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YEP Leaders Spotlight

Summer 2013

What Makes a Great Leader?

By Shirin Behzadi


What makes a great leader for an organization? Is it power? Knowledge? Experience? Charisma? Or better yet, what defines a good leader? Results? Employee satisfaction? Corporate image? Can a person learn and strive to become a leader, or is it something you’re born with, but can enhance? 

 A lot of research and good discussions have been dedicated to this topic. Reality is, to be a leader, one has to inspire and lead others. Only those who have a genuine and keen interest in people will be able to inspire them. In other words, to inspire people, you have to first be interested in and understand them. This genuine interest expands from management to employees to customers. People naturally follow those who show them interest and who understand how to reach out to them—especially if done with passion and enthusiasm. 

 Great leaders live their business lives with a passion that is compelling and moving, giving the organization a strong direction. When daily actions feel mundane, it’s that passion that motivates and moves everyone toward a common goal. Without a goal and relentless passion for it, an organization will not blossom to its full potential. Anyone can become a good leader if he or she desires to do it. But it isn’t something you can expect to happen to you as you do a “good job.” To be a good leader, you have to first act like one. Before you expect to be given a new position, you would have to live it. You would have to take on responsibilities and roles before you receive the actual title or promotion; have genuine interest in people around you from management to peers or employees; and have true passion for what you do. Power, status, results, satisfaction and improvement will then follow!

Shirin Behzadi is a CFO at Home Franchise Concepts. You can reach her at shirin@homefranchiseconcepts.com.


Spring 2013

Kelly Wallace

“The accounting field is a very challenging and rewarding profession,” says Kelly Wallace, a recent CalCPA Emerging Leaders Certificate Program graduate. “It’s multifaceted with many different avenues people can pursue in both accounting and finance, plus there is a hot job market both domestically and internationally.” 

 We continued the above discussion and more with Wallace—a senior staff accounting analyst at Illumina, Inc.—to get her opinions on the profession and learn what other CPAs have to gain from participating in the ELCP.


What advice would you give those considering becoming a CPA?
The accounting field is a challenging and rewarding profession. It’s multifaceted, with different avenues people can pursue in both accounting and finance. Plus, there is a hot job market both domestically and internationally. If you work in public accounting and want to advance past senior level, obtaining a CPA license is a job requirement. If you work in industry or looking to get into industry, having a CPA license is similar to having an MBA and will help you gain a competitive advantage amongst other job applicants. 

I strongly encourage all young professionals to take an active interest in their career development early on while they have the free time and energy. Otherwise, if they wait until they are at a senior or manager level to get involved, it becomes more difficult once you have other competing interests such as additional work responsibilities or family life.

What was the deciding factor in enrolling in the CalCPA Emerging Leaders Certificate Program?

The importance of developing leadership and soft skills was something that I realized early on in my career. I also noticed that training in management and leadership skills often does not occur until you’re promoted to manager level position. I decided to be proactive and work on cultivating my toolbox of leadership skills in preparation for attaining the next role in my career progression. The program provides a channel to obtain such leadership and soft skills training.

Which session did you enjoy most, and why?
I enjoyed the “Leadership Essentials” session. The speaker was very engaging and motivating. The five leadership essentials resonated with me, particularly the area focused on developing those around you.

The most useful takeaways from the programs?
Some of the key attributes of an effective leader involves having effective communication skills, fostering great working relationships, developing credibility, being innovative, having strong ethics and good negotiation skills. Not only is it important to build your technical skills, but having strong leadership and soft skills plays a significant role in advancing your career.

Why did you decide to get involved with CalCPA?
I mainly became involved after I left public accounting. When I worked in public accounting, I was highly involved with committees, learning and development programs, professional women’s programs, and organizing charity events. After leaving public accounting, CalCPA was an outlet for me to focus my energy and allows me to stay connected with the profession. Through CalCPA, there are many opportunities for community outreach with the financial literacy program, and opportunities to share my knowledge and guidance with the next generation of students entering the profession at college campus events.

