What We’re Reading – 5/17/2017

May 17, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog


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


“Many of us feel at times as if we are impersonating a leader rather than working out what it means to be ourselves in a position of leadership.” Learn how to go beyond imitation, and become a more authentic leader in your life with this article from strategy+business.com.



Sometimes, it’s the little things that end up making a big difference in the success of a leader. Here are 9 actions that all great leaders share in common:



In addition to what we’ve been reading, here’s what we’ve been listening to as well. In this podcast, INCPAS CEO Gary Bolinger and our very own Strategist Jess Halverson Bowyer discuss the importance of the changing nature of continuing education in the digital age.

Episode 26 – From Clock Hours to Competence in Life and Work


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 – 5/10/2017

May 10, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on technology, leadership, and relationship-building. 


Advances in machine learning and AI are leading to a situation where finance must embrace new technology. Although many CFOs have reservations on its use, automation could prove to be a valuable resource and help shift the CFO’s focus back to strategic thinking. 



Strategic relationships are a key to success in every business. Uber, Adidas, and Tesla have proven exemplary in these types of collaborations. How can your business benefit from building these types of mutually-beneficial relationships?



PwC is setting the example for trust-based leadership by using its diverse workforce to make a difference in the lives of its clients.  



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.

The Future of Learning and Why You Should Care

May 2, 2017By Jennifer Briggs, CAEArticle, Learning and Career Development

Here at the CPA Center of Excellence and Indiana CPA Society, the driver behind our organization, we have been talking a lot about a competency-based approach to professional development, advocating for change to the CPE regulations and effective learning for CPAs, and the future of learning in a larger sense. Below is our quick guide to the future of professional development and learning.

In 2012 an Indiana CPA Society Board-level task force produced a white paper on the Future of Competency. In this paper we sought to look at the very broad world of education (K-12, higher education and continuing professional education) and consider trends and changes. As an association we need to ensure we’re meeting our members’ needs, and since CPE is such a big part of CPAs professional commitment, we wanted to know more about how education is evolving. After the work we did, we concluded that, well, there’s a lot more work to do.

Education is changing everywhere you go. In just a few minutes of conversation with any K-12 grade student you learn that online learning is so prevalent that some schools don’t even have snow days anymore — if it’s snowing, they just learn from home online. First-graders are being issued iPads. Hard copies of text books are a bit outdated. Smart boards are prevalent and flipped classrooms are the norm at one Indianapolis school. In the area of professional education, simulation and scenario-based learning is becoming more valuable. Some firms like Deloitte have gone to extensive measures creating entire campuses, like Deloitte University, with its enhanced learning and simulations that provide immediate feedback.

I had the privilege to be a member of the AICPA Future of Learning Task Force in 2013-14. I visited Harvard University and heard from their education experts, some from MIT and other nationally-recognized education innovators. I grew to understand our road to change was going to be hard, but that if we don’t start experimenting now, it will be even harder to catch up later. Even at these elite institutions, changing behaviors about learning wasn’t necessarily simple, but an ongoing process of trial and error. Despite that, it was evident the world isn’t going to become less complex anytime soon. With the chance to hear Sal Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, speak about his mission to provide “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere,” I better understood how technology is changing how we learn. It’s not about webinars. It’s about the accessibility of education — to anyone, anywhere. What does this mean for how we value and measure education as an organization at large, and for the CPA profession?


1. THE YOUNG PEOPLE YOU HIRE WILL BE INCREASINGLY DISINTERESTED IN SITTING in a classroom for eight hours at a time to earn CPE. And it’s not about moving it online. Sitting at a computer and staring at a screen with little interaction might be even less tolerable. The type of education you offer may be a differentiator for young people when choosing an employer. They are going to look for hands-on learning and real life scenarios in a way we haven’t seen before.

2. THE WAY YOU UNDERSTAND SOMEONE’S EDUCATION IS GOING TO CHANGE. Learning is accessible in so many ways, and with the complexity of our day-to-day workloads, we’ll be looking for people who can get the job done — not necessarily people with a specific GPA or a degree that took X number of years to attain. What do they know and how will you know they know it? We will begin to look to things like digital badges to tell us where someone has an expertise. Or, which MOOC’s did someone participate in and finish?

