How to Achieve High Academic Standards and Professional Success


[ Music ] Hi everyone. I’m back again with
Kirt Matthews, Jr. Again, Kirt is a first-year
consultant at Accenture, which is one of the top
consulting firms in the world. Now the reason I had Kirt
come in to do this video, one is because I wanted
him to share information about the consulting profession. But two, more importantly,
I actually want him to talk about achieving high standards. Kirt actually, I found him on
LinkedIn through a connection of mine, and I was just amazed
by all of his accomplishments, both academically
and professionally. For a young man straight out
of college, he’s achieved more in these past few
years than most people over a 10-year period. So I wanted Kirt to come
share with my students, what are some keys
to be so successful? Now before I actually
do that, I wanted Kirt to briefly talk about
his background. Kirt, did you grow up in… again, your
accomplishments are amazing. Did you grow up in
a rich neighborhood? Did you go to expensive
private schools? And, again, you did an amazing
job in accounting and finance. You were a double
major with a 3.98 GPA. Were your parents
maybe accounting or– I’m guessing they
were accounting or finance professionals? Or perhaps they were
PhDs in mathematics or physics or something? So– unfortunately not. I grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, a
small town in northern Indiana. And both my parents were
two hard-working people. One worked at a hospital, and
the other was a firefighter. And they both instilled
in me hard-working, and being very diligent
in what I do. They both promoted education, even though they might not
have had the highest education. And so I always cherished that. Going into Purdue, I realized
I wanted to do business because of a class I
took in high school. And then, when I got into
Purdue, I realized, OK. Do I want to be accounting,
finance, marketing, HR? And I realized that accounting
was the best fit for me. My mentor mentioned that accounting is the
language of business. So I could understand a
business holistically, and so I chose that, and
then I tacked on finance because accounting to finance is
the peanut butter to the jelly. Yes. And my second
question is actually, you know, I want to first mention again, you have amazingly high
academic standards. You graduated from
an elite university, Purdue, with a 3.98 GPA. And you know, it’s pretty
rare that I run into anyone with a GPA higher than 3.9. Three point nine is high,
but I rarely run into anybody with a GPA higher than a
3.9, and you did it not only with one major, right? You did it with two majors. Accounting and finance are both
very time-consuming majors. And I want to add
on top of that, you actually were working
while you were double majoring. So can you share with my
students some key to achieving such high academic standards? There’s three
main areas, I’d say. Your friend group one, mentor is
two, and time management, three. So one, I had two best friends,
David and Jordan, who pushed me in every facet at Purdue. Both academically
and professionally, socially they pushed me
to get out of my box. And that whatever my bar
was, it could be higher and higher and higher. So I’m forever thankful for them for creating a culture
of success. Secondly is my mentor,
Darren Henry. He gave me the blueprint
on how to be successful. Told me what was important, what
was fluff, or not important, and what would really
help me after college. And so, I just really made
that my professional bible, and I was able to be
successful after graduation. And last but not least
is time management. In short, the party that
you think is amazing, there’s probably going to
be another one like it. And so you don’t have to go to every single event
or opportunity. Use weekends in order to catch up to what you didn’t
understand. Try to get ahead, or even
try to create good questions, so that on Monday, you know
what you don’t understand, and you can get a better
understanding before class. You know what,
along the lines of academic accomplishments,
I also want to mention to my viewers that you
actually passed all four parts of the CPA exam immediately
upon graduation. Now for people who go into
the consulting profession, you actually don’t even
need to pass the CPA exam. It’s only if you want to
work in accounting or tax that people have to do that. But you went ahead and did that, and not only did you do I, you
passed in amazingly fast manner. So can you give my
students some tips on how to pass a CPA exam so quickly? Because normally
people drag it out. They usually finish the
CPA exam maybe in a year, or maybe in a year and a half. But how did you finish
so quickly? Yes, so it’s funny
that you mentioned that. I originally didn’t