What does being a CPA mean to you?
Being a CPA is a highly regarded profession—similar to being a lawyer, doctor or engineer. It means upholding public trust by demonstrating technical expertise, knowledge of professional standards and adhering to the highest degree of ethics and integrity.

Talk about any notable mentors you had in your professional career.
My manager at Illumina is a great mentor. I’m very fortunate to work for someone who is a great role model and takes an active interest in my career development. She’s someone who exhibits exemplary behavior in terms of being a great communicator, has strong technical accounting knowledge, is a go-to person for operational issues, is dedicated and hardworking and is highly respected by management. We have bi-weekly one-on-one meetings and weekly team meetings to make sure we stay on track with projects that I have proper support for any issues that arise. She’s really great about making sure I get exposure to new areas by assigning technical memos or projects with high visibility.

As an emerging CPA, what’s your biggest challenge?
Staying on top of my continuing education. When I worked in public accounting, I would stay well above the required hours. However, now that I have to obtain the hours on my own, CalCPA programs such as Emerging Leaders or Leadership Institute are great ways to obtain a bulk of my CPE hours. Otherwise, I obtain most of my CPE hours through quarterly webcasts, attending conferences or online webcasts provided through my employer. However, the online CPE programs are not the same as face-to-face live sessions.


Winter 2013

Tatyana Shtyrkova

Meet recent Emerging Leaders Certificate Program graduate Tatyana Shtyrkova. The senior associate at Hemming Morse shares some advice for those considering becoming a CPA, her feedback on the ELCP and the professors she credits for challenging her in academia and, thus, preparing her for her professional career.


What advice would you give those considering becoming a CPA? 

I would say get a personal perspective. Talk to a CPA you know about their career path, ask them for a lunch or shadow them for a day. Many CPAs would be glad to offer you guidance in exploring educational opportunities or professional career in accounting. You will find that CPAs are unique and their paths are diverse, but all of their careers rest on the foundation of responsibility, respect, dignity and public trust.

Why did you decide to enroll in the CalCPA Emerging Leaders Certificate Program?
I kept an eye on this program for several years since I was tied up by the public accounting schedule. The turning point was switching jobs, and pursuing the type of professional development that I considered important. Then, it took amassing enough courage to ask my new partner for the time off, and being most amicably encouraged and sponsored! It was a lesson learned: If you’ve a professional goal that is important for you, be fearless in asking for support and you may simply succeed.

Which session did you enjoy most, and why?
Each session is unique, memorable and packed with encouragement. The sessions give you the tools needed to succeed. For me, the most enjoyable was the initial full-day conference, which was a very a high-impact day. We received concrete advice on time management (the advice that I continue to use), we heard personal ethical dilemmas faced by leaders of the CPA profession and learned of the solutions they employed, and we had an opportunity to meet emerging leaders from other CalCPA chapters.

The most useful takeaways from the programs?
The connections made with the like-minded professionals, the opportunity to challenge oneself and the inspiration for future development. The program helped to instill confidence that I’m moving in the right direction professionally, and opened me up to the next challenge.

Why did you decide to get involved with CalCPA?
I wanted to pay respect to the organization that helped me gain accounting education, and I wanted to help out others. My first quarter at the University of California, Santa Barbara, I was interested in what my accounting professors did outside of class. I joined CalCPA after discovering that my financial statement analysis professor, Don Loster, was speaking at the Channel Coast Chapter on the topic of fraud. I signed up to hear him speak and the event turned out to be a Scholarship Award Night, so I applied for the scholarship as well. The evening of the event, I heard my professor speak and also received my first CPE and the CalCPA scholarship. Now it is my opportunity to return and participate in our professional community.

What does being a CPA mean to you?
Being a CPA means responsibility and obligation to uphold people’s trust. With the world becoming more intricate by the minute, the community is looking to CPAs for guidance and trusted advice. From ever more complex tax returns to the multi-national disputes, CPAs hold the duty of ensuring trust and fairness in the public eye. Personally, it means living up to that expectation when family and friends turn to me for help and advice.