3. YOU, OR YOUR ORGANIZATION, SPEND A LOT OF TIME AND MONEY ON CONTINUING EDUCATION per regulatory requirements to meet an arbitrary number of hours to say you’ve maintained your competency as a CPA. Are you always getting bang for your buck in the current hours-based system? Does learning really only happen if it’s done in 50-minute increments? Or, is learning continuous and can it be earned and documented in different ways? Education is a critical area for the CPA profession. For the reasons stated, and many others, the CPA Center of Excellence and the Indiana CPA Society continue to ask questions and study the future of learning and competency.


Massive Open Online Courses are generally free and provide online, interactive learning. Courses typically have unlimited participation. EdX is one of the more prominent providers with universities like UC Berkeley, Harvard and MIT offering courses this way. Generally no official credit is offered; the learner is recognized for completing the course and learning the content.

Flipped Classroom
A form of learning where the “lecture” part is typically viewed online before a class and class time is used for collaboration, in-depth discussion or working on actual problems. It’s basically flipping the lecture and homework. The homework is done with the instructor so the student can ask specific questions or talk with others as needed to gain better insight and a better understanding of the content.

Digital Badges
Digital badges are an assessment and credentialing mechanism that is housed and managed online. Badges are designed to validate learning, and hold the potential to transform where and how learning is valued. They help demonstrate skills learned either online or in person. They are characterized by a symbol of some kind (a badge) that is digital and is coded to show whomever clicks on it, the skills, experiences, etc., achieved by the learner.

Launched in 1998, Mozilla is a community of technologists working to make the Internet accessible to all and to promote innovation. One of the group’s project is Mozilla Backpack. Available at backpack.openbadges.org, the backpack is like a locker you had in school or a network drive on your computer. It’s simply a place you can store your digital badges, making it easier to share them online via social media or your LinkedIn profile. Read the last page in our online courses guide for a brief tutorial on uploading your digital badges to Mozilla Backpack.

Sal Khan/Khan Academy
Through Khan Academy, students can make use of a library of content, including interactive challenges, assessments, and videos from any computer with access to the web. Sal Khan’s speech about his mission received a standing ovation at the October 2013 AICPA Council meeting in Los Angeles.

Future of Competency
A 2012-13 INCPAS task force that focused on the identification (plan), acquisition (education), and demonstration (experience) of behaviors, knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for successful performance as a professional. Learning is one part of the future of competency. Read their report.

Future of Learning Task Force
A 2013-14 AICPA task force explored a new vision, developed by the task force, to reinvent lifelong learning and competency in the CPA profession. The task force research resulted in an extensive report.

Smart Board
The Smart Board is an interactive whiteboard that uses touch detection for user input (for example, scrolling and right mouse-click) in the same way as normal PC input devices.

Competency-based Learning
Learning formats that allow students flexibility to learn where and when they want to and to demonstrate mastery of content vs. completing a specific semester, or hours-based system. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education had several experimental sites allowing universities to try this approach without losing federal-aid eligibility. This is the type of education we advocate at the CPA Center of Excellence.






Burnout is Real, But it’s Avoidable

April 24, 2017By Jennifer Briggs, CAEArticle, Blog, Learning and Career Development

I know I’ve talked incessantly about going back to school for my MBA at the ripe old age of 42 (see blog 1 and blog 2), but I’m bringing it up again because post-graduation I have some thoughts on burnout. That’s right. Instead of basking in the glow of my advanced education, when all was done I felt lost, a little numb, and frankly, bored. Thankfully, it was a temporary feeling and I’m recovering. I thought about writing on burnout this week because right after busy season, I’m guessing my friends in public accounting can relate.

During two full years of classes two nights a week, plus my job and family, I thought I was handling it like a champ. And mostly I was. But when it was all over I crashed hard. I couldn’t settle down. I couldn’t read a book without feeling the need to highlight something. I had what felt like endless migraines. I found my family to be sort of irritating. I’d think things like “I’m STILL here hanging out with you? Don’t I have to be somewhere else?” I realize that’s terrible (sorry family). I’d wrapped myself up so tightly in being efficient and effective and scheduled that I had no idea how to just BE anymore.

I keep reading about burnout and now I know it’s real. I think it’s why many companies and firms are adding sabbaticals to their benefits; many times these are mandatory. People just need a break sometimes — and they might not even know it. It’s important to be vigilant and take care of yourself even during your busiest times. Don’t do what I did. Examples of my bad behavior: No time for the gym — just give it up. Friends — I’ll probably have to see you in about two years. Family — I’ll show up, but I’ll often be preoccupied. I think I was trying to break a record for coffee consumption. And, I did it all to myself as I couldn’t possibly have a family, boss or colleagues who were more supportive. I just didn’t really notice what was happening.

