Andrew Mallett ’20 (pictured), Lehigh Business accounting, admits he couldn’t answer the inevitable question every senior gets asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
“I’ve only been thinking six months ahead for the last couple of years,” says Mallett. “I like being open to opportunities and anything that comes my way, it’s how I found my way here.”
“Here” is as a one-year Postgraduate Technical Assistant (PTA) at the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in Norwalk, CT. The FASB sets accounting standards for public companies, private companies, and not-for-profit organizations in the U.S., according to their website.
The FASB PTA program is competitive. Schools are limited to one nominee apiece for the fall and the winter programs. Less than 10 students per cycle are admitted. The year Mallett was nominated, 2019, he was the only undergraduate in his nomination class. He was granted an interview and subsequently received an offer to start in the summer of 2020, just as the pandemic was raging. He is the first Lehigh student ever to participate in the program.
“The experience at the FASB is so special because you're in the weeds of the standard-setting process,” says Mallett. “You're learning how financial statements are developed and how to disclose certain information. I interact with different types of stakeholders on a pretty daily basis. I love the job so much because I’m learning constantly.”
“A lot of times accounting is described as black and white and it is on the surface,” says Mallett, “but it starts to get really gray as you dig down. And that's what we work a lot in at the FASB, how do we clear up those gray areas? That's what I find really interesting.”
Mallett entered Lehigh as a freshman in the College of Art and Sciences, despite the fact that his dad, Russell Mallett ’84, was an accounting major. “I love my dad,” says Mallett. “He's the best dad on the planet because he never pressures me. I've always been able to make my own decisions.”
Initially, Mallett was unsure about going to Lehigh. “I decided to attend and loved it,” he says. “I ended up as a tour guide and working in the admissions office.” Mallett’s dad is a member of the College of Business Dean’s Advisory Council.
“I always found my way back to where he was,” says Mallett, who transferred to the College of Business after his first semester. “But it was never the starting point. Kind of a circuitous path. I always joked that maybe it's in the blood.”
Mallett, who is from Dover, MA, just outside of Boston, is working out of an apartment in Norwalk where he moved to be close to the office in case the pandemic subsides.
While at Lehigh, Mallett volunteered for an afterschool homework club working with Southside Bethlehem middle school students. He also spent time as the vice president of the Lehigh Business accounting club and playing club lacrosse.
“He truly is one of the very best students I have had the pleasure of working with in my 30-year career as an accounting professor,” says Bryan Cloyd, chair of the department of accounting at Lehigh Business. “What really distinguishes Andrew is that he is not just a great student, he is also the type of person who has the potential to become a great leader within the accounting profession.”
When you ask Mallett why he values his Lehigh Business education, he says, “I didn’t like it at the time and this isn't the only example, a lot of the professors do it, but I remember in my tax class, a very difficult question on a test and thinking to myself, ‘This is ridiculous. Why does it have to be this hard?’” Two years later, after graduation, he was taking the Certified Public Accountant exam. “I saw the same level of difficulty in the questions,” explains Mallett, “and I remember thinking to myself that this pales in comparison to what I did at Lehigh.” He passed the exam on his first try.
As far as the next five years, Mallett says he’ll probably look for a job in accounting advisory – helping companies understand and implement accounting standards the FASB sets. But, he says, he has a few months before he has to worry about that.