Kevin Sutanto, assurance senior manager, immigrated from Indonesia in the late 2000s for higher education. He joined a firm in 2016 that later combined with Moss Adams and currently works out of our Houston office. Kevin discusses his immigration experience, the bamboo ceiling that Asians face on their path to leadership in the accounting industry, and why breaking barriers is the theme of this year’s celebration of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month.
What led you into the accounting industry after your immigration?
I decided on accounting because I thought it would be easier to find a job. Indonesia is an underprivileged country, and they have the biggest Muslim population in the world, so it makes it hard to apply for a visa to study or work in the US. I thought a job in accounting would simplify the visa process.
Applying for a work visa is different. It’s a longer process than that of the student visa and the quota for approved applications is much smaller. I only had three months to get a job and have my application approved. I got a job and I applied, but then I wasn’t picked.
It was scary. I already lived in the US, I started working, and I was building what I wanted for my life. That didn’t matter. I could be great at my job, I could be incredibly smart, but I was rejected in a lottery system. Without a visa, I felt so helpless because I might have had to leave.
I went back to school to extend my stay. During that time, I fell in love and married my wife. This meant I didn’t need to go through the unpredictable visa process again, which I was grateful for.