KPMG may be best known as a Big Four accounting firm, but the company’s advisory organization allows MBAs to work in other areas, including mergers and acquisitions. Sam Hyman is a current MBA candidate at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business spent the summer working as an advisory intern in KPMG’s Integration & Separation Advisory department. In this interview, Hyman discusses the projects he worked on, as well as how the first year of his MBA program prepared him for the challenges he faced during the internship.
Which business school do you attend? What is your area of specialization (if any)?
I am currently a second-year MBA candidate at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business with a generally-focused business specialization.
Which department did you intern in at KPMG and what kind of projects did you work on?
I interned with KPMG’s Deal Advisory Integration & Separation Advisory (ISA) team which helps its clients plan and execute the integration of mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures, and the separation of divested business units.
I worked on three projects. For half of the internship, I was on a diligence team, helping a global manufacturing company assess the scope of one of its four product lines as it planned for divestiture. For the remainder of my time, I was on a project team helping a global software and services organization divest one of its business units. Throughout the summer, I also took part in an intern-led project, helping a nonprofit agency assess potential mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in service to their recently updated strategic mission.
Why did you decide to intern at KPMG?
I recruited with a specific focus on M&A consulting. I chose KPMG’s ISA team over other firms based on the size and structure of the group, my role within the group, and the people I met throughout the recruitment process. Compared to its other direct competitors, KPMG’s Deal Advisory department is the smallest but fastest-growing group. I was confident that the more modest size would allow for greater flexibility and control over my career direction. While other firms focused on finding an individual’s need to develop an industry or competency specific value-add, KPMG presented a sincerer opportunity to maintain a generalist focus throughout the early-mid stages of my career.
What was of the most importance was probably the impression I got from everyone I met at the firm. While it always felt like other firms focused on bringing in talent that would get along on a personal level, everyone I met at KPMG were people who I felt I could effectively and productively work with.
What was the application process like?
The application process was quite standard. KPMG considers Georgetown to be a target school for its ISA team so I had gotten a number of opportunities to network with and get to know members of the group throughout the process.
What were your impressions of KPMG’s corporate culture?
On every level, from its formal structures to the more casual practices, KPMG’s culture felt supportive: Feedback as well as learning and training opportunities were always available; team and relationship-building was emphasized by everyone; and service to the client’s needs were seamlessly integrated with our personal team goals.
Of particular interest to me was how easy it was to find mentors. While the firm assigned me formal mentors at various levels of seniority, I actively sought mentorship from peers and superiors throughout the internship. On all three of my projects, I was able to learn from, rely on, and confide in one of my more senior teammates. Even in just a short time with the firm, I was able to develop tangible relationships that I trust and believe in.
What did you enjoy most about your internship?
My favorite part of the internship was the exposure to multiple projects. Getting such an opportunity allowed me to gain exposure to a variety of the challenges that the group helps clients tackle and to the types of approaches and techniques that we can take in finding solutions. It also gave me the chance to work with three sets of teammates. I was able to get to know team members from the company’s Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York City, and Washington DC offices and build working relationships throughout the team.
What were some of the challenges you faced during your internship?
My biggest challenge during the internship was the pace at which I was being asked to pick up concepts. My entire career prior to business school was in human capital consulting so, while I had a wealth of knowledge in that space, I hadn’t previously focused as much on the financial, operational, technological, and legal/governance concerns facing companies. The knowledge I gained in my first year of business school certainly provided great base knowledge, but the problems I faced in my internship proved to be a strong test of my acumen. What I really loved about the group was how supportive everyone was of that learning curve.
Of all the things that you accomplished during your internship, what makes you the proudest?
I am most proud of our intern project. The group of us was given the opportunity to lead and execute a client engagement (largely) on our own. Not only was this type of responsibility and autonomy an unexpected gift, the project was in service of a nonprofit adoption agency which provided an additional level of mission-driven fulfillment.
What advice do you have for MBAs who are interested in interning at KPMG?
I would tell an MBA student to prioritize the work and the people over everything else. If you don’t love and/or aren’t motivated by the work, you will end up hating the job regardless of the firm. The deal-sealer for KPMG is definitely the people. There is a comfort that comes with knowing that you can rely on all of your teammates and trust that they will support and rely on you.
Is there anything I didn’t ask about your internship experience that you would like to mention?
I want to highlight the value that I got from my first year of school and how I was able to leverage that throughout my summer. As I previously mentioned, the bulk of my pre-MBA experience was in human capital consulting. Throughout the summer, I frequently had to work on tasks that challenged my knowledge of finance and operations concepts that I had learned in my core courses at McDonough. I was very thankful to have been given the tools and techniques that my first year provided me.