University of Southern California

Tony Thrower
Title
A Serendipitous Path
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Graduating Year
2010

As he was about to graduate from Bowdoin College, Tony Thrower was torn about which path to take into his future. Strong interests in theater and economics—and an undergraduate major in each—faced him with a difficult choice. So he went to Karen Mills, mentor to a friend and now head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, for advice. “I asked her, what’s the key to success?” he recalls.

“Take a serendipitous path,” replied Mills. “Do something you’ve never done before, right now while you’re young.’”

He decided to accept an offer from accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers for a program designed specifically for people without an accounting background. “What they learned was that people who have a more holistic way of thinking actually thrive better in the accounting industry,” he explains. “A lot of times, if you can only see the numbers, you [may miss] what’s going on qualitatively.”

The Pricewaterhouse Los Angeles program begins with an intensive, one-year master’s in accounting (MAcc) degree from the USC Leventhal School of Accounting.

A strong grounding

Tony says his favorite part of the program was the summer intensive, which is aimed at getting students without an accounting background up to speed for their fall classes. “Basically, you go through eight weeks of intensive course training,” he explains. “You’re in the same classroom with the same 150 people from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and, many times, hours after that back at our dormitory.

“The thing I loved about it the most is that, yes, that’s where you learn the foundation of accounting—but it’s also where you learn the foundation of your relationship with friends you’re going to have forever.”

Beyond accounting

While he is excited about beginning work at Pricewaterhouse and is keeping all his options open, Tony eventually wants to create a nonprofit arts organization to serve under-served, inner-city youth. “If the students in those underprivileged neighborhoods have something else to focus their attention on, then they’ll stay out of the streets and they’ll stay out of trouble.”

Tony speaks with the conviction of experience, coming from an underprivileged background himself. “Somebody picked me up, and helped my mother and me buy a violin, and they helped me get involved with the arts,” he recalls. “That contributed to the success I have today.”

He believes the Leventhal MAcc program has given him the tools that will serve him well no matter what career opportunities he ultimately pursues. “They teach us so much more than just accounting,” Tony says. “It’s a well-rounded program that really teaches you how to build, grow and be successful in whatever endeavor you want to undertake.”

Work-life balance

In addition to the MAcc degree’s well-rounded nature, Tony says one of the most pleasant surprises was “how fun the program was.”

“You’d think with something like accounting that there wouldn’t be as much work-life balance as you get here,” he says. Class outings included going to a Dodgers game and visiting Universal Studios. Tony also played intramural football with other accounting students, calling their team the “Bad Assets.”

New perspectives

His favorite class was Professor John Owens’ CFO Lens course. “We’d look at one industry each week from the CFO’s perspective, asking what would we do to help build that company, grow it and make it number one in its respective industry,” Tony explains. “Then at the end of each project, we had the actual CFO come in and tell us what they were doing. We looked at companies like Sony, Disney, Northrop Grumman—you name it.”