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Bringing Back the Skills

Mike Paranal MBT ’06, an accomplished tax attorney and financial advisor, returns to USC to give his students real-world insights

March 14, 2022
Mike Paranal is a popular professor at USC Leventhal
Mike Paranal MBT '06, has returned to teach at USC Leventhal and share his insights and skills with students. 

Michael C. Paranal MBT ’06 is a firm believer in lifelong learning.

His Filipino parents stressed the importance of not only education but also finding a passion in life. As a result, he earned five degrees and has enjoyed an accomplished, international career. But in 2021 he returned to USC to pursue another passion: teaching students at USC Leventhal School of Accounting, part of the Marshall School of Business.

Paranal’s CV reads like a travel itinerary. He earned a Bachelor of Science in accounting at the University of Missouri, a Master’s of Business Taxation (MBT) at Leventhal, a post graduate degree in international transactional law from Oxford, and a JD/MBA from the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School.

He began his career as a senior associate at Deloitte in international tax and transfer pricing, and then spent two years as an honors program fellow in law at the Securities and Exchange Commission in the division of enforcement in Washington, D.C. He was an associate attorney in corporate finance with Latham and Watkins in New York and London before taking a job with the European Central Bank as legal counsel in the finance division. Now, he is director of advisory in the U.S. for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW).

He brings significant clinical experience, insights and networking into his classroom. And first and foremost, he understands his mission: to prepare Marshall and Leventhal students with the technical fluency, insights, and global outlook necessary to thrive in the workplace of today—and tomorrow.

We asked him a few questions as the semester winds down. 
 

What are you most excited about in this next chapter of your career?

My perspective is that we're here to teach students and to share our knowledge and experience, but what I'm most excited about is learning from them, about the world through their perspective, and what's important to them in business. It's no longer just driving profits up, but how are you in terms of social responsibility and social justice? What is your commitment to climate? How do you support people and their mental health especially in challenging times?

My first year of teaching has been extremely rewarding, with challenges, of course. But the hard work is worth it, especially when I see my students become more confident, not just in the material we cover in class, but also in how they present themselves in front of colleagues, interviewers, and future employers. I am also very grateful for the support I get from the deans, faculty, and staff to accomplish these objectives. It really is a team effort.

 

Did you set out to have an international career?

I started this whole international aspect of my career by accident. I was in law school and applying for an internship. It was 2012, and it was the Summer Olympics in London. And I said, “Wouldn't it be great if I interned where they're holding the Olympics?” That's how it all started. And how fortuitous was it that when I did that, it opened my eyes to the value of international exposure, whether it's in a classroom setting or in the business setting, because then you really grow and become a global-minded citizen. It was one of the best learning experiences in my life.

 

Tell us about GEMS, the new career mentorship program you’ve developed for Leventhal and Marshall students?

GEMS stands for Grooming Exceptional Minds for Success. It is a business leadership program where we invite students from the Introduction to Financial Accounting class to visit multinational companies so they can see what careers in business, finance and accounting await them. During the onsite visit, they meet with professionals, from new associates all the way to the CFO, who give them a variety of perspectives on what kinds of work they can do. It opens the door to early fall, spring and summer internships because at the end of the visit, they hand their resumes to HR.  On March 4 a group of students met with SVPs at Westfield headquarters in Century City, who report being incredibly impressed with the caliber of our students.

We also partner with board members, so that students get one-on-one mentorship. The students have met with their mentors and will continue to throughout the semester. I created GEMS because I think a lot of learning obviously happens in class, but a lot of it also happens outside the classroom. The goal is to help propel our students toward meaningful and impactful future careers.

 

What do you consider your greatest career highlight or accomplishment so far?

I recently got a letter from a student I taught two years ago. He was inspired by my own journey, but he ended up pursuing a Ph.D. instead. In that process, I advised him and wrote him a recommendation letter. And he got in. I think any time a student can achieve or take a step closer to what they want to achieve, it brings me back to how I was when I was a student. All the professional and academic achievements I have were only possible because of the kindness and generosity of the people who paved the way and were generous enough with their time to open the gate for me.  My biggest achievement is being able to do the same for young people who are also trying to achieve their dreams.