Accounting & Auditing | Ethics & Professional Issues | Leadership / Management | Training & CPE

#AuditorProud: Leaders’ Advice for Next Gen CPAs

#AuditorProud was perhaps no more evident than at the MACPA's recent "Celebrate the Profession" event, featuring the swearing-in of new CPA's. In remarks at and following the event, leaders shared what makes them proud to be CPAs, along with advice for how this next generation of CPAs can uphold that sense of pride in the profession.  

Have Confidence in Your Accomplishments

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here,” AICPA Vice Chair and former MACPA Chair Kimberly Ellison-Taylor told the record-breaking gathering of newly licensed CPAs at the "Celebrate the Profession’ event in November.

“In a rapidly changing and complex world, we need you more than ever,” she told the group of new CPAs. Citing some of their defining characteristics, she said, “As CPAs, you like challenges. You are hardworking, persistent, focused and committed.”

One of the things that makes Ellison-Taylor #AuditorProud is that the possibilities for involvement in the community, both professionally and as a volunteer, are endless. "Our profession is an amazing one," she says. “One day you will be our CFOs, our Deans, our Managing Directors; there are so many different areas and volunteer aspects.” Ellison-Taylor's involvement in the profession was triggered by an email from the MACPA seeking to organize what became the New Young Professional Network (NYPN).

Currently Global Accounting Strategy Director for the Financial and Professional Services Industries for Oracle America, Ellison-Taylor quickly became involved in the MACPA, rising to Chair of the state society. In addition, she became involved in the AICPA, serving on the executive committee of the board, on the CPA Horizons 2025 project, and this year was installed as Vice Chair. 

Next year, Ellison-Taylor will become the first AICPA Chair from the state of Maryland in the MACPA’s 115 year history, and the first African-American Chair in the AICPA’s 127 year history.

“What’s most significant about Kimberly," MACPA President and CEO Tom Hood says, "is that she’s an amazing, inspiring, caring leader.”

Reflecting on her own path to the profession, Ellison-Taylor told the group of new CPAs that her interest in becoming a CPA was formed when she attended a career fair in the 3rd grade. “I fixated on becoming a CPA, the pursuit of excellence, an unwavering commitment.”

Known as an inspiring role model in her work across the state and across the country, Ellison-Taylor continued, ”Who would have known, growing up in the city of Baltimore on Gilmore Street, I would be standing on this stage.”

“I am proof: if I can do it, you can do it,” Ellison said, adding, “You really can start here and go anywhere.” (Related: see the AICPA’s StartHereGoPlaces ).

Her advice to new CPAs? “Network with colleagues, that’s what helped me reach this point, to lead an organization of over 400,000 members.”

I have every confidence whatever your dreams and ambitions are, you will achieve them, and I look forward to working with you,” Ellison-Taylor told the group. She encouraged them to be proud of their hard-earned CPA license, and keep that feeling with them, instilling confidence in themselves and their dreams throughout their careers.

Do the Right Thing, Even When It’s the Hard Thing

Art Flach, Chairman of the Maryland State Board of Public Accountancy, and a former MACPA Chair, is #AuditorProud, and has a particular message for new CPAs, so that they, individually, and the profession as a whole, can maintain and build on that sense of pride in the profession. Of utmost importance, says Flach, is "do the right thing, even when it's hard," and to strive to maintain the public trust. Here is his message: 

Congratulations on your achievement. You are members of a very select group of professionals. You have undertaken rigorous study and passed a very comprehensive examination to get where you are today.

The message I want to impart to you is, in this profession, you will be challenged every single day: challenged intellectually, as well as ethically.

I want to challenge you to rise to the occasion when times are difficult, and never deviate from your ethical and moral standards. I want you to take pride in your accomplishments.

Accounting is the language of business, and our new CPA’s are the linguists of business. You translate the results of operations into a language that few truly understand, and the public relies on you; you work in the public trust.

I also want to stress to you, that without CPAs, there is no commerce: banks won’t lend money, suppliers won’t extend credit, investors won’t invest, and companies won’t be able to sell on payment terms or obtain funds to fund operations, without financial statements they can rely on.

Without you, there are no financial markets: public companies wouldn’t be able to sell stock on an exchange without audited financial statements, and private companies wouldn’t be able to secure investor capital or debt financing without financial statements.

Without CPAs, there is no investor confidence; no public funding of state and local projects, and owners won’t be able to determine what Return on Investment is possible, or will be, for additional investments.

Everything revolves around CPAs adhering around our guiding principles, to make sure we continue to hold the public trust at the forefront of the profession

With great knowledge, comes great responsibility.

I want to say to you, unequivocally, always do the right thing.

99% of the time, people know the right course of action, but the right answer is often the most difficult answer; it is often the most courageous answer as well, but we have to meet it head on, make sure we are courageous in our actions, and understand that we need to act in the public interest, to retain the public trust, at all times.

Take pride in what you have accomplished. Relish it, share it. Be proud to be a CPA!

If You Want to Go Far, Go Together

It is not surprising to hear Tom Hood, President and CEO of the MACPA and the Business Learning Institute, telling people, “The CPA profession is one of the best groups on the planet.” Why is Hood #AuditorProud? “Because of all the things we represent,” he says. Illustrating this point, see the MACPA's video: The Spirit of a CPA.

Hood stressed the importance of the public interest in his remarks to the newly sworn in CPAs, emphasizing that being a CPA is more than a just a ‘credential,’ but a license to practice in the public interest.  Describing the role of the Maryland State Board of Public Accountancy and the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation of which it is a part, following the swearing-in ceremony led by Vickie Willkins, DLLR’s Commissioner of Occupational and Professional Licensing, Hood said, “Their job is to project the citizens of the state of Maryland.”

In a world of ever-changing innovation and disruption, how can new CPAs keep ahead of the curve, or as Hood likes to say, keep L>C: the rate of learning greater than the rate of change? He invited the new CPAs, “Come to a NYPN Happy Hour, attend a CPE event, join a committee, and help plan our events.” Here is his list of the “Top 5 things a CPA should do in the first year."

1. Become a MACPA member, 2. Attend a Townhall, 3. Come to CPA Day in Annapolis, on January 21, 2016, 4. Attend the MACPA’s Leadership Academy, and 5. Get connected to others in the profession, e.g. through MACPA’s groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, and twitter (@macpa); consider joining the New Young Professionals Network (NYPN); consider networking and educational events offered by MACPA’s local chapters 

To maintain the sense of being #AuditorProud through professional development, Hood observed that CPA firms traditionally provide a great deal of technical training in accounting, audit and tax, and provide a wealth of opportunities to hone those technical skills, but their emphasis is not as much in teaching soft skills like communication and leadership. This is where the NYPN in particular, and MACPA and the Business Learning Institute more generally, can help new CPAs keep their professional development ahead of the curve. 

The importance of sharing and supporting others’ success was a key message imparted by Hood to the newly licensed CPAs. Quoting an African proverb, Hood said, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” And with that, he added, “We look forward to seeing you in the profession.”