Future focused on inclusion

February 8, 2018By Nailah Owens-JohnsonTalent and the Changing Workforce, Talent Management and People

I was interested in accounting before I fully understood what accounting meant.

As a young Girl Scout, I loved collecting money and filling out the cookie forms. I would audit the form 2-3 times to make sure I had the correct amount of money. Outside of Girl Scouts, I had never taken a business class or learned anything about accounting, but in the 7th grade I took a career test and scored the business field. After doing research I quickly learned business was the right area for me.

During high school a friend recommended I participate in the INCPAS Scholars Program. Between that and the National Association of Black Accountants’ Accounting Career Awareness Program, I discovered more about public accounting and had the opportunity to meet with business professionals.

Now as a sophomore at Indiana University majoring in Accounting and Business Analytics, I am very excited for the future of accounting and that firms are actively seeking minorities and diversity.

Throughout the past few years, I have gained a deeper understanding on the importance of diversity in business and accounting. Although there are certain rules, regulations and steps that all CPAs must take, diversity in the workplace is crucial to a successful business. Diversity allows teams to see from different perspectives. In addition, diversity may help with recruiting employees or potential clients. If an employee or client feels welcome with a firm, they are more likely to work with them.

As a black female, I have seen the importance of diversity but more importantly inclusion. Going into the workplace, I am looking for a firm that does more than hire diverse employees. I am looking forward to joining a firm where I see people that look like me, but I also want a firm that embraces one another’s differences and welcomes them.

My family created an organization in high school called “I VOW.” The purpose was to teach others that you don’t have to accept everyone’s beliefs or lifestyles, but that you should respect them as a person. I hope to work with people who follow this motto.

As we celebrate Black History Month, ask yourself if you want a company that only looks for diversity or one that learns from each diverse background and promotes inclusion.

When Networking Isn’t Your Strong Suit

January 24, 2018By Chaleise Fleming, CPA, CFEBlog, Collaboration, Learning and Career Development

One of my goals for 2017 was to take one of the Society’s CPA Center of Excellence® interactive courses. They received a lot of recognition over these courses and I’ve heard a lot about them, especially as a member of INCPAS Emerging Leaders Alliance. If I was going to help promote these courses, I really needed to try one myself.

So, this past December I did just that. I signed up for the Collaboration and Networking online interactive course.

Networking isn’t my strong suit. I feel a lot of CPAs can relate to my struggle, especially younger CPAs recently promoted or working on their advancement in the profession. You are usually promoted because of your excellent technical skills in an area. But as you move up the ranks, your technical skills take a bit of a back seat. You are expected to start networking and developing your business referral contacts. To continue to advance, you are then expected to start to bring in clients and have your own great network to pull from.

This is something most of us do not get real training on. We had years of school to get our degrees in accounting, followed by the studying and stress of taking the CPA exam. In the workplace, we get tons of continued experience in everything we studied beforehand as we work with real projects and clients. Then suddenly, the “networking” part comes in. “Go out, find referral sources and build your book of contacts!”

While I have no issue connecting with current clients and providing them great services – going out and marketing myself; finding new clients and referral sources, that’s a whole different world. It’s also one I openly admit I am not comfortable in. I’ll do it. I go to networking events, but let’s be honest: I would rather be at home with a book and my cat. Why can’t that work to get clients?

So, the Collaboration and Networking course seemed like a good fit for me. Taking this course not only allowed me to finally experience an online interactive course, but also to work on a soft skill I am lacking in. In the process of taking it, I got some valuable ideas for my networking process. I also identified where many of our typical webinar-type CPE courses fail, at least for me, in that it doesn’t require you to really focus or engage with the learning material.

First off, I really did enjoy the setup and flow of the Collaboration and Networking course. It has a great mixture of reading, videos, link clicking and typing. You can’t just read an article and forget about it, or zone out watching a video. There isn’t a quick multiple-choice test to make sure “you are there.” You have to pay attention to the videos and articles in each section, because you are expected to comment on them. This forces you to pay attention to what you read or watch so you can really provide a thoughtful response. The course is also set up in a way that’s easy to follow. It has 10 “levels” that start off with explaining what networking is and why it is important and conclude at the difficulties and networking and how to overcome them.

I personally loved the variety of articles and videos. I enjoyed that the articles pulled from different news sites and viewpoints. This kept the reading fresh. The articles were also short and to the point, making them easy to read and stay focused on. There were quite a few articles I liked enough to save or print out, because I could see easily sharing them with others at my firm, or even with clients.

I also enjoyed the commenting part of the course. After you read an article or watched a video, you had a question to think about and make a comment on. You also get to see previous comments. I enjoyed reading other people’s comments and seeing their thoughts on networking, or what methods and techniques worked for them.