Talk about any notable mentors you had in your professional career.
It’s important to note that mentors can change throughout your education and professional career, and that’s normal. My most notable mentors are professors that challenged me, allowed me to challenge them, took an interest in my opinions and believed in my ability to succeed. On occasion, I continue to visit several of them—most notably Santa Barbara City College’s toughest accounting professor, Al Vera-Graziano, and UCSB professors Don Loster, Bob Anderson and Nicholas Schneider. If you have a mentor that inspired you, reaching back—even if years later—would bring immeasurable gratitude and make them proud.

What’s the biggest challenge you, as an emerging CPA, face?
The biggest challenge for me is professional development because, even several years after my public accounting career, there are still choices to be made in specializing within my career direction. It’s a challenge that I hope to take on with help and the guiding hand of my mentors, my partners and, of course, with time.


Fall 2012

Bryan Carpenter

You may remember CPA Bryan Carpenter, an audit senior at LevitZacks Certified Public Accountants, from the September 2012 issue of California CPA. Tweets from the Emerging Leaders Certificate Program launch event exposed him as one of the minds behind a Burning Man exhibit/charitable project that has helped schools in Africa (www.fluttertunnel.org). We followed up with Bryan after he made it through the Emerging Leaders Certificate Program.

What advice would you give those considering becoming a CPA? 

Over the last few years, I’ve attended numerous CalCPA events that provided a great opportunity to improve my networking skills and meet others within the profession. It was through these events that I was able to talk with other members who had previously graduated from the program. They expressed enthusiasm and emphasized the opportunities and confidence the program had provided them. I felt this program would be a great chance to meet other CPAs from around the state who were also highly motivated and were seeking to improve their leadership skill set.

Why did you decide to enroll in the CalCPA Emerging Leaders Certificate Program?
I had seen the course advertised and knew it would be a great opportunity, but was hesitant to participate. It wasn’t until a co-worker also expressed interest and encouraged me to enroll. After showing up to the first meeting, all my fears about participating were immediately alleviated.

Which session did you enjoy most, and why?
I enjoyed the speed mentoring session the most. It was a great opportunity to meet seasoned professionals and hear the different routes they have chosen. It provided exposure to the many diverse opportunities the accounting profession can offer in both the public and private sectors. I enjoyed how many professionals within CalCPA were willing to take the time out of their busy days to provide mentoring advice to the next generation of CPAs.

The most useful takeaways from the programs?
I’ve improved my communication skills and feel more confident with my networking abilities. Although accounting has a lot of technical aspects, it’s important to develop strong leadership, managing and networking skills. After completing this program, I have a better understanding of what that entails and I have an understanding of the goals I’ll need to set in order to improve in each of those areas. In addition, part of the program addressed certain skills needed to better manage the work/life aspect of the profession. I feel the key to remaining productive in the workplace is highly influenced by a positive and well-balanced life outside of work.

Why did you decide to get involved with CalCPA?
I initially got involved with CalCPA to meet other CPAs and expand my network. It’s a great way to get more involved in the community and gain a better understanding of all the opportunities both CalCPA and the CPA profession itself has to offer. I enjoy how many different events and programs CalCPA hosts each year.

What does being a CPA mean to you?
Being a CPA signifies the highest level of knowledge and integrity in the accounting profession. It provides a stable opportunity to provide people and businesses with services covering many aspects of their finances from assurance and taxes to bookkeeping and other consulting services. The license enables these people and businesses to have confidence in the professional or professional firm from whom they receive services.

Talk about any notable mentors you had in your professional career.
I received an excellent education at the University of San Diego from great professors such as Mark Judd and Diane Pattison. The education provided me with the necessary skills to obtain a stable and reputable job in the accounting profession. Additionally, under the guidance of the audit partners Kim Ufford, Victor Ramsauer and Tom Rex at my firm, LevitZacks, I’ve had the opportunity to increase my technical, managerial and networking skills. I feel the open-door culture and expertise has exposed me to many opportunities to grow professionally.

