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Big 4 Learnings

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Podcast - Big 4 Learnings with Erik Zhou

In the #AccountingLifePodcast series, Jotham Ty, CEO of Gappify and Proud Accountant, sits down with accounting leaders to discuss anything and everything accounting and the people that grind through month-end close.

In this episode, Jotham chats with Erik Zhou, CAO at Brex, to discuss the key learnings from his time at the Big 4, including:

  • Nothing beats the Big 4 in terms of getting hands-on experience
  • Learning how to fish
  • Beyond the career – life lessons learned


Find the key highlights from the episode and a link to the full episode below.

Nothing Beats the Big 4 in terms of Getting Hands-on Experience

Jotham: One of the biggest learnings I took away from my short time in the Big 4 was all the accounting guidance that I got exposure to. What are the biggest takeaways from your experience there?

Erik: There’s really no place like a Big 4 firm or any kind of large accounting firm to get hands-on experience with really complex and interesting transactions, working on acquisitions of companies, working on private debt deals, different structures, et cetera.

For me, and maybe this is just who I am, but I was just always naturally drawn to those kinds of accounting areas in all my engagements. A very senior partner told me very early on in my career, “If you want to get the most out of your experience here, when you see a problem, you got to run towards it. Don’t be one of those people that backs away. Running towards a problem will give you the most experience and the most learnings you can get at the firm.”

Learning How to Fish

Erik: I think one of the great learnings I had from PwC is how to also do the research, how to figure out the accounting if it’s a transaction that I’ve never had experience with before, and how to get to a reasonable conclusion. I think we all know the saying, right? “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

At PwC, what I did was I learned how to fish. And it wasn’t just easy ones, either. It was really difficult fish that sometimes had a surprise for you when you put them on the hook. And so those are what I took away from my time there.

Beyond the Career - Life Lessons Learned

Jotham: We’ve talked about how we’ve developed our own professional skills through our experiences at the Big 4, but how does that expand beyond, to life?

Erik:  At PwC, we had the saying, “Don’t go it alone”, and it’s because when you get into any situation where there are decision points that need to be made, oftentimes, you shouldn’t make those decisions in a vacuum because they don’t only affect you and your workload but likely someone else on your team, in another audit area.

Getting the advice of someone who has that context across all those different people and all those different stakeholders that may be involved in your decision is really important.

One, I think you protect yourself by getting the advice of a lot of different people and you get to the best conclusion because you’re putting all your brains together. Two, you’re also going to protect the firm because those other people then have more perspective from the situation that you’re going through and it may impact them and how they’re doing with their clients, or, if it’s on the same engagement, something to do with their area, et cetera.

And so this concept of cross-functional work and collaboration, working together as a team, I think was really something that was impressed upon me in my time at the firm. I saw, in many ways, how it was very helpful for everyone involved and I try to apply that everywhere.

Check out more #AccountingLifePodcast episodes on our Gappify Youtube Channel.

Podcast - Big 4 Learnings with Erik Zhou
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Watch the full episode:

Click the image to watch the entire podcast (E15: Big 4 Learnings with Erik Zhou).

About Gappify

Gappify, founded in 2016, is a cloud-based provider of accrual automation solutions for mid-market and enterprise accounting teams. The company is headquartered in New York City, with offices in Berkeley, California, Washington DC, and Manila, Philippines.

Its team consists of accountants and CPA’s from Big Four accounting firms and software innovators. Gappify is also supported by strategic advisors from some of the world’s most recognized technology companies and is affiliated with the top companies & accounting organizations.

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