Accounting & Auditing | BLI Leadership | Leadership / Management | Training & CPE

In defense of Gen Y (a.k.a. the millennials)

Photo "The only way we can go wrong is to discourage these kids. They are set to go. They're smart. They're motivated. They understand the problems. They are engaged." -- David Gergen, political analyst and former white house advisor

This quote was running through my mind as I left the closing ceremony of the Beta Alpha Psi honor fraternity at Salisbury University. I was there for two reasons -- to give an award for Outstanding Academic Achievement, and to receive an honorary induction into Beta Alpha Psi for my "efforts to advance the CPA profession." Some of us take longer than others to get into BAP. :-)

The award from the MACPA's Tomorrow's CPA program for students was awarded to Kathryn Koza (also president of the Beta Alpha Psi chapter and pictured second from left). I presented it jointly with Dr. Ken Smith, chair of the Accounting Department (pictured at the far right).

As I was inducted (see pics here), I pledged to uphold BAP's three personal attributes:

  1. Maintain intellectual curiosity.
  2. Maintain a high standard of personal responsibility (with integrity and honor).
  3. Cultivate a genuine tolerance of attitudes, opinions and personal characteristics of others.

Hmmm ... don't these attributes apply to even the most seasoned CPA?

Spending the evening with these bright, hopeful, young professionals inspired me and gave me some new insights into their generation.

Strong core values: They do have strong values that are eerily similar to those of the "Greatest Generation." Under the leadership of Kathryn Koza, this chapter took on financial literacy in the community as a major theme and won second place in a national Best Practice Competition by Deloitte.

Collaboration and teamwork: This BAP chapter is a living example of how well these students know how to come together and get things done. It comes very naturally to this generation and we can learn from them as we enter the new "particpatory economy."

Technology savvy: Yep, they were "wired" with lots of technology, from smartphones to digital cameras, and they know how to use them to connect with each other and capture moments and events and share them quickly to spread the word. Did you know the average network of a graduating accounting senior is in excess of 1,500 contacts? How many did you have when you graduated?

As if to put an exclamation mark on my insights during this visit, I was treated to a tour of the new Perdue School of Business opening this fall by Dean Bob Wood, Ph.d., where I saw the future of education. My reaction was, "Wow!"

There was not a blackboard in the place! The building was wired for technology everywhere. Wi-fi, video and audio conference capability in almost every classroom. Flat-screen monitors in every classroom and spaces, even classrooms designed for collaborative learning. Breakout rooms and classes set up in pods show how important collaboration is to learning in the future and to this generation. I truly have seen the future of education. Thanks, Dean Wood.

I have hope for us as this new generation enters our profession and in a few years begins to take the reigns of leadership from us. I also think we can learn a lot from their new ways of working, and we should strive to bring them into our profession willing to listen to and respect their opinions.

Congratulations, Katy and your fellow BAP leaders, congratulations to all graduating seniors in accounting, and thanks to Dean Wood for the tour and your vision for the Perdue School of Business.