Moving up the Corporate Ladder at PwC
Lander College of Arts & Sciences Alum on Life at a Big 4 Accounting Firm
Judy Edelstein, Touro alum and managing director at PwC, talks to us about her career trajectory, the importance of work life balance and how Touro helped her succeed. She also offers insightful advice for future CPA's.
Why did you choose accounting as your career?
I enjoyed math as a student and assumed (like most people do) that if I liked math and was good at it, then accounting made sense for me as a career choice. The joke is on me because I primarily use Excel in my day-to-day job and, for most accountants, there is no need to like math, or even numbers at all, to find a fulfilling career in accounting. I really enjoy my job and it was a great choice, whether my rationale and reasoning were logical or not.
Can you describe a day in your life as a managing director at PwC?
Every day is different and brings along something new and challenging, but as a managing director at the firm, the areas that I spend the most time on are audit methodology, staffing and recruiting, and of course—reviewing and approving audit work. During the spring and summer, I spend a lot of time interviewing new candidates; working with my current staff on transfers and opportunities they may want to pursue; and planning for the coming year from a structure, budget and staffing perspective. During the fall, I shift my focus to audit methodology and how our team will apply these methodology considerations to the work we perform for our clients. And then of course, there is the day-to-day activity involved with the busy season in public accounting; January and February is crunch time for my team, as our public clients start filing from late January through the end of February. My days are spent answering questions; reviewing audit work and approving it for filing; and dealing with “fire drills” and the last minute issues that inevitably crop up the night before filing.
What do you like most about your career?
I really enjoy the challenge—I've been at PwC since day one, fresh out of Touro, and have done so many different things and taken advantage of so many different opportunities. It’s fast paced and constantly changing, and I enjoy that environment. While most people don’t equate work-life balance and flexibility with public accounting, it actually goes hand in hand, at least at PwC! I moved from Brooklyn to Lakewood three years ago with three small children, and before ‘working from home’ was ‘a thing,’ my partners were supportive and accommodated my schedule; non-busy season months saw me commuting to the city two to three days week and working from home the other days. Since COVID, I have been fully remote and it’s been amazing for me and my family that I can really have both worlds—a fulfilling family life and exciting career.
What are the challenges you face as a woman climbing the ranks of a Big 4 accounting firm?
For me personally, the biggest challenge I faced was managing the social aspect that is so integral to building relationships and networks both internal and external to the firm. At the end of a long day or week, when the team would go out for drinks and relax, all I wanted to do was go home, play with the kids or spend time with family and friends. I had to be creative in developing these relationships in other ways, as well as balance when I felt it was important to go to a social event vs. what my personal life required at that time.
Who had the most impact on your life and career?
My husband—my #1 cheerleader and partner through it all. Busy season late nights, sick visits for the kids; he covered for the times I could not and always waited up during the latest of nights until I got home. He listens to my stories, nods along when I use words that are a completely foreign language to him but are part of my everyday vernacular at work. He is just a rock whenever works gets stressful.
What do you consider your biggest success?
When I speak with colleagues at work and mention that I am a proud mother of six amazing kids, there is always a moment of shocked silence before they can eke out a response. They are my biggest success—my oldest was born as I finished my first year as an associate, my baby is under a year (born last year and I missed my first busy season in 14 years!) I’ve participated in proposals for new audit clients, led first year audit engagements and currently lead a team of 70+ staff, but when my children are happy at the end of the day, I can count that day as a success.
How did your Touro education help propel your career?
I attended Touro right after my year abroad and finished after two years and two summers, using college credits I earned as a high school senior to help with the core requirements. In the fall of my second year, Touro hosted a career fair and invited a number of mid-size to large accounting firms to attend. From that career fair, I had interviews at a few smaller firms, as well as PwC and ultimately, I chose the Big 4 and never looked back.
What advice do you have for students entering the workplace in accounting?
Take things day by day—I joined PwC in August 2008 and had a goal to pass my CPA within the first year, as the firm offers a bonus if you pass all four exams within one year. And so, I took it day by day, night by night—as a first year associate, busy season and then a newborn—but I was a CPA within a year! And so it continued throughout my career—each day is an opportunity to grow, to develop your brand and your relationship and to progress to the next level. I would encourage students to take advantage of each day and use it to the fullest and you will get there, to whichever level you are aspiring to reach.
What do you do for fun?
Between a full-time job and my family, life is full, busy and yes, fun. But in between my life to-do lists and work to-do lists, I enjoy reading (early on, my husband began buying books as gifts instead of flowers) and getting out for a walk and some recharge time.