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Joanna Hawkins

Joanna Hawkins

Conquering Imposter Syndrome

Nearing graduation with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Texas State University in August 2021, Hawkins wanted to continue her education and earn her master’s degree in accounting. That’s when UC San Diego's Rady School of Management's Master of Professional Accountancy (MPAc) program popped on her radar.

Hawkins almost didn’t apply, though, believing she didn’t have a chance of actually being admitted into the prestigious program because her undergraduate degree wasn’t from an equally prestigious university.

She took the leap and applied, and now with her MPAc degree in hand, Hawkins works as an audit and assurance senior assistant for one of the Big Four accounting firms, Deloitte. She began with Deloitte shortly after graduating and was promoted eight months later.

Her own temporary bout with imposter syndrome led to one of the biggest lessons from her time at Rady.

“If you think you're underqualified, get in there and prove yourself,” she said. “Do it for yourself, not anybody else.”

Hawkins more than proved herself during her time in the MPAc program. She said the Rady faculty were impressive in their knowledge and the program’s structure helped instill in her the skills, discipline and confidence to be an auditor.

Among the top lessons she learned was the professional skepticism needed to find success when diving into the inner workings of her clients’ business operations.

“They always say, ‘Have the auditor mindset,’’’ Hawkins said. “You're not necessarily looking for fraud but just verifying that they're doing what they're saying they're doing."

Hawkins has been working with a variety of Deloitte clients, ranging from smaller private companies to large real estate firms, mostly in the ESG arena – environmental, social and governance.

Her job? Ensuring that the claims companies are making about their commitment to the environment, social causes and corporate governance are more than mere words.

Hawkins said she enjoys getting a behind-the-scenes look at how different businesses operate and seeing intricacies of companies the average investor never glimpses.

“I first chose audit as a specialty because I wanted to see how the business works and I felt like it was going to give me insight on that,” she said. “I like seeing what goes on in the background.”

Beyond the skills and mindset the MPAc program gave her to help in her career as an auditor, it also gave her a network of like-minded professionals to call upon as time moves on. She encouraged future MPAc students to take the time to connect with their classmates and said the program is set up in a way that values networking.

“They are a really big part of your journey in the MPAc program,” she said. “They are doing the same work as you, so having that to back you up and having that support system is really important.”

For Hawkins, it all goes back to the lesson she learned when she almost didn’t apply to join the MPAc program. That lesson holds true today in her work at Deloitte.

“Failure isn't final,” she said. “You're never going to know everything. Keep trying. If you don’t know it, keep pushing.”