Interview With Alumni: Wenfei Shi’18 shares her experience in PwC as senior associate
Wenfei (FIFI) Shi
Concentration: Business Administration and Management
- Senior Associate, Jul 2021-present
- Experienced Associate, Oct2018-Jul2021
Q: The first question is how did you fit in? Many international students have encountered cultural differences. How did you melt in and find your ways in the four years?
A: That’s an interesting question. I knew that there would be a difference so I went to an International high school. English was thus not the thing that freaked me out at the very beginning. However, I did find difficulties in writing class since I never wrote any paper in English before I came to Babson. In terms of culture, I was fortunate and my parents sent me all over the world to travel and learn new stuff; then I have made many foreign and Chinese friends so this is not a thing that shocked me a lot. Babson has 30% international students; there are lots of people to learn from and people are all positive; they are not refusing to know you. Also, presidents and professors are interested in new stuff that students bring in. Why not utilize this since you can hardly find a small school with 30% international students. Of course, you can find a lot of international students in public colleges, but there are thousands of people and it is hard to make friends with. Instead, Babson is small and you can develop close relationships with friends and Alumni. It’s like a family. If you ever attend a big Babson event, you will see a lot of alumni. I think this is the reason that the new school did not shock me since my friends were nice and I was willing to learn. When I was a freshman, I joined CSSA. The family gave me emotional support when I was bothered. The important thing is to find your circle but does not stick to only one niche circle. A lot of students, when they try to connect to people in other professions, they experience bottom neck because they always stay in their industries. If they step out of their circles and hear more fresh things, they can know how to present themselves.
Q: How did you start your journey of job searching at Babson?
A: I went to Babson because I want to be an entrepreneur, and I had a small startup with my friends in high school. However, I still knew I needed jobs. I started with my resume the first week at Babson with Undergraduate Center of Career Development, and then started hunting jobs, like crazy. When I was in sophomore year I participated in a case competition and we got into the semi-final in the United States. I think this is the first record in Babson. Because of that, I got into the PWC leadership program.
Q: What is the PWC leadership program?
A: PWC will have different internships every single summer: the first year is called “START,” the second is “ELEVATE”, and the third is “ADVANCE.” The competition got me into the interview in the sophomore elevate program, and after that, I got my third-year internship and then final job.
I got myself prepared as a sophomore and revised my resume millions of times and got my professors and friends to review it. I also participated in a lot of networking events, not just the ones in Babson but also the ones in other schools. I went to comapnies’ websites and found a few sophomore female leadership programs and participated, asking hiring managers to review my resumes for the next internship. The thing is you need to always perfect your resume because you do not know when your next work will come. You also need to pay attention to your font and format. When I was interviewing students and reviewing their resumes, the format is wrong and the whole resume is not tidy at first impression, I would be wondering if she is serious? I’m picky about this, not me, all professionals in the finance industry. If the resume is not tidy enough I will not look at it twice.
One of my friends got into JP Morgan through recommendations from professors. Do not forget to be nice to people because anyone can give you help. I know people are shy about speaking English, or sometimes think companies will not take international students. You will never know unless you ask. If the answer is no, you still need to be nice. If they can do something for you they will, I do see a few cases although it’s not common.
Q: You had success networking for your internship, which led to your job today. Since you seem to have diverse interests, why did you choose assurance in the end?
A: It is a long story. I was stuck in China for a whole year, which meant that I didn’t have much chance of career development. I went back to China on Dec 19th, 2019, and was only able to come back to the US on Dec 20th, 2020 because of Covid. It was a delay on a lot of things and that was why I haven’t made any progress in my career development in the past year. But being in assurance is a lot of fun. A lot of people think that assurance is just auditing, but it has a lot of different things. There is the auditing side of it where it is just auditing like career accounting. But there is also data analysis. They do modeling and they do platforms. We also do valuation that is also in assurance which means that the team has to do a lot of finance work. Even though I am in assurance for a year, if I ever wanted to switch to another department, PWC always gives you a chance to switch. You can also go to other territories, so even if you don’t get an h1b visa, you would have a chance to be relocated to your country. These things are really good for my career. I know some of my friends transferred to IFS or the back office. We also have our own outsourcing company.
Q: You talked about assurance having a lot of different functions that apply to different students. Do you have any advice for students who might be interested in accounting jobs?
A: I knew a Babson student that was good at networking and got herself a taxing internship. She was at a lot of networking events, and that was how I met her. She asks a lot of questions and I think that is how she got in. That is a really good example. Attend as many events as possible, and never be shy about asking for internships or job opportunities. I think one thing that I regret is that I didn’t study hard to pass my CPA when I was at school. I was at home for a whole year and my CPA grade expired, so I had to take all of them all over again. As long as you graduated with an accounting minor from Babson you can take the internship and work out your license before you become a manager. For people who want to go into accounting, you want to start taking exams in your senior year. Try to take your senior summer studying, be prepared for your work. For me, I graduated with computational and mathematical finance and accounting. I have to take CPA and CFA at the same time. It is tough.
Q: Tell us one funny story about your job, and why students should look for opportunities in PWC.
A: I think PWC is at the point where people are their first priority. If you look at the website, our slogan is about feelings and trust in society. It is not only trusting between us and the clients but also between colleagues. We want people to be proud of what they are doing, and be accountable and responsible. I felt respected by the team and the firm not just because of the generous benefits PWC has. For me, when I was stuck in Wuhan China last year, I had trouble with my visa for working remotely in China. So the firm just decided to relocate me to Shanghai’s office for a few months. PWC also did not fire any single person because of the Covid. But if you look it up about other firms, they have let many people go during the period. Instead, PWC raised the pay and the bonus because they understood the staffs’ pressure. Also, if you look back into recent hate crimes against Asians, PWC always stands out to educate staff at the first sight. PWC does not only take care of you as a firm to its employee but as a family to its family member. They care about your career development, they care about your physical and mental health, they want you to be successful. When I started my internship, my manager would tell me that the first job is to take care of yourself, and then take care of other people, your team, your clients, and your family. Besides all this, you have to know what you are doing. I felt PWC as a family just the way I felt about Babson. You build relationships at PWC and network. At work, it is hard to build personal relationships but I build a lot of personal relationships at PWC. I had a lot of good friends at PWC and we would hang out after work.