Career Path - Mark Astrinos, CPA/PFS

Mark Astrinos
I decided to major in Accounting early on in college for a few reasons. The first being, there was a very high demand for this profession at the time. Secondly, the career seemed to match my skill sets: I was good with numbers, had really good attention to detail, and enjoyed working with clients. Lastly, I was told by my professors that this was the most versatile degree, meaning that once you develop an understanding of the basic principles of accounting and how financials work, you can always detour into other careers. All of these proved to be true a decade later.

I started my career path as a sophomore in college when I saw a position for a summer externship at Deloitte, one of the big four public accounting firms in the bay area. It was there that I learned about the different practice areas, primarily Audit and Tax. After this externship, I found myself committed to a full summer internship in Audit, followed by a full time job upon graduation. During my first year at Deloitte I passed the CPA exam and awaited the experience requirement to get certified. As a member of the Audit department, the majority of my work was around SEC compliance, technical accounting, and external reporting for public and private companies. While working with corporate clients was interesting, something seemed to be missing and I realized this was not what I saw myself doing for the rest of my career.

Looking for a change, I petitioned to do a rotation in the Consulting department, an experience which opened up my eyes to the strategy and operations side of businesses. While this work was a nice change of pace, it reassured me that I wanted to work with people, not companies. The end of this experience set me on a path of finding a new career.

During my entire time as a CPA at Deloitte, my friends and family would ask me tax/personal finance related questions. I grew tired of explaining that I was an Audit CPA (not Tax) and quite honestly I was embarrassed that I didn’t know the answers to their questions. I found myself researching the answers and being very fascinated by the information I was reading. This realization propelled me into a new career as I joined a regional tax firm, where I did tax compliance and planning for affluent individuals and closely held businesses. The transition was not easy; I essentially had to “restart” my career and learn a whole new set of skills and language (tax code). On top of this, my peers and managing partners thought I was crazy for turning my back on a path which was nicely laid out (in Audit). After a few tax seasons, I started developing relationships with the financial advisors for my tax clients and learned more about what they did. While my tax work was rewarding and extremely important, I began learning that tax planning was just one piece of financial planning pie and I wanted to help clients with more.

The past few years I’ve been working as a financial planner and investment advisor at Vista Wealth Management, an independent RIA in the Bay Area. To be honest, I didn’t even know that this career existed prior to this. When I learned more about the financial planning industry, I became fascinated. It was during this time that I pursued my CFP/PFS credential to further my skill sets. I think the litmus test for anyone doing career soul searching is to find out what you read in your downtime and figure out how you can do that for a living. In the past, it was rare that I picked up a book on technical accounting or the tax code. Mostly all of my reading was personal finance and investments related. I didn’t realize this at the time, but this was a sign. I now feel lucky to have found a career where I can help people plan for all areas of their financial life, whether it’s understanding their stock options, planning for retirement, and a whole lot more. All my experiences prior to this have helped me become a well-rounded advisor for my clients.