Paying It Forward
Elyse Carlsen, Eller Accounting ’08
Manager, Transactions and Restructuring, KPMG US
By Liz Warren-Pederson
Elyse Carlsen grew up in Illinois, but when it was time to look at college, she aimed for the West Coast. “I started looking in California,” she said, “but everything seemed really commuter based, and nothing stuck.” Her father, who’d lived in Tucson for a while, suggested she take a look at the UA.
“It clicked immediately,” she said.
Carlsen started out pre-med, but it wasn’t the right fit. “I was looking for something more collaborative and team-based,” she said. The accounting major at Eller proved to be exactly that.
After graduation, she moved to Phoenix for an internship with KPMG. She wanted to stay close to her fiancée, another Eller Wildcat who had moved to Phoenix for work, so she opted to earn her master’s in accounting from ASU. “Going through my master’s program, I really wanted to take the time to enjoy life,” she said. “I knew how rigorous it was going to be once I started work.”
After graduation, she joined KPMG’s audit practice. “I was there for three busy seasons, two and a half years,” she said. Meantime, she’d connected with another Wildcat in her firm who was in the transactions practice. “When I wanted to learn more about that practice, he helped me get into a rotation program,” she said.
Carlsen pursued a full-time transfer while she was still in the Phoenix office. The transfer went through and she and her fiancée moved to Washington D.C. once he completed his MBA program. It wasn’t a city they wanted to be in long-term.
“We decided to move to Chicago,” Carlsen said. Back in Illinois, she’d come full circle.
“It’s funny,” she said. “Before I went to college, my friends all told me I’d be moving to the big city, driving a black Mercedes, wearing a black suit, and carrying a black briefcase. I thought I was going to be a surgeon.”
Instead, she’s advanced into a competitive division of the firm and was promoted to manager a year early.
“I always knew that throughout my 20s, I’d focus on my career and give it everything I’ve got,” she said.
Carlsen is a member of KPMG’s Accounting Advisory Services group within the Transaction and Restructuring practice. “I advise on the proper accounting and project management for large scale transactions, including carve-outs, IFRS conversions, and initial public offerings,” she said.
Looking back, she credits Eller as the place where she first learned to work in teams made up of people with many different personalities. “You’d think that in my profession, I’d be working with a lot of Type A people, and that’s true, but it’s also a much more diversified group of personalities and perspectives than you might think,” she explained. “Eller was the first time I was pushed to work with teams and overcome the challenges that can come into play.”
Eller was also the place she first understood the importance of having mentors. “Katie Maxwell was a wonderful mentor to me, someone I could go to for discussion about job offers and sharing her own experiences.” Now Carlsen said she has multiple mentors. “They all serve different roles in my life,” she said. And as she continues her own professional journey, she looks forward to serving in that role herself. “I enjoy paying it forward,” she said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the mentors I’ve had along the way, and I am glad that I am in a place where I can teach and mentor as I continue to progress in my career.”
Top photo of KPMG tower overlooking the Mill Avenue Bridge by jessicakirsh / Shutterstock.com.