When Brandon Sayphraraj arrived at Cal State Fullerton in 2017, he was focused on an accelerated completion of his degree and a career in accounting.
The lifelong Southern California native and Valencia High School grad used a combination of internships, on-campus employment, and participation in the Business Honors program to get the most out of his time at Mihaylo College and CSUF and best prepare for his career.
Sayphraraj, who you may recognize from the Starbucks locations on campus, looks at the highlights of his journey and gives advice to his fellow accounting Titans.
He’s just one of the thousands of hardworking students finishing their degrees in 2020. Best wishes to all of them for a great future despite the current challenging times!
You completed your degree in three years. What were some of the challenges of taking this accelerated path?
One of the main challenges was planning which classes to take and when.
Because I knew that I wanted to graduate in three years, I immediately started planning with Marina Zarate from the Mihaylo Business Advising Center during summer 2017, prior to my first semester at CSUF.
The main issue that could hold back my graduation plan were prerequisites, so I scheduled multiple meetings with Marina to plan my business courses accordingly.
However, I also wanted to be CPA eligible by the end of the three years. Although accounting courses are technically business-related courses, you are only allowed to count each course for one category, which made it even harder to plan accordingly.
Another mental challenge was uncertainty of my ability to succeed. Because there aren’t many students who choose to pursue this path, specifically the CPA eligibility in three years, I sometimes doubted myself.
When telling others my plan, many discouraged me by saying that it would be incredibly difficult and had high likelihood of failure.
While I do agree that it was difficult, I honestly believe that you do not know what you are capable of until you try! I did not fear failure because I knew that as long as I put in 100%, I would succeed in anything that I do. Those who discouraged me from choosing the path were likely speaking from their personal experiences; however, everyone’s experience is different, so it is important to just believe in yourself.
What was the process of landing internships and then a full-time job at Deloitte?
Because I chose the accelerated path, I was on a tighter timeline to get into internships and other opportunities that would potentially lead to a full-time job.
During the summer after my first year in college, I landed an internship at a local manufacturing company in Anaheim, called MFG Direct, through my connections in the Business Honors Program.
One of the sophomores in the program left his internship at the company, and I took over his position as a business intern performing accounting and marketing duties. It gave me a great introduction to the “real world” of business and working with professionals.
During fall 2018, I began applying to internships that more closely aligned with my career path. I applied to Big Four accounting firms and big-name companies, such as Boeing, with the hope of a public or corporate accounting internship for summer 2019.
Unfortunately, I didn’t land an internship during that semester. Following the rejection, I did what most students would do and began to doubt my own abilities. What did I do wrong? Did I say something wrong during my interview? Was I not good enough?
With the help of Mihaylo Management Professor Naser Nikandish, I slowly rebuilt my confidence. He helped me realize that rejections are often not due to lack of ability but instead just because of luck. I realized that sometimes we are just unlucky, and that is OK. As long as you continue to work hard and believe in yourself, you’ll end up wherever you are supposed to be in life.
With that new mentality, I began applying for full-time public accounting jobs during fall 2019. This time around, I applied to MANY different firms of all types – Big Four, middle-market firms and local firms – because I did not care about the “status” of a company. Although the main goal was to get an offer, the most important part for me was to make sure that I felt like I belonged at whichever firm I eventually would choose. With the help of CSUF Beta Alpha Psi, I networked with professionals from different firms to see which company’s culture was the best fit for me. I received multiple offers at the end of the recruiting season, and I accepted the full-time offer to join Deloitte post-graduation as an audit and assurance associate.
When do you start? Will you be working in the office or remotely?
As of right now, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some uncertainty regarding the specific start date; however, Deloitte has stated that they are committed to the offers they have extended.
I and the others with the job offers are expected to start around September/October, but that could be subject to change. Deloitte has not yet stated whether we would be starting in the office or remotely, but based on the nature of auditing, starting remotely is definitely a possibility.
What is your fondest memory of Cal State Fullerton or Mihaylo College?
Definitely one of my fondest memories is being a part of the Business Honors Program, which requires core business classes to be taken with your BH cohort and ensures the students in each cohort are on track to graduate within four years.
In my BH classes, all of the students knew each other, which helped contribute to a better learning environment and students feel more comfortable communicating and collaborating.
Beyond the classroom, the BH program’s socials and other events help BH students build closer connections with their peers. The strongest connections are rooted through friendship, which the BH program does an amazing job in developing. We also have access to exclusive recruiting events with companies such as Google and Hulu, which helps students develop their professionalism.
You worked at the Starbucks coffeehouses on campus and were well-known by Starbucks customers on campus.
Working in the Pollak Library Starbucks was my favorite of all because that location had the most diverse customer population. I created genuine connections with many students from different majors who were studying in the library or coming from the dorms.
What advice would you give to Mihaylo accounting students?
To those who are interested in taking an accelerated path through college, start planning now. It is never too early to plan because a good strategy is one of the main keys to success. Start doing research on everything that you need to do to get to where you want to be, and most importantly, do not be afraid to reach out to those who can help, from CSUF alumni to the advising centers on campus. Utilizing the resources around you ensures you have all the information and help you need to succeed. Do not be discouraged by those who say that you won’t be able to do it. Only you know what you are capable of and what you can achieve.
To those who want to become an accountant, CSUF is definitely the right place to be. Our school has such an amazing accounting program. I recommend that you start looking into whether you want to be a corporate accountant or a public accountant, so that you can tailor your plan accordingly. If you choose to be a public accountant, I would recommend that you join Beta Alpha Psi or the Accounting Society because those organizations will get you in touch with recruiters and professionals that could get you a job! Our school is fortunate enough to be recruited by many firms.
No matter what, do not choose a firm just because you want to be there. You should choose a firm because you feel like you belong there.
For More on Accounting
Mihaylo College, which is dually accredited by the Associate to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) in both business administration and accounting, offers both undergraduate and graduate accounting education programs, focused on preparing students for versatile and rewarding careers in the field.
Read more of our articles on accounting educational programs, student and alumni stories, and faculty research.