You are a CPA Now What 2012 Archives

Fall 2012

Why Building Your Network is a Significant Stage of Your Career
By Kristen Contreras
Young. Emerging. Professionals. Whether you are all three, or just one or two of these categories, you’re probably thinking only of the next steps: taking the CPA Exam, getting licensed and surviving the next busy season. These are exciting and changing times, and yet there is one important aspect of your career that you may be neglecting. Your professional network is a powerful tool: one that can ensure success. The best time to begin developing it is now!

One of these days you could very well be called upon to engage your network to advance your career. By starting now and taking small steps in the right direction, you can make this task an easy and an enjoyable one. Too often I hear from managers who are confused and unsure of how to proceed when confronted with the need to bring in new business, or to present a proposal to a new client. The most common complaint is that they were never prepared to be expected of such a thing, and that they have no idea how to even begin. A robust professional network will help you, both by making connections and by polishing your presence in the business world. Your involvement with any of CalCPA’s young and emerging professionals programs is an excellent first step toward building your future network.

Who can tell where your college pals and colleagues will end up five or 10 years? By staying in touch and focusing on your common interests, the arduous task of building your network will seem more like socializing than engineering your future. Keep this in mind as you navigate your way through your first years and you will find your network is a solid foundation that will be there for you when you need it most!
Kristen Contreras is the corporate controller at Bioness, Inc.

Summer 2012

Finding Mentors, Sponsors and More
By Travis Armstrong, CPA, CFE
During the recent CalCPA Emerging Leaders Certificate Program kick-off day in San Francisco, a question was posed to a panel of highly distinguished CPA professionals regarding mentors: “What role has mentoring played in your career? Do you think mentor-mentee relationships can be formalized or do they evolve naturally?”

All four panelists recalled specific individuals who were pivotal to their success, but two concepts in their responses really struck a chord with me.

The first was identifying someone that has the qualities, presence or another similar trait that you want, and engaging them as a mentor. One example involved asking the mentor, “Will you be my mentor?” This can be daunting, especially if you don’t personally know the individual, but chances are you will find the person is flattered to be asked and will likely help. The more important takeaway from this example was the idea of identifying someone that has what you want, or is where you want to be, and beginning to emulate that person. Focusing on the mentor’s strengths and experiences—things that you might be a little light on—will allow for improvement, while maintaining your personal individualities. It can be as simple as taking time to read their bio, exploring an article they have published or asking them to weigh in on a decision you are making.

The second concept was the idea of elevating your mentor into a sponsor. One panelist described a sponsor as going beyond just giving guidance to actively involved in promoting you—not promoting from staff to senior, but for activities that will develop and market your skills. For me, I recognized that a partner was willing to sponsor me when he suggested to an attorney we were working with that I—instead of him—assist in taking the deposition of the adverse party’s controller. Finding such a person willing to use their own reputation to build your personal brand is important to every young professional. So be on the lookout for people inside and outside your firm who may be capable of doing this.

I propose that—as young professionals—it’s just as important to locate mentors and engage sponsors as it is to be a mentor and a sponsor of those below you.
Travis P. Armstrong, CPA, CFE is a manager in the litigation and forensic consulting services group in the San Francisco office of Hemming Morse, LLP.

Spring 2012

Not Just Another Bean Counter: Many Career Paths in Accounting
By Brenda Kahler, CPA
Every time I tell someone that I am a CPA, they say, “Oh, I hate math, I could never be a CPA.” Even though I’ve heard this response dozens of times, it always surprises me how little most people understand what it is that CPAs do. There are so many different career paths for CPAs, and very few of them involve advanced mathematics—at least, not many that Excel can’t handle!

Moreover, there are so many possible mentors out there that can provide you with some insight into the variety this profession offers. There are so many options, you could:
  • Be a public accountant. And even within that you can choose between tax or audit, and focus on numerous different industries or locations.
  • Be a CPA in industry. From staff accountant all the way to CFO, all businesses need financial experts.
  • Be a consultant. There are many issues for a CPA to add value to consulting projects to help companies address risks, improve processes or strategically structure their business to take advantage of tax incentives.
  • Be a teacher. Good accounting professors are always in demand. CalCPA offers a doctoral scholarship for individuals pursuing a Ph.D. in accounting. And the AICPA Foundation also offers scholarships to those pursing a Ph.D. in accounting through the Accounting Doctoral Studies Program.
  • Be an entrepreneur. Either with your own CPA practice or something unrelated to public accounting.
I recently put on a speed mentoring event to help those in their early careers decide where to go next on their career path. One of the things that struck me the most about the mentors is that almost none of them had a direct career path where they stayed at one company until they worked their way to the top. Most people early in their careers think that is what success looks like, but oftentimes you can find success in being open to trying new things. Don’t be afraid to fail—you just might find your dream job on the way!
Brenda Kahler, CPA is the controller at Business for Social Responsibility.

Winter 2012

Keeping Track of the Intangibles
By A. Christine Davis, CPA/CFF, CVA
As new and soon-to-be CPAs, you have a lot to be proud of: you received the right education, passed one of the most rigorous professional examinations, gained the prescribed work experience for licensure and have figured out a plan to complete required CPE over your next renewal period. A great achievement, no doubt, and you know it!

Years ago, I knew this, too. But now, many years later, what I truly appreciate are the following lessons learned during my ongoing journey as a CPA—things you’re not tested on in the CPA exam, or not necessarily reflected in your periodic work appraisal, but will make a huge difference as you desire to move up.

Have you thought about keeping track of your behavioral or core competencies? Examples are flexibility, integrity, honesty, good judgment, confidence, responsiveness, accountability and influence/leadership. Are you comfortable or willing to change course or adapt in response to situations or evolving priorities (flexibility)? Are you comfortable expressing your opinion under a challenging situation (confidence)? You should be if you believe in your opinion. Are integrity and honesty overarching drivers? As a litigation consultant, I’ve seen many allegations of professional malpractice where CPAs have had to defend their work in a litigation setting. Are you responsive to your clients and peers? As you progress in your career, monitor your progress in behavioral competencies as much as you monitor your technical competencies.

Do you have a sponsor? A sponsor is much more than a mentor. According to the Harvard Business Review paper titled “Sponsorship Effect: Breaking Through the Last Glass Ceiling,” a sponsor is someone who “uses chips on my behalf,” and “advocates for my next promotion” and, in addition, will do a few other things, including “promote my visibility” and “expand my perception of what I can do.” This eye-opening HBR paper is particularly relevant to YEPs who are female.

Being a CPA is filled with continuous learning—and it’s about both professional and personal standards.
Christine Davis CPA/CFF, CVA is a forensic accountant and litigation consultant.