Completing the Collaboration and Networking course qualifies for a waiver of eight hours of CPE. While it didn’t take me eight hours, I did come away feeling excited about networking and with more takeaways than I usually do from an eight-hour course. You don’t have to finish the entire course in a day either, you can do a little bit here and there as you have time.

You have 90 days once you register to complete the course. This was great for me, as I didn’t end up having time to start it until about 15 days after registering. You can also continue to access the videos and articles to the course until your 90 days are up in case there is something you want to re-watch or an article you forgot to save.

Once the course is finished, you get a certificate much like your regular CPE certificates. You also get a neat digital badge that shows you are a networking expert. I did get a lot of great tools and suggestions that I hope to implement in 2018 to up my networking game. The course also helped remind me that networking takes time. You don’t develop your book of referrals overnight. Be yourself and find what works for you.

I encourage all of you to take one of the online interactive courses. You may learn something about your own learning style, like I did. You will also get a taste of these great new type of CPE courses that you’ve been hearing about!

Have you already taken one, or maybe all? I’d love to hear your feedback and impressions.

Competency-based learning is no joke

November 7, 2017By Jennifer Briggs, CAEBlog, Learning and Career Development

Are you learning what you need to know in every CPE class you take? Maybe, but don’t you learn in ways outside of CPE courses as well?

In Indiana, through the efforts of our Board of Accountancy, the Indiana CPA Society and the CPA Center of Excellence®, we are addressing the idea of options. Specifically, related to competency-based (or outcomes-based) education.

What does that mean? What you learn vs. CPE hours. We are looking at ways to provide options for maintaining your skills. Hear more in this recent “Improv Is No Joke” podcast from author and frequent INCPAS speaker Peter Margaritis, CPA.

The world as your workplace

October 4, 2017By Jessica HillBlog, Future of Work and Change Management, Innovation, Talent Management and People

Mobility policies, or being able to work outside of the office, are becoming more common as we embrace and become more comfortable with internet-based technology. With a mobility policy, you can work anywhere as long as you have two things: a laptop and internet access. I’ve been with a firm for a little over a year that strongly embraces mobility, and I have certainly taken advantage of the policy—either working from home or at Starbucks when I’m not expected to be in the office or at a client site.

At a recent college career fair, people loved hearing about the luxury of working from home; however, their questions revealed their skepticism. Below I’ve included the most common questions I’ve received about work mobility:

  1. How are you held accountable?

This is almost always the first question out of the gate. Accountability is a valid concern when you have the ability to work somewhere with no direct supervision. However, people tend to miss the fact there is still supervision—even though it might not equate to someone physically looking over your shoulder. If you’re working from a laptop distributed by your employer, then most likely there are tools in place to monitor your online activity. No matter where I’m working, my coworkers can see when I’m online. When I step away, my computer automatically times out after fifteen minutes to show that I’m inactive.

Communication is important no matter where you work, but it’s extremely important when you’re away from the office. Always check in with your coworkers to let them know how you’re progressing and if you have any questions. This makes your work more transparent and ensures your team that you’re working—just be sure to be honest!

  1. How do you stay focused?

Staying focused is the most difficult aspect of working mobile, but the solution varies from person to person. I need to have a designated office space to work efficiently. An office with a desk, a comfortable chair, and very minimal distractions is the best work environment for me. I am not fond of working in bustling coffee shops or restaurants because I think they’re too distracting. If I do find myself getting distracted no matter where I’m working, headphones and some music always helps.

  1. How do you determine when you work from the office?

More often than not, this will be an easy decision. If you need to access office equipment, check your mail, or work extensively with a coworker, then you should definitely work from the office. Some people prefer working in the office because they can’t focus at home, or they enjoy seeing other people. If you have a terrible commute, car problems, or you’re feeling under the weather, then working from home is a better option.

  1. Does a mobility policy help with work-life balance?

Yes and no. There are many ways working mobile can help with work-life balance. If you have a long commute and can work from home for part of the week, you can work at the times you would have been driving. Parents can work from home whenever they need to be there for a sick child. A parent can work at a coffee shop close to his toddler’s daycare for easier pick-up. However, for some people being able to work anywhere brings the feeling that you are obligated to work wherever you are. It is still important from a work-life balance perspective to have a clear understanding of your work expectations and your personal limits. If working from home makes it impossible to turn off the laptop and relax after working hours, then working from the office would be best.

There are many gains from a mobile working environment. However, the most important advice I give when working away from the office is to maintain a solid line of communication with your coworkers. While you may not be working in the office, you are still expected to perform, and perform well.

Does your employer have a mobility policy? What advice would you give on the matter? Please share in the comments below!