There are articles everywhere that help us deal with burnout. Here are just a few:

I’ll boil it down to just four of my favorite tips:

  1. Take deep breaths. Often. Many times a day in fact. You’d be shocked how helpful this can be and how it clears your head if even only for a little while.
  2. Take days off with no designated purpose. Not to chaperone a field trip or work on your house. Just take a selfish day for yourself even if you feel selfish every day for being so busy – you still deserve ‘you time’.
  3. Take time to exercise. I’m sorry. I hate it, but it actually works. Do whatever makes you feel good and do it even when you don’t want to. I credit Stephanie Parton on our staff for inspiring me on this one.
  4. Take a few minutes each day to write a manifesto. Not a creepy one like the Unabomber, but one about what you want and need out of life. Just start writing and you’ll be surprised what comes out.

In an article I read recently in Inc. magazine (10 Mistakes Smart People Never Make Twice) Travis Bradberry says, “Emotionally intelligent people are successful because they never stop learning. They learn from their mistakes, they learn from their successes, and they’re always changing themselves for the better.”

I talked in my last blog about being proud of my accomplishment in going back to school and trying to better myself through continuous learning, so I felt I should also share some mistakes I made along the way that led to a feeling of burnout. I hope that I’m emotionally intelligent enough to not make those same mistakes again. And maybe, just maybe, someone who reads this will not make the mistakes in the first place. Deep breath.

The Impact of Millenials

April 10, 2017By Dave Shatkowski - VP of Communications at Indiana CPA SocietyArticle, Blog, Future of Work and Change Management, Talent Management and People

We’ve been hearing and talking about the millennials a lot, but what does it all mean? To the profession, to your business, to you?

The millennial generation, over 75 million strong, is transforming the workforce and the workplace. Already they make up more than one third of the workforce in the United States, and that number is growing every year.

A post by Justin Hayes on our other blog site, The Smoke Detector, examined what not to say to millennials. Things like “be patient,” “you’re not ready,” “that’s not how it was” and “you’re not working if you’re not here (in the office)” are all things that we have heard before or maybe even said ourselves. But they are not things that resonate with millennials.

I’m a lot older than Justin, but I thought his observations were right on target. Continue saying those things to millennials, and risk losing them. You might lose them to a competitor. We might lose them to another association. Or we all might lose them to another profession.

Millennials want change. I’ve seen it and I’m sure you have too. They want things like flexibility, recognition, inclusion and innovation. An article in Fortune magazine stated “certainly, it’s better to directly address the needs and understand the characteristics of the millennial generation than to pretend they don’t exist.” Are employers doing that? 

Though there are stereotypes surrounding millennials, many if not most are either untrue or misunderstood. And in the end, the changes that result in responding to their needs can benefit all. The Forbes article concludes, “in focusing on the needs of the next generation, these companies are creating a better place to work for everyone.”

Alternative credentialing such as digital badges and verified certificates is one area where we can make an impression on millennials. You (as CPAs) by understanding them and accepting their value, and we (as a CPA-supporting organization) by offering them. 

Millennials are receiving alternative credentials at colleges and universities across the nation, according to findings from a recent study by the University Professional and Continuing Education Association. Then they expect them post-graduation as well. One of the experts who conducted the survey said “what was previously thought as cutting edge is now becoming mainstream and is transforming the paths that learners take to success.”

More than 20 percent of U.S. colleges and universities are currently offering digital badges, and the state of Indiana is well represented by IU, Purdue and Notre Dame. After graduation, millennials will look to their profession and their association for their professional development needs. And their alternative credentialing preferences.

Like the changes in workplace culture and environments, other generations are likely to adapt to and appreciate alternative credentials. Let’s be a part of that change in ongoing professional development and lifelong learning.

What We’re Reading – 4/5/2017

April 5, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on innovation, leadership, recruitment, and entrepreneurship. 

For any business to be successful, having a great workplace culture is essential. One key area for culture lies with a strong emphasis on innovation and creativity. CPAs, how can your workplace environment help foster these values?



John Minnich discusses his role as the CFO at the Concordia Educational Association, and how his CPA designation helped him play as both a leader and trusted business advisor. What are some roles your CPA designation makes YOU?



During Tax Season, CPAs need to be ready for any challenge that comes their way. Read on to find out how you can be prepared:



CPAs, are you making sure that new hires have the right “soft skills” to succeed in the workplace?