What’s the biggest challenge you, as an emerging CPA, face?
Continually increasing my technical knowledge while simultaneously managing engagements, and staff, and expanding my network of connections. I will need to find ways to be successful in all of these realms to maximize the opportunities this profession can provide. With the aid of a supportive work environment and opportunities such as the Emerging Leaders Certificate Program, I will continue to grow professionally.


Summer 2012

Chris Raymer

Chris Raymer, CPA, tax supervisor at Longcrier & Associate CPAs, was born in the Southern California city of Yucaipa, and is a huge L.A. Angels of Anaheim fan. One of his lifelong goals is to see a baseball game in every major league ballpark. Raymer is also a graduate of CalCPA’s Emerging Leaders Certificate Program, which is now entering its third year with an all-new curriculum. 

When and why did you decide to become a CPA?
I was a bit unusual in that I knew going into college exactly what I wanted to do. My high school had several accounting courses that I had the opportunity to take, and it was the perfect blend of math and business that caused my heart to resonate with it. I also became involved in high school with a group called Future Business Leaders of America, and through that program met some great mentors who encouraged me not to be satisfied with just a degree in accounting—but to push forward and become licensed.

What advice would you give those considering becoming a CPA? 
Just like anything else in life, your level of success is predicated by your level of dedication. If I were to go back and talk to 17-year-old me, I would encourage myself to build better study habits during college and get more involved with on-campus accounting groups.

Why did you decide to enroll in the CalCPA Emerging Leaders Certificate Program?
I had seen the course advertised and knew it would be a great opportunity, but was hesitant to participate. It wasn’t until a co-worker also expressed interest and encouraged me to enroll. After showing up to the first meeting, all my fears about participating were immediately alleviated.

Which session did you enjoy most, and why?
I enjoyed when we discussed working with differing personalities and valuing what everybody brings to the table. The conversation started with a group of people trapped on a raft with fewer resources than they needed to all survive. The conversation really revolved around the selfish needs versus the community needs.

The most useful takeaways from the programs?
The best part for me has been the community that has developed with the other emerging leaders I went through the program with. The ability to discuss, commiserate and encourage each other cannot be understated. It was also great to be able to meet and build a relationship with the community leaders who led the discussions, and to learn from mentors you otherwise may not have had contact with.

Why did you decide to get involved with CalCPA?
I worked for the California Legislature prior to becoming a CPA and saw the importance of a strong society interested in educating others about their careers. I joined and pretty quickly got involved with the grassroots legislative efforts to connect our chapter to our locally elected state officials.

What’s the biggest challenge you, as an emerging CPA, face?
For me it is all about finding the right balances. Finding the right work-life balance, finding the right professional development out of the office or in the office to mentor others balance, finding the right administrative to billable work balance and so on. 

Favorite thing to do on the weekend?
Doing tax, I miss most of snowboarding season—although I am one of those people that has too many hobbies and not enough time. Some of my favorites are golfing, trail running, slow pitch softball, hiking and home brewing beer.

What’s next?
If only I had a crystal ball. To reference one of my childhood favorite cartoons Pinky and the Brain, “Try to take over the world.”


Spring 2012

Jennifer Stalvey

Born and raised in Nashville, Tenn., amateur photographer Jennifer Stalvey says Southerners like her are hard to transplant, “But once we take root, we do pretty well.” Stalvey recently graduated from CalCPA’s Emerging Leaders Certificate Program, and shared her experience with us and explained how you can benefit.

When and why did you decide to become a CPA?
Before I became a CPA I was a private investigator and had the opportunity to work on a few cases with forensic accountants. I was fascinated by their work. Then I met Dan Ray, a partner at Hemming Morse, and we talked about the similarities between forensic accounting and investigation. That was when I decided to steer my career toward financial investigations, focusing on fraud. Becoming a CPA seemed essential to becoming a successful forensic accountant.

What advice would you give those considering becoming a CPA?
Do it! Take the CPA Exam as soon as you are eligible. I have yet to meet an accounting professional who has more free time the further along they are in their career. You will truly appreciate your hard work and accomplishment. No matter where your career leads you, your education and the CPA credential will serve you.

