By Deanna C. White
When Dariel Dato-on was a senior accounting major at the University of Texas at Dallas, he had many things to feel confident about, and he was passionate about his career choice. Since high school, he knew he wanted to be in business, and he loved the versatility and client interaction a career in public accounting offered. He was proud of his academic performance and involvement in school programs, and he was certain the career arc he planned to follow – earning a master's in accounting, passing the CPA exam, and becoming certified as an internal auditor – would result in success.
But despite his self-assuredness, Dato-on felt there might be one aspect of his career plan that was lacking: In today's brutal job market, he felt he needed something unique on his résumé to make him stand out from the crowd. Dato-on earned that special something when he competed in the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) inaugural case competition last year with his teammates. "I was wondering what I could do to be different", Dato-on said. "When the competition came up, I knew it was a way to set myself apart."
The AICPA's second annual competition offers a new set of accounting and finance students the same opportunity. The competition is open to undergraduate students at two- and four-year-degree institutions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The 2011 AICPA Accounting Competition, which launched on August 29, 2011, will test students' fraud and forensic accounting skills in a complex scenario focused on a fictional Texas company looking to expand its business into Nigerian oil fields.
"The competition is an opportunity for students to get a hands-on, real-life understanding of one of the fastest-growing interest areas in accounting: fraud and forensics", said Jeannie Patton, AICPA vice president for students, academics, and membership. "Those who participate will hone their teamwork and leadership skills, deepen their understanding of financial risks in international business strategy, and potentially bring national attention to their college or university."
In its August 29 press release, the AICPA stated: "Participants in the competition must work in teams of four students, two of whom must be accounting majors. One of the accounting majors must serve as team leader. First round submissions, which are due September 30, will be evaluated to determine a pool of ten semifinalists. Those semifinalists will compete for three finalist spots; a chance to travel to Washington, DC, for the final round; and three cash awards: $10,000 for first place; $5,000 for second; and $2,500 for third."
Dato-on served as captain of his University of Texas team. He and his fellow teammates won the 2010 case competition for their study on enhancing sustainability practices at a real-life North Carolina luxury hotel. "Because it was a real-life scenario, it was very different from the rest of the classroom stuff we did. It was a lot of hard work, but it was the best team I ever worked on. It was exciting and it was fun", Dato-on said.
Dato-on, who is currently working on his master's in accounting as well as an MBA, said the competition taught him invaluable lessons, including how to communicate ideas and sell a presentation to a client, and how to manage multiple people and their ideas. The competition also provided a critical networking experience with professionals already working in the industry.
Final submissions were due by September 30. Initial judging by the AICPA goes through October 11 when the top 10 teams will be announced. From October 11 through November 7, the top ten teams use a video camera to develop a more detailed submission, which will be made available for public voting November 14-21. Final judging is November 21-23, and three finalists will be announced on November 23. The three finalists make final presentations to the AICPA on December 16, and the first, second, and third place winners will be announced on December 17 in Washington, D.C. The first place team wins $10,000, second place wins $5,000, and third place wins $2,500. All teams win bragging rights! Competition details can be found on the This Way to CPA Web site.