Strategic thinkers add tremendous value to any company or organization. Here are a few ways to find out if any of your job candidates have these qualities:



As CPAs, we have a lot to learn from entrepreneurs. How can we adopt some of their qualities into our own professional development?




At the CPA Center of Excellence®, we help CPAs and service professionals with stay ahead of change and in front of 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.


The War for Talent

April 4, 2017By Stephanie Parton, CAE, INCPAS Director – Marketing CommunicationsArticle, Blog, Innovation, Talent Management and People


Across the country, high school seniors are donning caps and gowns for graduation. Many will head off to college in the fall, full of hope for a bright future. Through the help of family, teachers and counselors, they have decided on a major which will determine the career they will enter into for the rest of their professional life.

Pretty simple, right?

Not so fast. Landing your dream job right out of college and sticking with it throughout your career is a thing of the past.

Only 14 percent of U.S. workers believe they have the perfect job and more than half want to change careers, according to a 2013 Harris Poll.

Making the Career Change

Deciding to make a career change is a huge decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are many risks to consider including the cost of going back to school, juggling a full-time job, and maintaining work-life balance while pursuing a new degree and career.

Robert Reynolds, CPA, CGMA, made a career switch in his early 30s. He went from manager of a convenience store to director and shareholder with Brady Ware.

“I finally found my calling, public accounting, at the tender age of 31,” Reynolds explained. “After obtaining my associate degree in business administration, I embarked on my journey to real adulthood as a mid-level manager for Stop-N-Go. Needless to say, the 24/7 retail environment lost its appeal after a few years, and in my late 20s, I found myself still struggling to determine just what I wanted to be when I grew up.

“A wise person I knew at the time spoke of the career opportunities available in accounting, and since I enjoyed working with numbers, I enrolled at Wright State University in the fall of 1985 as an accounting major and the rest is history,” he added. IU Health Ball Memorial Director of Finance Bettie Caldwell CPA, CGMA, also made the career change switch after reflecting on her long-term goals.

“I was a mid-life career–changer, having worked as a registered respiratory therapist in the hospital setting for over 15 years,” said Caldwell. “A family move to a new job market prompted me to re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my remaining 25 plus years of work life. I was primed for a challenge and a change, and found what I was looking for in the CPA profession. Eventually my career as a CPA led me full circle back to the healthcare setting, but this time as a director of finance for a large hospital system.”

“I was primed for a challenge and a change, and found what I was looking for in the CPA profession,” Bettie Caldwell, CPA, CGMA, a mid-life career changer.

Desire for Change

While not everyone who wants to change careers will actually make the decision to go through with a switch, a significant portion of the American workforce would like to do so.

Nearly 80 percent of workers in their 20s said they wanted to change careers, followed by 64 percent of 30-somethings and 54 percent in their 40s according to the Harris Poll.

“I just wasn’t thinking long-term about my career,” explains Mary Milner, staff accountant at Baden Gage & Schroeder LLC. “I didn’t really know myself well enough at age 19 to know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So I got a job in the real estate industry. I did leasing and a little bit of sales and customer service, putting out fires, conflict resolution. It was great experience and I did that for seven or eight years.

“There were a lot of things about it that I enjoyed but it just wasn’t where I wanted to be for my career,” she continued. “After a while I started doing some soul-searching. I found that all the things I enjoyed doing in real estate had to do with accounting. That was kind of my light bulb that maybe I should be doing this.”

Milner recognized her decision to go back to school and pursue an accounting degree was a risk.

“It was a big risk to say OK, I’m going to go back to school, I’m going to take out more student loans,” she said. Milner said she decided to make the commitment and take the risk knowing it would pay off in the long run. Quitting was not an option for her.

“It’s a whole different experience trying to go to school when you already have a full time job and I was starting a family,” she said. “And it leaves no time for anything because every free moment is spent studying. Looking for a job was probably the scariest part. I was unsure how to navigate that more so than just deciding to go back to school. It was almost a full time job looking for a full time job.”

Enter the CPA Profession

INCPAS President & CEO Gary Bolinger, CAE wrote about career changers entering the CPA profession in a post “The ‘War’ for Talent” on the Society’s blog I Was Just Thinkin’.

“Career changers are going to end up somewhere in the workforce,” Bolinger wrote. “It might as well be the CPA profession. A lot of these people have got the perspective and talent to be significant contributors in the profession. If we want to leverage this trend, the profession (which includes firms, corporate accounting departments, colleges and universities, and accounting associations and societies that serve the profession) needs to reassess recruitment. Are we willing to accept the need to aggressively recruit talent in places that we have never looked before? The places to start are the ‘career changer’ marketplace and the non-traditional student marketplace.”