Why did you decide to enroll in the CalCPA Emerging Leaders Certificate Program?
Being a leader is not how I naturally define myself. I am much more comfortable as a foot soldier. However, I understand that leadership skills are essential to produce a valuable work product and bring out the best in others. I knew CalCPA would design a program to challenge us and expand our understanding of leadership, which is exactly what they did.

Which session did you enjoy most? Why?
I enjoyed the presentation on negotiation skills. Breaking down the elements of negotiation helped me understand the process in a more detailed way. The emphasis on preparation and spending time thoroughly considering what is important to the other party is something I have successfully implemented in negotiations since the class.

What were the most useful takeaways from the program?
Learning to understand and recognize ethical leadership, and leading by example.

Why did you decide to get involved with CalCPA?
When I was a student at San Francisco State I was encouraged by professor Jodi Duke to apply for a CalCPA scholarship. I was selected as an award recipients that year, and have been welcomed and gently guided by this phenomenal professional organization ever since.

What does being a CPA mean to you?
I am very proud to be a CPA. It means I serve the public—first and foremost—and hold our profession’s commitment to independence and integrity in the highest light. My grandfather and my mother were also CPAs, so I am proud to follow in their footsteps.

Talk about any notable mentors you had in your professional career.
There have been many. My first mentor was private investigator David Sullivan. He taught me how to balance my instincts with logic, trust that the truth is obtainable and to be patient getting there. Dan Ray, Monica Ip and Greg Regan have been invaluable forensic accounting mentors at Hemming Morse. They each possess the ability to communicate clearly, to see the big picture and are just outstanding professionals in their areas of expertise.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as an emerging CPA?

Balancing the avenues of growth in my career. I want to develop as a great technician. I want to actively pursue business development. I want to give back to our community. And I want to work on each of these areas while making sure our clients' needs remain a top priority.

Favorite sports team?
The Tennessee Lady Vols, of course! Pat Summitt is my hero.

What’s next?
Taking the time to enjoy my career and the people I work with every day is important. I feel lucky.


Winter 2012

Ariel Cretu

Ariel Cretu, CPA is a senior manager in the consulting division of Parker & Lynch and a graduate of the Emerging Leaders Certificate Program. He also sits on the Board of Directors for CalCPA at the state level, serves as a mentor to high school students and is a member of CalCPA's Silicon Valley/San Jose Chapter.

When and why did you decide to become a CPA?
I began college as a marketing major and eventually switched to accounting after much thought and advice from several mentors. The prospect of becoming a CPA made a lot of sense to me because CPAs are involved with many different aspects of the business world. I also knew that, as an accountant, the CPA license would be a necessity to be considered by professionals as a trusted competent peer qualified for a variety of duties. Ultimately, I knew that having this license would make me more marketable, open future doors and prepare me for a variety of potential career paths.

What advice would you give those considering becoming a CPA?
Start networking today, as this skill will prove invaluable to your career! To those exploring a career as a CPA, there are endless opportunities out there. I am constantly hearing that the demand for CPAs is increasing. On your way to becoming a CPA, utilize the resources around you and find a mentor in the profession who can look out for you and provide counsel.

What helped make your decision to enroll in the CalCPA Emerging Leaders Certificate Program?
Having already been involved in CalCPA, I was aware of the great individuals who were involved in creating the program, which reinforced that soft skills are just as important as technical abilities. The different program sessions also gave me further confidence in areas that I needed to enhance my career. It was an honor to be part of the inaugural class.

Which program session did you enjoy most, and why?
When I reflect on the different sessions, I cannot say I had a true favorite. I really enjoyed all of the sessions equally because they contributed to the ultimate goal of the program: becoming a better leader. Dealing with inter-office conflicts, communication issues, delegation and mentoring were some of the program’s great highlights.

The most useful takeaways from the program?
What I will remember most from the program are the different perspectives brought by the various professionals and facilitators. Our class was very diverse in that many firms and companies were represented. This made for an exciting learning environment where the contributions from everyone were extremely valuable.

