William Leonard holds three degrees from UCI and is currently a senior financial analyst at National Retail Systems.

Triple UCI Alum William Leonard Propels his Accounting Career with Data Analytics

January 28, 2022 • By Brian Nguyen

Like many of us, William Leonard—Business Economics ’17, MPAc ’19, MSBA ’21—has experienced an unconventional career path. After graduating high school, Leonard moved on to community college, working three jobs while attending his classes. Afterwards he transferred to UCI in pursuit of a bachelor's degree in business economics and social policy. 

Around this time, Leonard wanted to continue developing his skill sets outside of school as well. He said: “At some point, I wanted to learn a marketable skill set, so I started learning to program when I was 19.” Leonard went from working three jobs while going to school at community college to working as a software engineer during his time at UCI. 

Leonard’s position as a software engineer not only influenced his undergraduate major, it also led to his enrollment in the Master of Professional Accountancy program (MPAc) at The UCI Paul Merage School of Business. Leonard looked back at his choice to pursue his MPAc stating: “By the time I was about to graduate with my bachelor’s, I was still working the same software engineering job and writing pricing algorithms. I looked at where I was and I told myself that I wanted to go further, and the technical, business side of my job drew me toward the field of accounting.” 

Fresh out of college, Leonard dove right back into academia to further his professional prowess. He chose the data analytics track for the Merage School’s part-time MPAc program saying, “that’s really where the focus is and where the accounting industry is headed.” During this period, Leonard also moved on to an accounting position in which he focused on forensic accounting. Curiously enough, most of his work involved data analytics. 

He said: “The analytics track helped me with my job, but a year after I graduated, I realized that building on my business analytics and data science knowledge would really give me a competitive edge.” 

Naturally, Leonard pursued this line of thinking and returned to the Merage School to obtain his master’s degree in business analytics. He reflected on the decision to stay with the Merage School and said: “The School has some of the highest caliber faculty that I’ve ever encountered. The people at the Merage School are professionals in the respective fields, which makes them highly qualified as professors.” 

After graduating with his second master's degree, Leonard remarked: “The skill set that I gained from the MSBA program was exponentially high. What I was able to do was build much more complex machine learning financial models.” 

Leonard now has a set of professional skills that are both highly competitive and complementary, which is sure to get heads turning in almost any industry. He said: “With the way the accounting industry is going especially, I think having that analytics background is very essential.” 

With a recent promotion and a bright future ahead, Leonard wants to advise young scholars at the Merage School: “Take advantage of all the resources that are provided to you, engage with your professors as much as you can, and make the most out of every opportunity that the Merage School provides. At the end of the day, your education is what you make of it.”