CPA-lawyer shares advice from uncommon career path

Accounting graduate David Kandolha ’89 advised current students to find the right fit for their first job and to seek guidance from mentors throughout their careers. Mentors are ideally more than two years ahead in their careers and have common interests, he told a group of Business Honors students at Mays.

Business Honors and accounting major Madeline Kelly said one of the things she took away from the talk was that she should takeDavid Kandolha advantage of opportunities like the one to meet with Kandolha. “He thinks learning from mentors is the best way to grow as a person and learn from the mistakes of people who have already been in our shoes, and it will help us get knowledge about the best way to go about a situation,” she explained.

After graduating from Texas A&M University with an accounting degree, Kandolha began his career at Arthur Andersen auditing energy companies. He also holds a JD from South Texas College of Law and a certificate in International Studies from the Bush School of Government. He is a certified public accountant and a member of the New York Bar Association.

Kandolha said when he was going through the interview process, he had a feeling public accounting was the place to be. He worked at Arthur Anderson initially, then attended law school at night while working for the energy trading division of Metallgesellschaft.

He had four job offers from big accounting firms when he was about to graduate. He gave the students advice on what to consider when seeking a job:

  • Do not choose a firm based only on starting salary
  • The biggest firm with the best reputation may not be the best fit for you
  • Learn about the training the company will provide
  • Think about what skills you will gain that are going to be important for you five to 10 years down the line

Kandolha said the most important thing to look at is what employees take away from a particular job – the skills and the network. “Look at the people you’re going to be working with and connecting with and learning from,” he said. He also advised looking very carefully at the company’s culture. “Make sure it’s a good fit for you,” he said. “There’s a lot of prestige that goes with saying, ‘I worked for Goldman Sachs’ or another company, but if the company’s culture is not a good fit for you, if will not be the best choice for you.”

He also recommended that the students find mentors to meet with at least monthly, once they have secured a job. “Those are the people who, when an opportunity for promotion comes up, will stand up for you,” he said. “Look for people you relate to and who are willing to take the time to be an effective mentor.”

Kandolha is a co-founder of Akeida Capital Management, an environmental investment manager that invests in carbon reduction, renewable energy and energy efficiency projects globally. Akeida raised more than $100 million, which it used to finance the construction of four biomass power plants, solar facilities and carbon reduction projects. Akeida owns two biomass power plants, a solar thermal system on the Arizona State University campus and a portfolio of emission credits.

Kandolha was previously a managing director and a founder of Natsource Asset Management, which invested in carbon reduction projects and managed $800 million dollars at its peak. Natsource was started in 1994 by Kandolha and his 4 partners in New York City.  The company went international within four years, opening opened offices in Toronto, Washington, D.C., Calgary, London, Oslo and Tokyo.  At its peak, Natsource employed over 200 people. He aided in the formation and management of businesses in New York, London and Oslo on behalf of Natsource.

Prior to Natsource, Kandolha was a broker of natural gas swaps and options at Euro Brokers Capital Markets and a natural gas analyst with Metallgesellschaft.

Kandolha said he has learned a tremendous amount along the way. “I always consider my mistakes to be seminars,” he said. “And I try to learn from my mistakes and other people’s experiences.”

The students listened intently as Kandolha spoke. Shiv Bembalkar, a Business Honors and finance major, said he always finds it interesting to hear about the careers of former students from Mays. “Mr. Kandolha repeatedly expressed how he felt when he was sitting in our chair,” he said. “His presentation was geared to how he came up in his career path, while noting key things that would help us take advantage of situations when we first start working professionally.”

Caroline Fluke, a Business Honors and supply chain management major, said listening to Kandolha speak was highly motivating. “One of the best takeaways I got from Mr. Kandolha was his advice on how to choose our first job,” she said. “He spoke about the importance of having a mentor and enjoying the environment and people you work with. I am glad I went!”

Vivek Singh, a Business Honors and finance major, added: “David Kandolha served as living proof that the unconventional path can lead to success. It was exciting to hear about his career decisions, and his worldview focused on finding inefficiencies and creating change to fix them. From environmental investing to interactions on a trade floor, it was a truly interesting discussion!”

Source: TAMU Business School by Kelli R. Levey

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