Andrea Vilas Finds Future in Financial Forensics

Accounting and Criminal Justice Will Serve Her Well at KPMG

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For Andrea Vilas, numbers fit together like a puzzle, once you find all the missing pieces and unravel the mystery of where the wrinkles lie. Kind of like being a detective.

Andrea Vilas

  • Master of Professional Accountancy candidate 2016
  • B.A., sociology, concentration in criminal Justice, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
  • Starts in October as an auditor at KPMG

Vilas’ attraction to the hunt for missing pieces is a large part of what drew her from her initial career path of criminal justice to the Master of Professional Accountancy program, and hopefully, one day, forensic accounting. That and the fact that talking the “language of business” runs in her family. Both her parents are accountants.

“When I was younger I would say (to my parents) ‘I am not going to be an accountant like you guys. I want to be a lawyer. I want to be in criminal justice,” says Vilas, 23, who grew up in Danville, Calif.

“I still love the criminal justice system, but now I’m looking forward to being an accountant like (my parents). I guess it was meant to be.

“I still love the criminal justice system, but now I’m looking forward to being an accountant like (my parents). I guess it was meant to be. You can say my love for accounting is in my blood.”

You can say my love for accounting is in my blood,” says Vilas.

That affinity for accounting has landed Vilas an auditor position at KPMG in Walnut Creek in the fall. She recently talked about her path to the UC Davis, her experience and her goals.

How did your academic and personal paths lead you to the UC Davis Master of Professional Accountancy (MPAc) program?

I was an undergraduate in sociology with a concentration in criminal justice at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. As a requirement we had to do internship. In the spring of my junior year I had an internship at a jail and summer of that year I had an internship at a police station.

Working at the county jail, I realized I didn’t want to do that aspect of criminal justice. Then when I did my summer internship, I realized I didn’t really want to be a police officer either.

“I always loved how numbers work and everything has a place and it fits in an order. When something’s not working right it’s quite frustrating, but it’s also kind of like a puzzle to solve. When you finally get it right, that feeling is so gratifying.”

I had taken a financial accounting class and I absolutely loved it. I decided I wanted to take a new path and decide to pursue my master’s. I took another managerial accounting course my senior year and decided that’s what I wanted to do.

I first applied to the UC Davis MBA program wanting to do finance. The School said they have this great graduate accounting program and it’s just one year and that it would be a good fit. And it’s exactly what I want. That’s how I got from criminal justice to accounting.

What is it about accounting that you love?

I skipped a grade in math. I always loved how numbers work and everything has a place and it fits in an order. When something’s not working right it’s quite frustrating, but it’s also kind of like a puzzle to solve. When you finally get it right, that feeling is so gratifying.

What’s most appealing to you about the MPAc program?

Our corporate recruiting process is great. They prepared us so much during orientation, helping us with our resume, helping us with our interview skills. So when the interview process came, I had four first-round interviews, four second-round interviews, and four jobs offers.

That’s one of the reasons I chose this program—knowing that I can focus on school without worrying whether I am going to have a job next fall. I know that I am going to have that job and have the skills to be marketable in the professional world.

What courses specifically stand out?

Right now I am in a communications course and we also take an ethics course. These are things people don’t think about with accounting. But people can be put in situations that make them uncomfortable and they can be put in situations (where they ask themselves) ‘Is this being fudged too much? or Do I need to report this to our client?’ And also, there’s this stereotype of this kind of introverted accountant, but we do lot of speaking presentations.

So when I start at KPMG, I can communicate with a client from the get-go and I know I might be better prepared than someone who can’t communicate quite as well. We are learning how to communicate in different ways. For instance in an authoritative manner or a more informal fashion. So when you engage with a client you can determine how best to present information.

What are your long-term goals and interests?

“The white collar crime costs the country billions more than people realize and it has really been running rampant for the last couple of decades. We need more people to be able to do something about it.”

KPMG is one of the number one providers of forensic accounting for public accounting. One day I might decide to join the FBI where I do forensic work for the government.

The white collar crime costs the country billions more than people realize and it has really been running rampant for the last couple of decades. We need more people to be able to do something about it.

What stands out at UC Davis that shows the unique strength of program?

The support of the MPAc Program Manager Christine Lyles. She has been absolutely great. I have been involved in the Associated Students of Management (ASM) and we have become very close with Christine. I’ve been doing announcements and planning events. I enjoy working with her. Having her support and meeting so many people by being a part of the ASM has been amazing. I am reaching out to international students who I normally might not get to know, and now they are my workout buddies at the gym. The program fosters growth and a great sense of friendship among people.

It sounds like you’ve really relished your time at UC Davis and worked hard? Why go the extra mile with student groups and activities?

This is my future and I am going to do everything I can to do the best I can to prepare for it.



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