Why go to a Leadership Conference?

By David Davis

Throughout the summer, I attended 3 leadership conferences, each belonging to a different accounting firm. The first two were firms of the Big 4 (PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young), and the other was a regional firm by the name of Armanino McKenna. In each program, I learned something new and interesting. I believe that they are all very beneficial to jumpstarting one’s career.

I will first start off describing PwC’s Sophomore Leadership Program. In this conference, I was one of roughly 25 other students like myself. It was specifically for theSan Franciscooffice, where we stayed for two days. The first day was approximately 1pm to about 7:30pm whereas the second day was a 9am to 5pm day. The firm was very accommodating – they offered to reimburse everyone’s traveling expenses. This included airfare and hotel, along with taxi and food expenses. I was very impressed with their hospitality! On the first day, we began with an icebreaker where we met other students. It was a very warm atmosphere. I was able to create friendships with others, and we are all currently connected via Facebook. We did a few teambuilding exercises to emphasize teamwork in a real work environment setting. Also, we built and decorated toy boxes to give back to the community. After we went out for a nice lunch and met with staff members to ask any questions that we had. Here, we were able to grasp an idea of what it is like to work for a Big 4 accounting firm on the daily basis. Questions such as “What are the differences between the lines of service?” and “What is the average hours worked per week?” were answered. We met with interns later that day and had a scavenger hunt throughout the entire Financial District of San Francisco.

On the second day we began by boarding a trolley car which toured us around the entire city ofSan Francisco. We went through Chinatown all the way across theGolden GateBridgeand finally back to the city where we had lunch overlooking the Bay at a nice restaurant inGhirardelli Square. The second day was a lot more fun and relaxing. At the end, we each received a ‘yearbook’ that contained everyone’s contact information.

At the Ernst & Young Leadership Program, we met at theSan Franciscooffice for the first day. The second day, we would meet at theSan Joseoffice to tour that location as well as theRedwoodShoresoffice. This program was a lot larger – it accommodated about 75 or so students. This made it a little more difficult to meet people. As the other conference, we started off with icebreakers and team building exercises. We then had a nice lunch and did a similar scavenger hunt aroundSan Francisco. We ended up at Pier 39 where we had dinner and played in an arcade. On the second day, we met at theSan Joseoffice. Here, we met staff members where we had an open-panel to answer any questions that we had. It was somewhat similar to PwC’s in the sense that each firm wanted us to know how they operated. Later that day, we went to Google’s headquarters inMountain Viewwhere we toured the ‘Google Campus’. This was amazing. We saw the ins and outs of their work environment – exciting and amazing to say the least. The reason we visited Google is because they are one of E&Y’s clients. After the tour, we went to theRedwoodShoresoffice, where they treated us to some frozen yogurt. From there, we took a bus back toSan Josewhere we would say our goodbyes.

At Armanino McKenna’s office in San Ramon, 40 students attended on a Saturday morning. The program was only one day, somewhat different from the other two firms. Like the others, we started off with icebreakers and team building exercises. We listened to some speakers who shared their insights with us. The firm and its people were friendly and outgoing which is expected at smaller sized firms. We stayed inside the office the entire day. It was basically a less-fancy version of the Big 4’s programs.

To sum it all up, the firms set up these programs to show what they really have to offer. It is arguably a way to grab the best student prospects and have them intern and/or become full time employees. Not only did I learn a whole lot about the accounting world, I met new friends and people that I still keep in touch with. Also, I gained an insight into each firm’s people and their culture. I have scheduled two interviews for internships the following summer, so it is obvious that these programs are very beneficial. Not only do you get to see which firm is right for you, but you get a jumpstart above everyone else in regards to obtaining summer internships. I had a lot of fun and I would highly recommend that you attend these leadership programs!




  1. I could’nt agree more. In fact not only is it important to go to conferences but any form of trade show, careers fairs etc. They are great ways to network, meet people and get some insight and insider information. Ernst and Young as well, I must say are a fantastic company!

    Internships are also one of the, if not the best way to start your working professional career. Not only do you get experience but you also get to experience all facets of business eg marketing & sales etc. A major benefit of this as well is that you get to realise what area suits you as a person best and where your strengths lie.

    Thanks for the post by the way!

  2. A great list of reasons for attending a Leadership conference – with increasing budget cuts it can seem all too easy to pass up these fantastic opportunities in favor of cheaper alternatives, but there are real measurable benefits to attending conferences such as these.
    If you are looking for a UK based alternative, Leaders First is a one day leadership conference taking place in November featuring a keynote address from President Bill Clinton alongside leadership experts and social influences. See http://www.leadersfirst.co.uk for more information

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