CAAP isn’t for the faint of heart, but the rewards are immeasurable.
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Originally Posted On: CAAP isn't for the faint of heart, but the rewards are immeasurable. (linkedin.com)
Jason Liu knew it was time to hit the “reset” button.
Fresh out of his undergraduate studies with a B.S. in managerial economics, he faced a tough job market.
“It was 2014, and the economy still wasn’t fully recovered from the 2008 crash,” he explained.
Through a friend, he snagged a temp job at LinkedIn, entering sales force numbers into a database for eight hours a day. It was far from the postgraduate glory he’d envisioned.
Underemployed and unhappy, Liu needed a game changer, and fast. But what?
“I got to be friendly with some of the people I worked with at LinkedIn, and several of them spoke highly of an intensive accountancy program at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. They’d heard good things about it,” Liu said.
“I didn’t even know the difference between accounting and finance and didn’t know what direction to take my career, so I decided to give it a shot.”
The August after graduating from UC Davis, he enrolled in the CAAP (Certificate of Advanced Accounting Proficiency) program, an offering from Leavey’s Silicon Valley Executive Center. The program consists of eight undergraduate-level courses that can be taken in either a condensed fourteen-week summer program or a ten-month weekend program. Essentially an accountancy boot-camp, CAAP gives both freshly-minted college grads and seasoned professionals a fresh start and an onramp into the heart of Silicon Valley enterprise. By graduation, most students are eligible to tackle the notoriously difficult CPA Exam.
Although Liu himself had no prior experience with accounting, it was something of a family profession. His mother had worked as an accountant in China—a different system from that in the United States, before the family immigrated to northern California. They settled in Fremont, where Liu lived at home during the CAAP program.
By the time he started his coursework, LinkedIn had offered Liu an accounts receivable analyst full-time staff job. Fully employed and raring to go, he dove into intensive four-to-five-week classes.
“In the blink of an eye you’re taking a final exam,” he said.
Homework was demanding, and Liu shaped a study schedule around the prevailing force in all things California: freeway traffic.
“After work, I’d stay a few hours and let the traffic ease up before I drove from Sunnyvale [LinkedIn’s headquarters] to Fremont, and that’s when I’d study. It became a habit that was very helpful.”
CAAP wasn’t for the faint of heart, but the rewards were immeasurable. Within the span of a year, Liu catapulted from data-entry at LinkedIn to become an audit associate at KPMG, a global auditing, tax, and advisory behemoth.
“KPMG found me in CAAP’s resume book. They liked my experience at LinkedIn and how I’d performed in the program, so they offered me a position even before graduation,” he said.
The CAAP “resume book” is disseminated each year by the program to recruiters in Silicon Valley. Other CAAP recruitment opportunities include a Summer Career Fair and a Fall Meet the Firms Night.
Liu graduated in June 2015 and by September had started work at KPMG. Soon after, in August 2016, he passed the critical CPA exam. He began as an audit associate and quickly rose to a senior position in his department. From there, he joined the then-startup “Slack,” in February 2018, fortuitously arriving 14 months before the company went through an IPO. A little over a year after the public offering, he moved to Google, where he currently serves as an accounting lead at Google Cloud.
Liu attributes his success to “amazing professors,” and a tight cohort that was mutually supportive.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without CAAP,” he said.