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Meet Thomas Bussell, '11, Graduate Finance Alum
Meet Thomas Bussell, '11, Graduate Finance Alum

Current City

Portland, Oregon

Current Position

Wireless Product Line Analyst at Intel Corporation

What excites you about corporate finance right now?

The thing that excites me most about corporate finance right now is being a valued member of a cross-functional team. In my job, I have the privilege of being the finance lead on several multidisciplinary teams with other professionals from marketing, engineering and business operations. It’s energizing to have skills and a perspective that are valued by senior management. It is really fun to use those skills, such as financial modeling and business partnership to influence key decisions, lead initiatives and solve challenging problems.

Can you tell me a bit about your experience with the graduate finance program at PSU?

I had a very positive experience in the program and it set me up well for a rewarding corporate finance career with a Fortune 100 company. The PSU program has what many other respected graduate business programs have—a case study approach, with a focus on working in teams, presenting and writing. However, there were several things that really set the program apart for me. The connections to local businesses through the career services office and other on-campus networking activities, such as guest speakers allowed me to get several internships, have many information interviews and ultimately land a great job before graduating.

How did you decide to pursue this program?

From a return on investment perspective, the program seemed to make a lot of sense and provide me with the skills and knowledge I needed to get a job in finance. I respected that fact that the notoriously difficult intermediate accounting series was a prerequisite to the program for those without a degree in finance or accounting, but that the full-time program was only 1 year. I appreciated the depth and rigor in finance and accounting that the program offered when compared to MBA programs with a much broader curriculum. I also liked the idea of leaving my options open with the ability to go pursue the CPA and a public accounting career or go straight into a corporate finance or investment management.

What do you think made you successful in this program?

The quality of instruction in the program was top-notch, especially in the core finance and accounting courses. The professors made the course content relevant and interesting through the use of cases, real world examples and external speakers. Beyond these reasons, I benefited from a diverse cohort, all with prior experience or coursework in finance and accounting. The willingness of the other students to really get engaged in group activities and have fun contributed significantly to my success.

How has your career evolved since you graduated?

My career has evolved from a typical entry-level budgets and planning type role to one in which I’m involved in corporate strategy and product line decision making for a business group. I started off helping my business partners plan their budgets for the year and control spending. It’s a great place to start because you get to see where all the financial data comes from and you get experience leading the various planning, forecasting and quarterly close cycles. I now help my partners in marketing and engineering understand the various financial implications of business decisions for a full product line and help them understand the value we’re creating or losing with each decision.

If you have any typical days in your current role, what do they look like?

Like many other professionals, I spend most of my time in meetings, corresponding with others via email and instant message, and preparing for meetings by putting together content in PowerPoint or Excel. My typical day is composed of multiple one-on-one meetings with partners in finance or operations, or other meetings with a range of people involved in a particular project or process. I spend about 25% to 50% of the day at my desk pulling together financials, preparing presentations or corresponding with others to drive initiatives forward. Adhoc analysis and data requests are also typical items of daily work.