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Jan 6, 2016 2016-01 Accountancy Alumni

Alumni Interview: Jennifer Wyatt, partner, PwC

wyatt2In life, there are a number of firsts: first step, first word, first car, first job and many more. For Jennifer Wyatt, a partner for PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC’s) National Tax Services division, she experienced a first that has made a significant impact on her career. Wyatt, you see, was a member of the inaugural class of the ILLINOIS MS Tax Program and the first graduate to become a partner in a Big 4 firm. In a recent interview, Wyatt reflected on her career at PwC and how her experience in the MS Tax Program helped her gain knowledge and insights into business beyond the tax world. “I had a college professor who made tax really fun and because of that experience, decided to pursue a career in the field,” Wyatt said. “Whether you are in the profession or not, tax is a big part of our lives and I’ve learned something every day of my career. It’s challenging, but also provides significant opportunities." After earning her Bachelor’s Degree from Saint Mary’s College, Wyatt knew that she eventually wanted to get her master’s degree, but decided that she wanted some practical experience and landed a prestigious internship at PwC. The experience was challenging, but again, a first for her that was well worth it. In fact, the PwC experience was what helped her decide -- to enroll in the MS Tax Program. “PwC was really committed to supporting me when I enrolled in the MS Tax Program. They wanted to invest in me and gave me the flexibility I needed to go through the program,” Wyatt said, alluding to the Friday afternoon/all-day Saturday program. “Those two pieces were huge in contributing to my success in the program. In addition to the occasional weeknight group call, I would devote all day Friday to class doing my homework and studying in the morning, then roll into classes in the afternoon. Going into it, I was anxious, but I knew that sacrificing most weekends for a year would be beneficial for my career. The experience was fantastic. It was filled with good people and good learning." People, as Wyatt mentioned, were a big part of her experience. “The whole experience was enhanced by the people,” she said. “I was able to meet people from other firms and who came from other experiences. It was invaluable to hear what other professionals, who were all at various stages in their careers, were experiencing and what they were looking to get out of the MS Tax Program. Their perspectives were almost as valuable as the rigorous curriculum." Digging a bit deeper on the relationships and classroom experience, Wyatt reflected upon how the cross between professional and personal really added a unique thread to the weekly conversations. "We were all in the same boat; it was intense and we needed to really dig in and learn. This encouraged everyone to engage and talk to each other. We were all making - such a significant investment of time — both professionally and personally,” she said. “Even when one person was busy with their job as we were working on projects, others would step in and help out. It was truly a collaborative experience throughout." As any graduate of the program would attest, the MS Tax Program isn’t a walk in the park. In fact, it’s the opposite. It was challenging, to say the least, as Wyatt put it. However, that’s what she liked about the experience and feels that on each weekend she learned something new that she took back to her job at PwC. "The classes were very valuable and there were immediate benefits that I received, including becoming a better business partner overall to my clients. In fact, the experience led to the specialty that I’m in today." At PwC, Wyatt is recognized as the leading Up-C tax structure specialist in addition to serving both US based and inbound clients with partnership structuring of third party joint ventures, private equity transactions, and cross-border restructuring deals. Despite her success, Wyatt is continuously looking at ways to improve her skill set and elevate her work as well as the work of those around her. For those who are seeking advanced degrees in the tax field, Wyatt has some good advice. "I had three years of experience when I started the MS Tax Program. I was at the right place in my career and had enough background in the field to apply what I was learning in class to my job, in real-time,” Wyatt said. “My advice to those considering the MS Tax Program is to ensure you have a few years of practical experience before you enroll. Giving up a year of your life isn’t really as dramatic as it sounds. My experience was probably the best work year I ever had. But as I look back at that time, I thought it was going to be tough, but the firm was supporting me, colleagues were supporting me and it was all very manageable." In the end, said Wyatt, being in the first MS Tax Program class was a unique experience that was challenging, yet incredibly rewarding. “It was a great experience for me and it had a direct impact on my career,” she said. wyatt1 wyatt3