In the Spotlight: Jenna Debernardo '17 (Bs/ms Accounting); Asset & Wealth Management Senior Associate, Pwc
Jenna DeBernardo is among the scores of SFC accounting graduates forging enviable careers at the four largest accounting firms in the world – PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), Deloitte, KPMG and EY (Ernst & Young) – commonly referred to as the Big Four.
In Jenna's case, that means moving up the ranks at PwC, her first and only employer since earning her master's in accounting from SFC in 2017.
Headquartered in London, PwC firms operate in 157 countries with 276,000 people. Jenna is based in the company's midtown Manhattan office, although she is currently working from her home in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, where she grew up. She attended Fontbonne Hall in Bay Ridge.
Jenna recently discussed her accounting career and reflected on the preparation St. Francis College provided for her professional journey.
Why did you choose to attend St. Francis College?
I live in Brooklyn, so I always wanted to go somewhere close by. And for me, St. Francis College is a train ride away. I went to open house and really liked it from the start. I knew they had the five-year accounting program, which was something that I was interested in.
I chose accounting because I wanted to do something business-related. With accounting, I knew jobs would always be available. Having that security was appealing.
What misconceptions do you think people have about the field?
A lot of people say, "you're in accounting, you must be good with numbers!" But that's not really what accounting is. There's a lot more to it. You can go into tax, auditing, advisory. There's a lot of options that aren't just about numbers and bookkeeping.
You had professional internships while a student at SFC. Tell us about those experiences.
I had an internship with JP Morgan Chase in the tax department. I was there a little over two years, and it was a great experience. Then I got an internship with PwC in the investment management tax group, and I was there for three months during the summer of 2016. That internship led to a full-time job offer.
SFC was a big help in getting internships. The SFC Career Center had a resume drop for students. They would send our resumes to the Big Four firms whenever those firms were doing recruiting. Some students were selected for interviews and then got internship offers.
What's your role at PwC today?
The group I work in is Investment Management Tax. We work on private equity funds, hedge funds. Mostly doing tax compliance for these funds, working with the clients. I also manage and train [PwC] associates and new hires.
What's the best thing about working at PwC?
PwC constantly trains their employees. They want us to grow. They want us to learn about the industry and about the new technology that the firm brings out, so working here means constantly learning new things. I appreciate that. You may not get all those same opportunities at a smaller firm.
Also, you're able to have [internal] mobility there. I did a transfer and moved from one group to another. Some people do a rotation, where they spend a few weeks or months with a group to see if they like it. You can do that without having to change [employers] entirely.
Many SFC accounting grads go on to work at Big Four firms. Why is that experience so helpful?
It's really good when you're starting off to get Big Four experience. You work on a lot of different things, and you see a lot of different areas of the industry. It teaches you how to work hard and multitask. Those are skills you're always going to need, even if you take them to another job outside the Big Four.
What role did St. Francis College play in your professional success?
It made me really prepared. The accounting professors are very helpful. They always steered me in the right direction. I had a relationship with each of my professors. They knew who I was and the path I was on.
The Accounting Society really helped as well. They had guest speakers come in to talk about their experiences. We were able to take their advice.