Why did you decide to get involved with CalCPA?
A membership in CalCPA for me is synonymous with gaining the prestigious designation of becoming a CPA. Aside from networking, attending CPE courses and keeping up to date on news affecting our profession, there is much more to be gained from this powerful organization. There is a real sense of community and mentorship within CalCPA that has greatly contributed to my professional career.

What does being a CPA mean to you?

A CPA is one of the most versatile professions. There are CPAs in public accounting and other professional services firms, business and industry, as well as government and education. Most important of all, CPAs are always seen as an expert and trusted adviser in some capacity or another.

Talk about any notable mentors you had in your professional career.
I have been fortunate to have several mentors in my professional career. The accounting group of the real estate development firm where I began my career was relatively small so I had daily interaction with the controller and CFO. They provided me with a solid business foundation and taught me to have fun even when the going gets tough.

One of the first CPAs I met when my wife and I relocated to California was CalCPA CEO Loretta Doon. She has been an exemplary leader and I have gained incredible insight from her into many different aspects of the CPA profession.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as an emerging CPA?
When I think about an ever-evolving CPA profession, two issues come to mind that will challenge emerging CPAs. There is a reason we keep hearing about IFRS and its implications on our accounting reporting standards. The world is becoming a smaller place with the increasing nexus of international commerce. I also believe a change in our tax law is imminent, which will pose a new set of challenges. It’s vital that we continuously educate ourselves and understand the complexities of how these issues will affect our businesses and clients.

Where were you born and raised?
I am a New Englander, born and raised in a suburb outside of Boston. I wear that proudly on my sleeve.

Favorite thing to do on the weekend?
I enjoy spending time with my wife and our friends, as well as striving to perfect my golf game.

Favorite sports team?
As far as professional sports, the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox. For college sports, I am always pulling for the Syracuse Orange, my alma mater.

What’s next?

As a CPA with a diverse accounting background, my collected past experiences have afforded me a variety of opportunities. I have decided to turn my career in a new direction—management consulting. I look forward to this exciting venture where I can use my leadership capabilities and add value to a new company, which will also contribute to continuing my evolution as a financial professional.


Fall 2011

Megan Thompson

Meet Megan Thompson: An avid San Francisco Giants fan born and raised in San Jose who has lived in Spain and San Diego. She is a Certified Valuation Analyst and is certified in financial forensics at Michael Thompson, CPA. She’s also a recent graduate of the CalCPA Emerging Leaders Certificate Program.

When and why did you decide to become a CPA?
I was never actually planning to be a CPA. I was a psychology major with a political science minor in college. I was planning to go to law school and took the Law School Admissions Test. There is a portion of the LSAT that is called Logic Games and I really enjoyed figuring out the puzzles. My father, who is a CPA, mentioned that accounting is really based in logic and not math, like many people think. I took an accounting class and ended up loving it so I decided to go to Santa Clara University and enroll in its Certificate of Advanced Accounting Proficiency program.

What advice would you give those considering becoming a CPA?
I think the best advice is that you should find something you love to do. You don't have to work at a big firm or be an auditor—unless that is something that really interests you. I think a lot of people starting out think these are their only options. The accounting field is incredibly diverse and you can definitely find something you enjoy if you do some research and look around.

Why did you enroll in the CalCPA Emerging Leaders Certificate Program?
I'm generally an outgoing person, but I found at times that I would second-guess myself and not have as much confidence as I should. I specialize in forensic accounting and when you are hired as an expert in a case, opposing counsel's job is to try to trip you up and catch you at a disadvantage. I thought the program would help me increase my confidence and give me additional skills to think on my feet.

Which session did you enjoy most, and why?
I really enjoyed the ethics session. It was interesting to see that what some people thought was completely logical, others saw as unethical. This was definitely our liveliest discussion group.

What were your most useful takeaways from the program?
All of the sessions were helpful in some way and there are definitely things that I learned that I still put into action every day. One of the most useful takeaways was the connections I made with the other members of the group.

Why did you decide to get involved with CalCPA?
CalCPA is an excellent networking resource. I have made countless connections with other professionals and potential referral sources through CalCPA mixers and seminars.

