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A reluctant accountant finds his groove in PwC, and on to a trendy retail brand.
He didn’t know quite what he wanted to do in life, but it wouldn’t be accounting—or so he thought. VP Finance and Operations for Chubbies Inc., and former PwC senior associate, Dave Wardell, reflects with laughter on a pivotal moment during his college days at UCLA. Both his parents were (and still are) accountants. Despite his love for them and pride in their accomplishments, the college-age Wardell wanted to define his own career path. But, parents can be persuasive. “They convinced me to take that first accounting class,” he said, “and I fought it as hard as I could.”
But in the end, it clicked. And after graduation, so did his first encounter with PwC. An instant match, according to Wardell, who said, “I really liked the people I met—they were very relatable. Two of the four people they matched me with were in the exact group I was interested in—Private Company Services (PCS). It worked out well.”
Wardell points to his two-year PCS Assurance experience, which offered a variety of engagements, training and mentorship, as helping prepare him for his next opportunity: “…trying my hand in the software world.” He moved physically as well, from Los Angeles to PwC’s San Jose office. The relocation would set him on a course toward a new startup, but he didn’t know it yet.
Meanwhile, a year of software auditing experience—including a confidence-boosting trip to India to lead an audit—opened the possibility of another internal transfer. This time, it was to San Francisco and the Financial Due Diligence Transaction Services Group, within PwC’s Advisory line of service. It was a role tailor-made for the initially reluctant accountant. “For the first time, I learned how to look at things from an operational perspective,” Wardell said. “I could say to myself, yes, this is what the accounting looks like, but also here’s the cash position; here’s what it means operationally for a business.”
And that was the key that unlocked his move from public accounting and advisory services to the “shorts revolution” world of Chubbies, Inc. The retailer is a unique brand of weekend-oriented apparel and accessories founded by “four Stanford guys,” as Wardell cheekily describes them. He met two as roommates during that initial drop into Silicon Valley—a notoriously tough place to find housing in a hurry. These days, they are all fast friends, attending one another’s weddings, hanging out on weekends (in true Chubbies style), and driving their nascent brand forward.
Wardell put his financial due diligence chops to immediate use at Chubbies, helping the retailer spot critical patterns. “It’s been a wonderful experience and a fun brand.” Wardell said, “We have awesome clothes and great apparel and accessories, but a big piece of it is the vibe and the experience we try to give our customers. That’s a lot of the thought behind the brand: treat these customers as if they are one of your good friends, and they’ll listen.”
To help create the financial and operational rigor underpinning the fun, Wardell instilled elements of PwC culture. “Because I come from the PwC environment, we are very focused here on mentorship and coaching; on people teaching and training others,” he said, “That is a core fundamental part of being on my team at Chubbies. And it’s because of where I came from and how influential it was in my growth and development. When we’re looking to hire people for our company, I give a huge amount of credence to someone coming from a Big Four background, and PwC especially, because I know what it takes to succeed there. I can’t recommend PwC enough to people, particularly coming out of college.”
Sounds like something that would make a couple of CPA parents proud. In case they’re listening.