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Finding Success Through an MSA

Alumni_Jelena Majkic_coverJelena Majkic, MSA ‘12, began her college education in Serbia. There, she studied Accounting and Auditing, completing both an undergraduate and a graduate degree. Afterwards, she decided to come to America for a Master of Science in Accounting (MSA).

Jelena knew this combined European and American education would allow her to stand out in job applications and approach business problems with new perspectives. She also planned to build a career in the U.S., so pursuing a second graduate degree in the states made sense.

However, a bigger reason for her transatlantic journey was the additional opportunities she would have building a career in America.

“The economic and political situation in Serbia had significant impact on my decision to pursue another degree far away from home,” Jelena explains. In Serbia, she says she would be judged based on who she knew and how well she was connected with certain political subgroups. But in America, her career depended on her qualifications and hard work.

“I was determined to show everyone back home who doubted my decision that studying, working, and living in a foreign country is possible, and that there are no obstacles a willing person can’t overcome,” she says.

Finding the MSA Program at Bentley University

Jelena wanted to prove that she was capable of succeeding on her own. An additional degree would help her achieve her goals.

She flew to Boston in 2009 to begin looking at schools that offered MSA programs. While here, she visited college fairs, going from booth to booth to speak to representatives from colleges all over the country.

Finally, she came upon Bentley University’s booth. She was immediately interested in the school, drawn in by both the program features and the friendliness of the college counselors at the fair. And when she visited campus, Jelena quickly made up her mind to apply.

“Visiting the campus for the first time was an amazing experience for me – I felt at home, and the opportunities for one to specialize in different areas were what sealed the deal for me,” she says.

“It may sound cheesy, but it was a love at first sight for me.”

She went home and told her boyfriend (now husband) that she was done visiting fairs and campuses - she found what she was looking for. She enrolled in Bentley and began her studies the following year.

While at Bentley, Jelena worked as an assistant for the Accountancy department. The job gave her the opportunity to work with multiple professors from her major, some of whom became mentors to her.

“Professor Karen Osterheld had such a great influence on me at that time – she made me feel like a part of the team, part of something new and crucial for the success of so many students,” says Majkic.

Career Prospects as an MSA Graduate

After graduation, Jelena started her full-time job at PwC in the Asset and Wealth Management Group working in audit. A few years later, she transferred to the Forensic Services Group, where she currently works as a Senior Associate.

“My group is known as the crisis management team, as we are trained and prepared to respond to any crisis our clients might be facing,” she explains. Her days never look alike. She works with a variety of clients and attorneys to handle everything from threat of litigation to SEC investigation to embezzlement.

Now, Jelena works in consulting at PwC. Eventually she hopes to apply the skills she’s obtained by working in both audit and consulting to a single company as part of their internal audit team. “I love accounting and problem solving, and I believe that internal audit role within a global company would be a perfect choice for me in the future,” she says.

But Jelena is keeping her options open. “I try not to think about my career in terms of titles, but as a path that will challenge me to overcome new obstacles, learn, and step outside of my comfort zone.”

Taking the Skills Learned at Bentley into her Career

Jelena’s time at Bentley prepared her to overcome obstacles with ease. She finds that “professionals and firms in Boston area (and further) acknowledge the fact that Bentley produces well rounded professionals with strong educational base and great motivation to succeed,” which results in them giving her additional respect in the workplace.

“My MSA degree from Bentley opened many doors for me,” she says. One of the most valuable parts of the program for her were the connections she made both during her graduate degree and after, when she met fellow Bentley alumni by networking.

She also finds herself applying the skills she learned at Bentley at her job every day. Three main lessons from her days at Bentley stick with her in particular:

  1. Critical thinking and skepticism. Rather than find one answer to a problem, Jelena learned to apply multiple lenses to a situation to see the numerous ways it could be addressed. She also keeps in mind that, even where trust exists, she must never forget to verify the facts and information that could impact the outcome of a project..
  2. Communication and empathy. Accountants may work rather independently, but their work does not exist in a bubble. She knows that her work has major implications for her clients, and works with them to solve issues through an open and honest partnership.
  3. Negotiation. There are big and small negotiations in every part of life, and being able to skillfully navigate them can make or break your potential for success. Jelena learned how to quickly understand the values and goals of others to negotiate effectively.

These skills have allowed Jelena to prove herself to those who doubted her back in Serbia. Not only did she excel at her education, she managed to secure a great job and create and entire life for herself after graduation, accomplishing the goals she set for herself back in 2009.

For her, Bentley University was both a stepping stone and her home.

“Bentley is a great school with amazing educators that will work with you to ensure you are getting the most of this experience,” she says. “It will not just give you the tools and skills for professional growth, but will give you a family, a strong support that will be there for you if and when you need it.”