What does being a CPA mean to you?
The CPA designation carries with it a perceived level of authority. People can get very emotional about their finances and I think being a CPA is about doing your best to live up to the trust that people put in you with their personal and financial information.

Talk about any notable mentors you had in your professional career.
I’d have to say my dad (who is also my boss) has been the most notable mentor in my professional career. I would never have even considered accounting if not for him and he is always helping me learn and grow in a profession that is constantly changing.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as an emerging CPA?
Keeping up with the new and changing rules while trying to learn and remember the older ones. I think this is especially true for tax accountants because there are so many rules that change every year, and the IRS isn’t exactly known for producing concise and interesting material.

Favorite thing to do on the weekend?
I love to go wine tasting. I live in Gilroy, which is in the center of a great wine-growing region. It may not be as well known as Napa, but it's every bit as good and the people there are really nice.

Favorite sports team?
My favorite team would have to be the Giants. We go to quite a few Giants games and this year I ran the Giants 10K, which started behind AT&T park and ended on home plate. It was so much fun!

What’s next?
Hopefully expanding the business and getting the opportunity to testify in more cases.


Summer 2011

Luke Sniewski

You may remember Luke Sniewski from our 2009 Final Entry feature. He’s a fitness guru and former player then coach for the Falconara Dolphins in the Italian Football League. After he graduated CalCPA’s Emerging Leaders Certificate Program, we learned he is now CEO and president of LEAF Lifestyle, Inc. and asked him a bit more about how things are going.

When and why did you decide to become a CPA?
During my early years of college I had no idea which educational path to travel. In the end I was partially influenced by my brother—also a CPA—and completely influenced by the fact that an accounting degree is the most versatile degree available to a business major. Public accountants also utilize their soft skills on a daily basis, which I knew was one of my strengths.

What advice do you have for those considering becoming a CPA?
Forget all the stereotypes you’ve heard about being an accountant. Definitely don’t expect to be locked in a small room behind a desk and crunching numbers all day long. The ability to communicate, manage and delegate are a must in this profession.

Why did you enroll in the CalCPA Emerging Leaders Certificate Program?
I felt that this program would stretch beyond the boundaries of public accounting and teach foundational principles that translate in leadership in any arena. This definitely was not about becoming a better accountant. It was about becoming a better leader, manager, business owner and person.

Which session did you enjoy most? Why?
It’s hard to narrow down a single topic that stood out the most. Leadership is a multi-faceted skill that requires the integration of knowledge, creativity, experience, vision and integrity. Each session provides a small facet of what collectively is much more valuable than the sum of its individual parts.

The most useful takeaways from the program?
Being given the opportunity to network with fellow professionals, hear the stories of successful presenters and hold question/answer forums with guest discussion leaders was priceless. Hearing so many different perspectives is the best way to elicit the critical thought necessary for and effective learning environment.

Why did you decide to get involved with CalCPA?
I got involved to stay connected in a constantly evolving industry. If CPAs don’t make the effort to stay on top of the latest issues, regulations and even networking events, they will be left behind.

What does being a CPA mean to you?
To me, it means being able to forge long-term relationships with clients that trust you with their most sacred possession: money. Even if you’re the best technical accountant in the world, who can balance financial statements with one arm tied behind her back, it won’t make a difference if you can’t clearly communicate and instill trust within your clients.

What’s the biggest challenge you as an emerging CPA face?
Without a doubt, the economy remains the biggest challenge for all CPAs, both emerging and experienced. As part of the broader financial community, CPAs are exposed to the effects of financial crisis on an everyday basis.

Favorite thing to do on the weekend?
Nothing beats a night of cooking with friends.

Favorite sports team?
Still waiting on Los Angeles to get a football team.

What’s next for Luke S.?
I leveraged my experience and knowledge in accounting to open two gyms in Southern California. Now, my company LEAF Lifestyle, Inc., is creating an online fitness program to help people across the globe with implementing proactive physical lifestyles.


