Learning & Development

Owning Their Career: Francisco Sarmiento Jr

Determination, innovation, and meaningful mentorship brought this partner from a village to the board room.

Francisco Sarmiento Jr. in front of a mountain background

Francisco Sarmiento, Jr. (he/him) didn’t know what to be when he grew up. He only knew he wanted better. Raised by a large family of rice farmers in a village in the Philippines, Francisco committed to escaping the “vicious cycle of poverty.”

“I saw how difficult life was for a farmer,” Francisco says, voice broken by a flood of painful memories. “My parents worked hard for very little and could only afford basic needs, just like their parents. I told myself I would do my best to escape the generational struggle. I wanted to take care of us.”

With personal determination and generous mentorship from Eric Miles, Francisco eventually became a partner in our San Francisco office. The journey wasn’t easy, and it would take decades of perseverance through fear, isolation, and limited resources before Francisco would break new ground.

“The version of me that immigrated to the United States is not who I am today,” Francisco says. “I’ve grown a lot. Achieving what I have after coming here with nothing is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.”

Francisco Sarmiento Jr. and his family
Sowing the Seeds

Francisco was drawn to accounting for two reasons—the encouragement of a high school bookkeeping teacher and air conditioning.

“When I was young, I thought the people who worked in air-conditioned banks looked nice and comfortable.” He laughs and adds, “My family worked on the farm in really hot temperatures, so I thought working in a bank would be better.”

He was the first among his six siblings to demonstrate a gift and interest in his school, so his parents invested what they could in helping him through higher education. By the time Francisco earned his accounting degree in 2002, he was the top graduate in his accounting class and graduated magna cum laude.

Tenacity and inventiveness, despite financial insecurity, ushered Francisco through his Philippine university. “I had limited resources, even in high school, and I couldn’t buy all of my books,” Francisco explains. “I borrowed books when I could, relied on my memory, and found ways to make do.”

Francisco landed several offers from US accounting firms with local offices but couldn’t be hired until he passed his CPA exam. Less than six months after graduation, due to a CPA exam score that ranked him seventh in the country, Francisco accepted an offer from the US firm with the most prominent local office to “learn from the best.”

He worked as an associate for three years before his high-performing reputation allowed him to work temporarily in Atlanta. “It was scary,” he says, “but I couldn’t say no.”

Francisco Sarmiento Jr. driving a small boat
A Hard Row

Adjusting to life in the United States on an H-1B visa introduced new challenges, including culture shock and isolation from family. He struggled to meet the expectations of navigating team dynamics and client relationships, and unfamiliar cultural dynamics made it harder to network.

“At one point, I had to take myself to the hospital for surgery,” Francisco remembers. “In the Philippines, we’re very family-oriented, and family helps one another. I was young, and it was tough trying to be self-sufficient in difficult times without a support system or someone to guide me.”

Francisco accepted a role at a new firm and relocated to San Francisco, where he lived for the next few years. By the time he joined Moss Adams in 2010, he had only two years remaining on his visa. If Francisco didn’t secure permanent residence, he’d be forced to return to the Philippines. 

“I spent many days anxious that I would have to go back home for things outside my control,” Francisco says. “I’d seen friends who were forced to leave the country because they were laid off during the recession, and I was afraid to make any long-term plans because I knew things might change for me at any time. I could restart my life if needed, but I came here to prove something. If I went home, did that mean I was a failure?”

Francisco Sarmiento Jr. grilling next to a river
Blooming Where Planted

Moss Adams sponsored Francisco’s application for permanent resident status, and he demonstrated his commitment to the firm through hard work. He identified gaps in existing processes and then leveraged learnings from previous employers to recommend inventive solutions. “Our firm is very entrepreneurial,” he says, “so I used my resourcefulness from college to be successful.”

CEO Eric Miles, then Francisco’s career advisor, encouraged his innovations. Francisco’s new templates, memos, and other assets streamlined client work firmwide, and his improvements led Eric to provide new opportunities for advancement. Then, Francisco experienced setbacks with the vendor selected by the firm to submit his green card application.

Like before, he pinpointed the problem, identified a solution, and presented his insight to Eric for support. Francisco explains, “I found a new vendor who was less expensive and had a better track record, so I told Eric they could help. He told me to make it happen. I was so grateful he supported me.”

In 2015, shortly after his green card was finally approved, Francisco was promoted to senior manager. As he excelled in his career, Eric offered more growth opportunities. Francisco says Eric’s guidance played a vital role in his career trajectory.

“He helped me grow my network,” Francisco says. “He bought me a book on being a trusted advisor and had it delivered to my home. He hired an executive coach to work with me. Even though I was a nervous wreck, he challenged me to present during firm trainings and sales meetings, including speaking to potential clients and during our clients’ audit committee meetings. Eric invested in me. He kept pushing me because he believed in who I could become. He genuinely cares about people, and he became my support system. That’s good leadership.”

From left, Francisco Sarmiento Jr., Diksha Sahni, and Eric Miles
Greener Pastures

As a partner growing the business risk services practice since 2018, Francisco is a champion for up-and-coming talent because he’s experienced the difference a strong career advisor can make in someone’s professional success. He mentors junior team members and sponsors them through leadership programs—especially those with similar experiences, such as immigrants or folks from historically underrepresented backgrounds.

He credits the business resource groups for the visibility and connections that have validated the firm's many different cultures and demonstrated the value of diverse perspectives.

Francisco says, “When I became a partner, I looked at the leadership and told Eric I didn’t see myself represented. I questioned whether I fit, and he told me that’s not what we’re about. That’s why I advocate for those who don’t speak up. I know what it’s like to stay quiet when you don’t belong. I know our struggle, and I want us to be heard.”

The workplace flexibility offered by the firm has allowed Francisco to spend time with his family in the Philippines. When possible, he tries to visit at least once a year. He still gets homesick, but he couldn’t be happier with the life he’s earned.   

 “I never imagined a boy from a farming village in the Philippines would become a partner at an accounting firm,” he said. “Somehow, I’ve gone from a rice field to San Francisco—one of the nation’s most beautiful cities. It’s the greatest feeling, and what I’ve done is something my family and I are proud of.”

Go Beyond the Desk

At Moss Adams, we believe in the power of possible to empower our clients and people to pursue success however they define it. Explore stories about our professionals, including their personal achievements, at our Beyond the Desk page.