years SGA Elections, our current SGA Team is hosting their last event to bring our community together. Join this event to connect with our SGA Team and enjoy the virtual fun on Zoom! 
Register today: http://tinyurl.com/fall2020sgakickoff
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