What We’re Reading – 8/9/2017

August 9, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on teamwork, technology, decision-making, and workplace culture. 


A bank robber can teach us a lot about team-building, according to this video featuring Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871.



The arrival of Blockchain is inevitable. How, as CPAs, can we be ready to embrace this new innovation?



Ever wonder how successful people get from one thing to another? Here are 4 strategies successful people use in making important decisions.



CPAs, do your workplace cultures have any of these three common, but misleading, characteristics?




At the CPA Center of Excellence®, we help CPAs and service professionals stay ahead of change and innovation. Look for our recommended reads on topics like critical thinking and non-technical skills, the future of work, innovation, talent management, leadership, and the changing role of the CPA each Wednesday.

What We’re Reading – 8/2/2017

August 2, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on leadership, technology, and education. 


Honesty is proven to boost leadership credibility in even the most dire situations.

How Honest Apologies Can Help Leaders Bounce Back


Blockchain is further being touted as revolutionary force in finance. CPAs, how do you believe this technology will impact your businesses?

Building the Future of Finance with Blockchain


Villanova seeks to keep its students at the forefront of the accounting profession with its new Master of Accounting with Data Analytics program.




At the CPA Center of Excellence®, we help CPAs and service professionals stay ahead of change and innovation. Look for our recommended reads on topics like critical thinking and non-technical skills, the future of work, innovation, talent management, leadership, and the changing role of the CPA each Wednesday.

What Does It Mean To Be Creative?

July 31, 2017By Corey Stark, CPAInnovation, Learning and Career Development

It’s a new year and there’s a new political and economic environment on the horizon. For much of 2016, those of us participating in the CPA Center of Excellence® Online Community talked about being innovative. My question is, do we currently have the ability to recognize when we are being creative and innovative?

My normal day is immersed working in spreadsheets, and talking about that work in spreadsheets with people who love spreadsheets. Our long-term outlook has really evolved too. We work to find ways to make these dope spreadsheets even better.

Sounds pretty creative.

Well the fact is, if some innovative thought is going into what creates new solutions for your people or your clients, then you are being creative.

The public accounting profession may be one of the least progressive out there. Personality types do not, by nature, thrive in environments of constant change. Change can bring back “first date anxiety” and uncertainty that the world no longer fits in a box that can easily be taken anywhere.

I’ve sat in too many conferences where CPAs say they need to change with the modern business environment. You know what this led to? Ten years’ worth of work to try and evolve accounting standards to have standardized financial reporting throughout the world. They’re more or less scrapping this idea now. Good job guys.

Reluctance to change has led to missed opportunities in the profession in big data, talent acquisition, and who knows what else. The point is, innovative solutions don’t need to create a new product or industry in one step, but your organization needs to move in this direction to meet your full potential. It is an essential element to creating an engaged organization.

Let’s put this into practice … hey CPAs, why has the structure of firms continued in the same manner for over 100 years? Literally. 100 years. Would you prefer a car with modern amenities or would you go with a Model T? So why have accounting firm structures not changed?

On the other end of the spectrum, let’s look at the tech sector that utilizes mobile workplaces, where flex time is required, and profit sharing is in entry level compensation packages. What if a CPA firm came along that flipped the script? Most of the innovation has been done at the Big 4 firms where they have the capital and clout to make this happen. But even they can lag behind.  They just know that they can’t do it themselves and pay people whose job title should read “Guy that thinks of stuff.”

What if we had an entrepreneurial structure? What if each client was its own business, and the partner group was really venture capitalists making investments in teams? Picture how an evaluation might go differently if it was staff defending their performance not to their boss, but their investor? What if you give a group a portfolio of clients, tell them to make the budget actually work, and part of the deal is they have to run a business. They won’t have the backstop of depending on the next team to help us out with staff. Well you can go to other teams for help, but now they are billable consultants.

This new structure provides the platform for people to really think about purpose, execution and making a business work. And, really, how different is it than the present? You can keep your safe LLC structures and staff tree. All you’re doing is adding accountability to accountants to make their own future.

Did you find it funny that I tried to sell change to CPAs when this isn’t really change? The first step is the hardest, but make it your new addiction. Be tact, think bold, and find the calculated risk.  Where can you or your organization be creative? Read, comment, share. Start the conversation.

What We’re Reading – 7/26/2017

July 26, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on emotional intelligence, cybersecurity, innovation, and leadership. 


Afraid that first impression didn’t go well? Increase your likability in your networking efforts with these 5 emotionally intelligent things to do when meeting someone new.



Is your company protected against these threats? It might be time to adapt to the cybersecurity realities of today:

An Insider’s View on Outside Cybersecurity Threats


Looking to become better at something in your life? Here is a stellar list of 44 books for self-improvement:



Stay ahead of the curve with these 8 change management models you can use to adapt and grow your business.

