The debate between working for bigger companies or smaller companies is a big topic for a lot of college graduates entering the workforce—I’d know, I was recently one of them. Everyone has their opinion of which way is best before they take the job, and those may or may not change after everyone has spent some time being employed.
Upon graduating college, I took a different path than many of my friends—I took a job at Schellman, a boutique cybersecurity assessment firm, while several of my friends chose to go work for the more established Big 4 Accounting Firms.
In a way, we’re coworkers—we’re working in the same position. But because I’m here and they’re where they are, from what I’ve heard, we’re having two very different work experiences.
Using what I’ve heard from my friends, I’m going to explore some of those differences in this article. For anyone else that’s trying to break into this industry and is also debating whether small firms are better than big ones—or vice versa—I hope you find the extra insight helpful in making your own choice on where to work.
5 Ways Schellman Differs From Other Accounting Firms
1. Transparency and Access From the Start
I started with Schellman as part of the summer class in June of 2022. I was like anybody else who had anxiety and worry about really stepping into the workforce with my first, official full-time position—I’m happy to say my experience here so far has erased all that.
That’s because Schellman made it very evident from the beginning that this firm fosters an inclusive environment where everyone, no matter their position in the hierarchy, can connect with executive leadership on a personal level.
I saw that very clearly when my first week included a happy hour with the CEO. In the back of my head, I knew that there was a chance I might cross paths with her at some (future) point, but she flew from Florida just to see us, the new hires, during my first week. Though admit I have no real comparison to how it works at the Big Four firms, I’m confident that you would not get the same experience—it seems like you might not get a similar experience hardly anywhere.
2. Workplace Vibe
Since then, what I have grown to appreciate the most in what little time I have spent here would be how everyone interacts with each other. For me, what makes or breaks a job or an experience is the people you’re around.
As an associate, I’ve mostly been working with those who share the office in Columbus with me and everyone has been great—very collaborative and open. Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend our corporate trip to Miami where the entire firm met up for a weekend of news and parties. Since I’m a recent college grad, it’s obvious that I’m a new hire, and I was a bit apprehensive about what it would be like to meet other, more seasoned coworkers.
But it was great to find out that the warm spirit I was loving in Ohio is actually shared throughout the entire company. Every interaction I had with other “SchellmaNators”—as leadership calls us—was kindhearted and sincere with lively conversations. I’d never met these people before, but it felt like we'd been working together for months.
I did wonder if it was just me, or if maybe this ease between coworkers was more common at other places than I thought. So, I did some research, and I found even more enthusiastic opinions about other people’s time at Schellman. It’s funny how I’d seen these kinds of reviews on Glass Door before accepting the job, but now I knew from experience that these sentiments were true.
Out of curiosity, I also compared Schellman’s scores against the Big Four firms, and not only is Schellman given almost a whole overall star higher than each of those titans, but we also have a significantly higher recommendation percentage, which, to me, is huge.
When it comes to the true opinion of a job, having someone recommend a place to you is so important. Think about it—we’d never want a friend of ours to work somewhere they would hate or waste their time. We want our friends to be happy, and Schellman’s 98% recommendation rate proves that it’s not just me—people are happy here and want their friends to come enjoy it as much as we all are.
3. Work/Life Balance
When I talk to my friends who did opt for the Big Four experience, I always hear about the long hours. By far, that’s their biggest gripe—I’ve heard that their work day can extend to 10 or 12 hours.
Not only that, but it’s an expectation to work that much—it’s been communicated that if you want to move up, working more is the way. You sink or you swim, basically, because they know that their numbers and reputation are so great that there will always be someone to replace those that can’t hack it.
In my view, I think that people’s personal lives are way too important for their overall health to be working in an office for five or sometimes six days a week, and I’m lucky Schellman agrees. I don’t feel that same kind of pressure—I feel like there’s a good group around me that is going to help me succeed. I don’t worry about if taking PTO will damage my career—Schellman even offers seasonal incentives sometimes to make sure everyone is getting a shot to relax.
4. Investment in the Future
The firm also actively invests in its people and their futures, whether that means through the 401k match for the long term or education opportunities in the shorter term. I know a lot of companies out there offer similar benefits, but I’m not sure how many offer a 10% match. And from what I’ve heard, some places might pay for study materials but stick you with the bill for testing—not Schellman though.
I feel like that’s one of the reasons why Schellman has a much higher retention rate compared to other firms. They’ve created an environment with plenty of opportunities to grow, and so people stay to take advantage. Even as a new associate, I already know of so many avenues I can take moving forward to expand my knowledge base and get more involved with my teams.
5. More Hands-On Experience and Trust
Even as new as I am, Schellman’s already given me tasks on projects that challenge what I have learned from the lessons during my two-month training. My managers want me to be involved in the processes, and I know it’s to prepare me for leadership positions.
That’s because, at Schellman, the approach is to bring everyone up so when a supervisor is promoted, there isn’t a concern about who can ably fill the empty position. Our teams are built soundly so the flow of communication and feedback moves efficiently to streamline the business process. If there are any concerns in the team, we have a set method to resolve any concerns someone may have.
Want to Join the Team?
When I graduated, I did all the same research everyone does when trying to find a job. I landed at Schellman—a smaller firm—rather than following my friends to the Big Four. Now that I’ve started, I’m glad about it.
For me, the flexibility and work/life balance mixed in with all of the benefits beats out all of the competition. I’m happy with the management team in my office and how connected they are to even new hires like myself. In the short time I have spent with the company, I am confident that I made the right decision.
Interested in learning more about the experience at Schellman? Check out testimonials from other team members from different angles:
- Starting a Job During a Pandemic - Schellman Reflects
- SchellmanLIFE - The First 90 Days
- What Keeps Me At Schellman - Matt Crane
About the AuthorMore Content by Will Sparks