Fall in Love With Accounting

Instructor Ehab Saad makes financial concepts available to students

“[Ehab Saad] really took his time to teach and made sure we all understood the subject and assignments.”

Intermediate Accounting I student, spring 2018

Ehab Saad, Ph.D., CMA, CFM, has a magical word that he believes makes him a successful teacher: love.

He loves teaching. Specifically, Ehab loves teaching numerical subjects such as accounting and finance.

For him, it is not a job. Why? Because he considers his students family, and he looks forward to sharing with them in class what he learned that day in his work as an independent financial consultant.

First Impressions

Ehab’s fondness for accounting began at Cairo University, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting. It was in his first year there that an accounting professor helped him realize that a career in this field was not just his calling, but a love.

“He made me fall in love with accounting,” he says, “and this is what I am trying to do now with my students. In the first lecture of each course I teach, I tell my students that I love accounting and my mission is to make all of them love accounting.”

Ehab began his first stint teaching in 2004, on a part-time basis, at American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Then, he spent several years as a senior auditor with Arthur Andersen (now Andersen Global) and then as an audit manager and a senior financial adviser at HLB HAMT. After these experiences, Ehab returned to teaching at the University of Dubai. The teacher also turned student while pursuing a doctorate in finance from Grenoble Ecole de Management.

“During the time that I was working at the University of Dubai, they had a shortage of finance professors and they needed to have more to satisfy the accreditation requirements of Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International),” he recalls. “The dean of the business school really encouraged me to get a doctorate degree in finance. After spending more than 17 years in accounting and auditing, I fell in love with a new field.”

Like his professors, Ehab wants to pass along this love to his students.

The Courtship

Ehab says that there are many reasons why he loves to teach accounting and finance courses in the Certificate Program in Accounting. But his three main ones are:

  1. Everyone needs to be financially literate so that they can make better and well-informed life and business decisions.

  2. Accounting and finance are the languages of business. No one can be successful in any business without accounting and financial knowledge. (According to Investopedia, accounting is known as “the language of business” because it communicates the successes, failures and overall state of organizations.)

  3. Accounting and finance require critical thinking and analysis.

So how does he make these subjects engaging to new students, class after class? By applying accounting and finance concepts to real-world situations.

“In college, when I had asked another one of my professors how he applies one of the accounting concepts in real life, he had said he doesn't know because he never worked as a professional in accounting and finance,” Ehab recounts. “He had just spent all of his life in the library doing research to get his master’s and doctorate degrees.

“I felt really bad—and I got an important life lesson,” he continues. “I decided to work in the accounting profession so I could transfer to my students not only my knowledge, but also my experience on how they can apply that knowledge in real life. I’ve spent all my life working in the accounting and finance fields, gaining professional experience during the day and then teaching what I have learned to my students in the evening.

“Incorporating real-life applications are key to making accounting and finance interesting,” Ehab continues. “At the beginning of the course, I choose a famous company to discuss. Then, I explain a topic in detail—for example, financial statements—and we apply each topic to this company as the course goes on. I might spend no more than 20 percent of class time explaining the concepts, and then spend 80 percent showing my students how to apply those concepts in their personal life and in the workplace.”

This makes Ehab’s course a cumulative learning experience. “For the final project, students read, understand and analyze the financial statements of a company of their choosing, then write a report about the company's performance and share it with other students. By the end of the course, we get to know the financial position for approximately 20 different companies. And, by giving the students real cases from famous companies—including Apple, Facebook and Google—they feel the importance of this information and, ultimately, they enjoy the class.”

“I came to class with zero knowledge about accounting, apprehensive [about] whether I would like learning accounting or [have to] force myself to learn it. His examples are applicable to everyday situations, which makes it easier to absorb the material.”

Introduction to Financial Accounting student, fall 2018

The Importance of Give and Take

In 2015, Ehab resigned from his position as a senior financial controller for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and the ruler of Dubai, and moved here with his wife to be closer to their children. Once he got his U.S. work authorization, Ehab resumed his career: first, in education by teaching accounting, finance and auditing courses with us, and then establishing himself as an independent financial consultant.

And there are two great things about teaching for UC Berkeley Extension that fall in-line with Ehab’s passion for the field:

  1. Diversity
    Dubai is known for diversity, so I got a good amount of experience on how to work with students from different cultures. This helps me when I teach at UC Berkeley Extension, which is also known for being diverse.”
  2. Professionalism
    “Extension students are mature, meaning they are mostly working professionals. I also get to benefit from their experience when we discuss a topic during class or discuss the final project, which is based on real-life situations.”

It is those experiences Ehab incorporates into future class lessons.

“Many of the examples and cases I use are from my previous students through their class participation and final project discussion,” he says. “I always tell my students during the first lecture that I like my class to be two-way communication: I transfer to them what knowledge and experience I have and they also share with me and other classmates their knowledge and experience, so everyone benefits and the class becomes interactive and interesting.”

“Passionate about the topic and engaging as an instructor, it was clear that he cared about our learning.”

Introduction to Financial Accounting student, summer 2018

Ehab is just as present outside of class as when he’s in front of students: Answering questions via email or coming to class early or staying late to work one-on-one with his students. And if that weren’t enough, Ehab has been known to come in on a weekend to tutor students before an exam.

“I am committed to helping them understand what they missed,” Ehab explains. “I know how students get nervous and tense before the final exam, so I always offer a 5-hour revision class the weekend before to review the material until they feel confident.

“For me, teaching is not just a job—I love it and enjoy it,” he divulges. "I tell my students that the three hours of each class—even though they usually occur after a long work day—are the best hours in my day.”

Ready to find your own numerical passion? Check out the Certificate Program in Accounting.