Spring 2011

Nathan Black

Nathan Black, CPA, ABV is a tax manager at Wallace & Associates, Inc. in Sacramento and a graduate of the CalCPA Emerging Leaders Certificate Program. Black was born and raised in the suburbs of Sacramento and is the treasurer of the Sacramento History Foundation. We recently caught up with him to learn more about his decision to become a CPA, his experience with the Emerging Leaders Certificate Program and where he’s going from here.

When and why did you decide to become a CPA?
During my first year of college at Cal Poly I frequently went home to Sacramento to assist my father in preparing his books for tax purposes. I enjoyed the structure and completeness that is accounting. I also got to meet with my father’s CPA and, from the encouraging conversations with him, I knew that accounting—and specifically taxes—was right for me.

What advice would you give those considering becoming a CPA?
Spend a day in the shoes of a practicing CPA. Search out an internship to better understand what the accounting field entails. If you aren’t interested in long hours at work during busy seasons, seek an alternative profession. But if you are a hard worker and are interested in becoming a professional in a fast-paced environment, becoming a CPA might be right for you.

What was the deciding factor in enrolling in the CalCPA Emerging Leaders Certificate Program?
I enrolled to boost my repertoire with real-world leadership skills, which sometimes are lacking in classic accounting courses. Also, I thought that the folks who are also interested in bolstering these types of soft skills are exactly the kinds of folks in my community whom I would love to meet and get to know better.

Which session did you enjoy most, and why?
I am a case study, hands-on, kind of student. My favorite session was when we broke out into two groups and decided which four people of the eight on the life raft would survive and which would perish. It sounds morbid, but the case study was very engaging and the debates we had were illuminating as to leadership styles.

The most useful takeaways from the program?
Anyone can be a technician, but it takes a strong and confident personality to be a leader. This is especially important in accounting where so much of our time is devoted to very important, albeit small, details.

Why did you get involved with CalCPA?
It is the most engaging and rewarding of the many accounting organizations I have been acquainted with. CalCPA is extremely vested in young CPAs coming up in the field and performs mightily in its many supporting roles, be it quality continuing education or strong networking events.

What does being a CPA mean to you?
We are simultaneously a steward of the tax code and advocates for our clients. It’s a tug of war I enjoy being a part of.

Why’d you get your Accredited in Business Valuation credential?
At my firm, I am the tax manager with the responsibility of overseeing the day-to-day needs of our tax clients. However, I do have free time after tax season and at other times during the year, and have been lucky enough to work on business valuation and family law litigation support projects with my co-workers. In learning those specialties, I became interested in going for the ABV credential in hopes that I may one day sit as an expert witness in a courtroom.

Talk about any notable mentors you had in your professional career.
Gilman Lee, CPA has been a tax preparer in Sacramento for more than 35 years. He mentored me through my early days of learning how to perform simple check register accounting entries for my Dad’s company, gave me nudges here and there later in college and still provides expert advice in complicated tax planning techniques.

As an emerging CPA, what’s your biggest challenge?
Building a tax practice. It’s difficult, but through competent and prompt service I hope to one day have a self-sustaining tax practice through referrals and networking.

What’s your favorite bit of Sacramento history?
As treasurer of the Sacramento History Foundation, the foundation arm of the Sacramento Archives, I have learned a bit about Sacramento’s history. I find the most interesting historical event and subsequent reaction was the flooding of the capital in 1861-62. Historical buildings such as the governor’s mansion had their first floors flooded. The city then raised all of the streets in the city 10-14 feet. Over the next decade storeowners, tenants and residents began converting their first floors into basements and their second floors to street level. The Sacramento History Museum has a very cool underground tour showcasing some of this history.

Favorite thing to do on the weekend?
My weekends are usually filled up with home improvement projects with my lovely wife, affectionately known as Foreman Becky, and our 11-month-old son, Liam, looking on. I am Mr. Do-it-Yourself, which means I have the confidence to do just about any home improvement job—poorly.

Favorite sports team?
The San Francisco Giants and 49ers. I also love watching River Cats games in West Sacramento after work. Beer, hot dogs and baseball are always a good time.

What’s next for Nathan Black?
I hope to obtain a master’s degree in accounting or taxation.