True Grit: New Passion Leads to Accounting Career

"At 12, I declared I would one-day be an NCAA D1 swimmer"

As a child I was single minded. My parents often tell stories about my childhood, when I would make a “decision” to do something and would never back down. Fear or failure were not options. I attacked my goals and never backed down.

When I was three, I tossed my swim floaties aside and swam across the pool. Shortly after that I took the training wheels off my bike and pedaled down the road. Sometimes a bit battered and bloody, I persevered towards my goals.

I didn’t let up.  

UC Davis NCAA swimmer Courtney Schultz, also on the Chilean National Team, is a three-time national record-holder in the 50m free (27.38) and the 100m free (59.03) set in 2013, and on 4x100m medley relay team that set the national record of 4:29.48 in 2014.

At 12, I proudly declared that someday I would be an NCAA Division I swimmer.  

Five years later, I started at UC Davis as a recruited swimmer. As a UC Davis student-athlete, I set new education and career goals with the same determination.

Newfound Passion

As a senior at UC Davis, I met a recruiter from PwC in Professor Robert Yetman’s accounting class. After a brief conversation, I knew I wanted to work with her (or at least, people like her).

At this point, I had taken several accounting courses but had not developed a passion for accounting, yet. Naturally, I introduced myself to her after class and immediately dove into my elevator pitch, which now included my very newfound passion: accounting.

After a few emails back and forth, she informed me that recruiting for that Line of Service at PwC was closed until next year.

It was hard to hear, but I immediately asked, “Is there anything I can do in the meantime to prepare for the next recruiting cycle?” The result: I quickly began my application to the UC Davis Master of Professional Accountancy program to become a more competitive candidate.

I also began reaching out to my extended network seeking any entry points into PWC. Ultimately, my determination paid off. I accepted an internship with the firm in the Line of Service I wanted.

Perseverance in Play

Professor Angela Duckworth, a well-known psychologist and popular science author, says “grit” explains why passion and perseverance often trump talent that leads to extraordinary results. As Duckworth puts it: “Individuals high in grit are able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods despite experiences with failure and adversity”. 

While reading about grit, I realize I have had this trait from a young age. It explains how a smaller than average girl became a Division 1 swimmer. It explains how I became an MPAc student and a future PwC associate. Timing and preparation paid off, but ultimately grit was key to landing my current position.

In sixth grade I broke my arm in my final county-wide track meet as I crashed over a hurdle.  As we sat in the emergency room, I told my mom: “Next year I am going to win that race.”

Spoiler alert, I won the race.