plan on taking the CPA. Last fall, when I decided to
come to Accenture Strategy in New York City, I realized
that I didn’t need it. And I went through my senior
year thinking the summer after graduation, I was going
to be able to relax, and travel, and have a great time. And I spoke to my mentor
early spring my senior year, and he said something
that stuck with me. He said that would
you trust a lawyer that didn’t pass the bar exam? And I said I wouldn’t. And so he brought, well, why not
have the credibility to prove that you really understand
accounting and finance? So I did that this past summer, and thankfully I was able to pass
all four exams. I think I was able to
succeed for two reasons. One is the friend group. One of my best friends, Jordan, he actually did the
program as well with me. And so, we were able to
work together all summer to be successful. And secondly is the structure. Purdue had a partnership
with Becker CPA. We were able to have
classes, and set homework that prepared you
to pass each exam. And so by following that structure, I was
able to pass all four. Wow. That’s out of your way
now, so you can totally relax. Well, not completely
relax, right? You’re working at Accenture, and
they have very high standards. But once you get your job
done at Accenture, right, when you’re traveling to
all these client sites at different cities
around the world, you can actually relax, right? Had you chose to delay on
taking the CPA exam right after your travels,
you have to– well, probably while you’re
traveling somewhere you’d have to be studying for the CPA exam. So you did the right thing. That’s just amazing. So one last question. As I mentioned, your
grades were just amazing. But I also looked at
your LinkedIn profile, and your resume basically. I mean, it’s… that was
also just as flawless. I look on there. Every… it seemed like
every inch of your life, you were involved in some
sort of internship at big, well-known firm, or you
were involved in conferences or some sort of program, so
you just pretty much packed up your life with all these
professional programs. So I’m just looking
through this list. I’m going to share
with my viewers. So you were involved in the Microsoft Finance
Leadership Program for Tomorrow, the AICPA Accounting
Leadership Program, JumpStart Undergraduate
Finance Consulting Forum. There’s actually so much, I don’t have enough time
to read through that. And on top of that, you
were involved in internships at top firms around the world. You were involved in
EY’s Launch Internship, an internship program
with Morgan Stanley, a Goldman Sachs internship
in investment banking. I mean, wow. Did you have any
time to go to sleep? I mean, every inch of your
life was packed to the max. So if you wouldn’t mind, can
you share some of these secrets? Like how were you able to
achieve such a flawless resume? I know my students would really like to know the
secrets to that. Yes. So I say my
secrets are three. So one is let… the worst
thing they can say is no. So when you see opportunity,
you know, apply for it. Learn more about it. Don’t allow yourself to say no. Allow them to say no for you. So by just applying to
Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, or any firm you want to work at, you might as well put
the application in. Secondly is leverage
whatever you have. Whether it’s an accounting
and finance background, whether it’s engineering,
whether it’s problem solving, whether it’s whatever. Everyone is unique. Everyone has a skill set,
so when you’re interviewing with these firms, emphasize
what you’re good at, and how that can improve
or help the business. And last but not least is
maintaining connections. When you meet someone, that person can help
you years down the road. So my freshman year,
I met someone and they really helped
me my senior year. So if I hadn’t maintained
or fostered that connection, I wouldn’t have had
that benefit later on. So maintaining connections
that you meet each and every day can really
help you moving forward. Wonderful. Again, thank you
so much for coming to speak to my students today. And you know, the response
that you just said, I really… there’s two things that
really resonate with me. What you said about don’t
let yourself say no. Let others say no, right? A lot of people short-change
themselves, right? They’re fearful, so
they fear rejection. So they don’t even bother
applying to internships or certain scholarship
opportunities. Right? And also on network. I hope we can still keep in touch after this interview. If you ever come to Los
Angeles, I’ll be happy to take you out to lunch. Perfect. Thank you so much. I’ll take you up on that. OK. Thank you and
have a great day. Thank you.

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