8 Critical Change Management Models to Evolve and Survive


Read the story of how two executives, new to their jobs, propelled their company forward through their leadership and teamwork:




What Does Your Leadership Transition Look Like?

July 24, 2017By Robert Reynolds, CPALeadership, Talent Management and People

During the past several years, our profession, like many others, has identified the need for an orderly and effective transition of leadership to the next generation of professionals as a critically important business issue. While much attention has been focused on this issue recently, the need to attract, retain and develop human capital in an organization is not a new issue. So why do so many organizations continue to struggle with the recruitment and development of the next generation of leaders?

I contrasted the differences between succession planning and transition activities with respect to leadership development in my February 2013 blog, Succession or Transition – You Choose. Succession planning is long-term focused. It is developing a culture and processes that enable you to attract the best and the brightest to join your organization, investing the time and personal energy to clearly define the personal characteristics, competencies and experiences necessary for these individuals to take full advantage of their career development opportunities, and then providing them the training and tools for success. Simply put, if the goal is filling the pipeline with future leaders, “begin with the end in mind.” By contrast, transition planning focuses on the orderly redistribution of leadership responsibilities to ensure the continuation of short-term activities.

For CPAs, the dilemma continues to be finding the proper balance between the development of the technical skills our professionals must possess to effectively serve our clients and employers, with those business or career success skills necessary to effectively lead the efforts of others in meeting the needs of clients and our organizations. Recent surveys and studies have shown that they two are considered equal in importance and critical to your future success.

With the increasing complexity of the business challenges facing our clients, and the need for greater responsiveness to these challenges, simply meeting the technical development needs of our people is a struggle for many of us at times. If this is the world we live in, how do we make the shift or find the time to address the leadership development of our team? I believe taking advantage of the many resources the CPA Center of Excellence® has to offer will greatly help in meeting the leadership development needs of our profession’s future leaders.

The CPA Center of Excellence® is advancing the CPA profession’s critical success skills through education, assessment and knowledge sharing. The Center offers a variety of tools, resources and creative educational opportunities to improve those skills in order to meet future client, employer and environmental needs and demands. The Center emphasizes a competency-based learning model and intelligent collaboration designed to assess your team’s current mastery of these critical competencies, and a road map to address the knowledge gaps identified to provide for long-term career success.

I believe the CPA Center of Excellence® is the greatest member benefit to be offered during the 20 years I have been a member of the Indiana CPA Society. If you agree succession is an important issue for your organization, and the development of your people is vital to addressing this issue, I encourage you to explore the resources available through the CPA Center of Excellence®. As with any important initiative or undertaking, remember “begin with the end in mind,” and that there is absolutely no reason “to reinvent the wheel.”

What Are Your Unconscious Biases?

July 17, 2017By Justin Hayes, CPALearning and Career Development

We can all agree our personal background (how we were raised, our education, etc.) helps to shape our moral and ethical behavior as we get older. For example, many people pride themselves on the work ethic they were taught as a child as they grow into adulthood. Or that they were raised to value their integrity and not to compromise it. These are both great examples of how our upbringing has shaped us in positive ways to be better members of society.

Although I have reflected on this personally in the past, I was not aware that what I was reflecting on was what is more commonly known as unconscious bias. Bias, of course, is having a prejudice either in favor of or against some thing, person or group compared to another. Have you ever taken a moment to consider how your upbringing could have created bias in you? More specifically, perhaps some bias you don’t even realize you have?

I have to be honest, I have not thought about this much in the past. However, I recently was able to attend the Society’s Leadership Cabinet/Emerging Leaders Alliance session where Allison Manswell, with Cook Ross, presented on the topic of “Unconscious Bias.” I hadn’t really been exposed to this topic prior to the meeting. What I learned was that in a very brief manner of speaking, “Unconscious Bias” refers to a bias we are unaware of, which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is triggered by our brains making fast decisions without us consciously slowing down the decision-making process.

As I started to look into this topic, I was amazed at the amount of research that has been done. One of the most interesting things I came across was a study done by the National Academy of Sciences, which found that hurricanes with female names have a much higher death rate than those with a male name. The research determined the reason behind this was that people unconsciously associated a female named hurricane to be gentler and less violent, so they did not take the warnings as serious as they did with a male name. I also found the following exercise in the Journal of Accountancy that is interesting and focuses more on unconscious biases in CPA firms: Take the test: What are your unconscious biases?

What potential unconscious biases might you have, and how are they impacting the decisions you are making? Is this a concept you’d like to explore further in order to get a better understanding of your thought process for making decisions, or the thought processes of coworkers, clients or employers?