Jeffrey Taveras began his accounting journey while in high school, but St. Francis College put it into high gear.
Born in the New York City, Jeffrey and his family returned to the Dominican Republic when he was two, remaining there for the next 15 years. After moving back to New York, Jeffrey completed his senior year at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in Elmhurst, Queens.
The Brothers at his Catholic school introduced Jeffrey, who was uncertain at that time about his educational path, to St. Francis College. "I went to see the school one day and really loved it," Jeffrey recounted. "I was hooked from there."
Jeffrey flourished in the accounting department, receiving a prestigious National Grid scholarship and interning at that company for more than two years while a SFC student.
Immediately after earning his master's, Jeffrey started work at PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), one of the four biggest accounting firms in the world, commonly referred to as the "Big Four." He's been at PwC his entire post-SFC career, in increasingly more senior roles. Jeffrey is among the many SFC accounting department alumni who thrive in Big Four jobs, some of the most coveted in the profession.
Jeffrey recently reflected on his career and the role of St. Francis College in it.
Did you start SFC knowing you'd major in accounting?
In high school, I took an accounting class, and I liked it. I thought it was interesting. So that's where my path started.
But when I got to St. Francis, I hadn't fully decided on accounting. I wanted something related to the field of finance. Everyone I spoke with said accounting is a good starting point. They said take one or two accounting classes and then decide.
Then I met Dr. [Geoffrey] Horlick [retired Chair of the Department of Accounting & Business Law and former Program Director of the MS Program in Accounting] and other accounting professors, and they were extremely helpful. They helped me see the possibilities of accounting, exposing me to the Big Four. So really, the St. Francis accounting professors are the reason I ended up in accounting.
What misconceptions do people have about accounting?
Clearly, it's a numbers profession, but there is the misconception that it's all numbers, and that all you do is sit alone in a back room. It's much broader.
I would say accounting is the DNA of business. You get exposed to everything, because everything has to be accounted for. You get exposed to all the different [business] departments. You get to talk to a lot of people. It really is a "business in general" profession. You need to understand the accounting rules, but you also need to understand the business rationale for what is being done and the only way you gain that understanding is when individuals across the firm trust you to give you a seat at the table. From that perspective, it's a people profession.
What internships did you have during college?
I am very lucky, because at every step along the way, someone was there to help me, and that's why I'm here.
I was doing well in the accounting program, so I spoke with my professors to see if there was an opportunity for an internship. Dr Horlick told me about National Grid. High-performing SFC accounting students can get a partial scholarship and an internship there. I ended up doing that for two-plus years. The National Grid controller at that time connected me with a partner at PwC, and that's how I got my start at PwC.
It's been one person connecting me to the next and the next until I got where I am today.
Why do you like working at PwC?
There are many things that I could mention. One is the people. We really do have people who care about you, about your development. It's also the ability to grow professionally, to get better at what you do.
The relationships you build and the fact that people truly care are what has kept me here for so long.
What is your current role at PwC?
I am a director within our asset and wealth management practice. Specifically, my clients are in the real estate practice. My day job is providing assurance services to real estate clients.
I'm also highly involved with diversity and inclusion ("D&I") initiatives. I'm passionate about this topic and the firm has provided many resources to allow us to drive positive change. In general terms all the initiatives that I'm involved in as it relates to D&I have to do with recruiting, development and promotion of underrepresented minorities. More specifically I'm responsible for the committee within the NY Metro Latino Inclusion Network that oversees the local partnership with ALPFA [Association of Latino Professionals for America] for example. As part of that partnership we oversee multiple programs including student leadership retreats and sponsoring events that provide an opportunity for our people to develop their public speaking skills, among others.
I'm also involved with a number of internal initiatives aimed at creating engagement and a sense of belonging among our underrepresented minorities as well as helping create awareness around D&I issues.
What from your St. Francis College experience contributed most to your professional success?
The quality of the education I got. It allowed me to pass the CPA exam right after I graduated. I passed all four parts on my first try. I was very prepared.
My education also made me comfortable that, when I entered the profession, I had a solid base and knew what I needed to do.
Also, being part of a small school helped me build connections and understand the importance of knowing people and how that would translate into business opportunities.
St. Francis helped me be values driven. I'm not just looking to do my job, but also to bring value to the place I am. I mentioned before that I feel like every step of the way someone helped get me to the next level. Once I got to PwC and started my professional career, I have applied that to my relationships with others.
What advice can you give students considering accounting at SFC?
First, the education you're getting at St. Francis is really good. It's on par with any school, and I've worked with people from all different schools. So take the education seriously.
Make sure you're networking. Always think about what is next: Am I connecting with different individuals who might provide me a professional opportunity? Are there potential internships I might be able to get? How do I put myself in the best spot to get those opportunities?
Know that the education you're getting is on par with anyone else, but also make sure you're doing your homework so you're exposed to others who can give you opportunities.