From Accounting to Account Manager with an MBA

women studying

Tyeisha Spruiell

"I asked them how I could grow the most, and they both recommended that I go to business school."

Name: Tyeisha Spruiell
University: Duke University
School/College: The Fuqua School of Business
Program: Executive MBA 
Undergraduate program: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, BS in Accounting
Current job: Senior Account Manager at Rakuten Marketing

What was your profession before business school?

After undergrad, I found an analytical role at Rakuten Marketing where I manipulated data to tell stories that others in the ad tech industry could use to make strategic decisions.

After that, my passions changed. I wanted to try something different and be in the forefront of the business instead of in the background. I moved to the client services side of the digital marketing company and worked my way up within that function.

As an undergraduate I interned at PwC and always thought I’d follow a traditional accounting career trajectory. But once you start working, you see what you like and don’t like, and you adjust your career path.

Why did you decide to go to business school?

I’ve been in this industry for eight years now, and for me to grow professionally and personally, I knew I needed to be around people who are smarter than me. I had a conversation with my mentors—my undergraduate school dean and one of my accounting professors—about the best next step for me. I asked them how I could grow the most, and they both recommended that I go to business school.

What resources did you use during the business school decision and application process?

When I was researching business schools, I came across an event the Forté Foundation was hosting—the Forté Forum. It’s basically a business school fair, where admissions officers from top business schools take a tour to different cities. After that, I went to every event they had.

Forté was just starting the MBALaunch program, which I thought looked like a cool opportunity, so I applied and got in. This program provided a support system that I wasn’t getting anywhere else. The experience was absolutely invaluable.

Applying to business school is a long, tough journey, and the MBALaunch program provided a small support group of women who were all going through the same thing. Nobody else—my parents, my boyfriend, my coworkers—could provide that. It was a huge advantage to actually following through with the application.

What accounting skills proved to be strong assets in business school?

Learning accounting is honestly like learning a new language. And it’s very difficult for adults to do that—you need to have a very elastic mind, and science tells us that after a certain age, it just gets more and more difficult.

But learning accounting primed me for the experience of learning things that are nothing like I what I’ve seen before, to really be able to grasp entirely new concepts. In business school there are so many new things thrown at you, so many balls you’re trying to keep in the air.

My undergraduate accounting experience gave me this valuable skill of being able to drill into complex problems and reduce them to their most simple components in order to solve them.

How did you fit studying for the GMAT® exam into your busy schedule?

I think I may be an outlier—I actually enjoyed studying for the GMAT! I think it goes back to being able to take a complex problem and drill it down. I feel like that’s what the GMAT was, especially the quant section.

Studying for it just became part of my lifestyle for a good three to four months. I took a GMAT prep course and hired a private tutor as well. It’s a very challenging test but I thought it was fascinating.

What is your best GMAT exam study tip?

Sometimes I studied by myself, but what really moved the needle for me was studying with another person in the MBALaunch program. My thought was that four eyes are better than two. We’d take untimed practice exams and afterward talk about how we solved each question.

What I learned was there are various ways to approach every problem, and this increased my knowledge and my ability to see multiple paths to get to an answer. We tend to do things the way we always have, but what I realized is that even if I got the right answer, there may be a better or more efficient way.

What's your remedy for pre-test nerves?

I took the GMAT several times, and at first, I was extremely nervous. But eventually, I began to apply an analogy: when you’re at work and an email comes across your inbox from a client, sometimes it’s an issue that you know exactly how to resolve and other times, you’re not sure how to handle it. But I never get nervous at work when I’m not 100 percent sure of the answer. I either figure out who does know the answer, or I answer what I can and move on.

So, I realized you just have to pick your battles—you’re not going to win every one. You won’t know the answer to every single question, and you have to be okay with that. Once I overcame that, taking the exam was literally just like a day at work.

What advice do you have for other accounting majors who are planning go to business school?

Go with an open mind, and be prepared to learn a lot. With my accounting background, I thought taking it again in business school would be a breeze. I was wrong.

Accounting in business school is a lot different from your undergrad experience—it’s a lot less detail-oriented and more focused on overall business acumen. I was amazed at all the things I did not know.

About Forté Foundation

Forté Foundation is a non-profit consortium of leading companies and top business schools working together to launch women into fulfilling, significant careers through access to business education, opportunities, and a community of successful women.