Nontraditional Students

There are more than 17.6 million undergraduates enrolled in American higher education. The National Center for Education Statistics reports 38 percent of those enrolled in higher education are over the age of 25 and one-fourth are over the age of 30. The share of all students who are over age 25 is projected to increase another 23 percent by 2019.
“More seasoned candidates can bring a perspective on business and the role of being a professional to an organization that rests on a foundation built through real life and work experiences,” says Reynolds. “All I can say is at 31, I know I was a much better listener than I was at 21. At 31, I was more patient than I was at 21. I certainly was more thoughtful and empathetic at 31, than 21. I feel these traits and my journey not only allowed me to advance my career, but they contributed greatly in helping me become a trusted advisor to clients.”

Purdue University Northwest Department of Accounting Head Ed Furticella says nontraditional students are faced with challenges traditional students might not face.
“The speed of the course work can also be challenging for the nontraditional students,” he said. “Especially the students who are balancing work and family commitments. They are worried about balancing work, life and school. They worry about getting behind in class and typically, these are the students that will drop a class if they don’t think they’re doing well.”
Once Milner made the commitment to go back to school for her accounting degree, her concern shifted to what would happen after graduation.

“I was afraid as a job candidate that the people interviewing me would have concerns about it,” said Milner. “I was afraid they would have concerns and say ‘why did you go back to school, why are you at this age and you’re just starting out, why did you go to school online.’ What I found was that I had more anxiety about it than they did. They just wanted to understand. They wanted to know my story. I was afraid it was going to be a problem and it wasn’t.

“I think the first step begins with the people in charge of hiring having an open mind and seeing the value people can bring when they’ve had different experiences,” Milner continued. “When they look at a résumé, if they’ve been in a different profession, don’t automatically discount them. I think I got lucky here that’s what Baden Gage did. They didn’t discount me because I didn’t have accounting experience.”

Bold Challenge

One of the four “bold challenges” created by the Indiana CPA Society Board of Directors is to “Build bridges to the profession …” and one of the bridges must be the bridge for nontraditional students.

“We tend to focus our energies on current high school and traditional college students as potential future CPAs,” said Caldwell. “We value the longevity and new ideas that youth brings with it, but more mature candidates have their own advantages. When I returned to the hospital as a CPA, I brought with me my previous work experience and understanding of how a hospital operates, as well as the appreciation for the hospital culture and our ‘patients first’ focus.” The Society is working on reaching nontraditional students and encouraging them to pursue a new career in the CPA profession.

“Nearly every day I receive a phone call from a person considering a career change or wanting more information about the CPA designation, specifically the process applying and sitting for the CPA Exam,”said INCPAS Director — Diversity & Outreach Ali Paul. “They are often relieved to learn that depending on their previous college education, only a handful of additional classes may be needed to meet the 150-hour requirement in Indiana.”

The Society’s Diversity Advisory Council is developing a new toolkit to help career changers and nontraditional students better navigate the pathways to becoming CPAs. The goal is to help make the process as clear as possible and give candidates a better idea of what they can expect as they enter this profession. Career changers bring so much experience to the table and when you think about the core competencies of a CPA (Communications, Leadership, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Anticipating and Serving Evolving Needs, Synthesizing Intelligence to Insight, Integration and Collaboration) these are skills that career changers have been developing for years, allowing them to really hit the ground running upon entering the CPA profession.

What We’re Reading – 3/29/2017

March 29, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on innovation, change management and creativity. 

“A Quiet Revolution” by INCPAS President and CEO, Gary Bolinger, CAE, discusses the current revolution in professional development for CPAs:

A Quiet Revolution


As CPAs, how can we address potential new trends and changes in our own workplaces? Read on to see if any of this year’s trends might be affecting YOU:

Trends Shaping the Global Workplace in 2017


The way forward for any profession lies in innovation. However, in order to address the future, it is important to find guidance from the past. This article explains the importance that history serves in guiding our future. How can CPAs apply this to their own career? 



We live in an increasingly chaotic world. How can we respond to the crises presented to us throughout our professional lives? Be confident in your ability to handle problems that arise, and read on to discover how this might very well benefit you:



Think you can’t use creativity in a business setting if you aren’t “born with it?” Try again:

Born creative? No. Way.

At the CPA Center of Excellence®, we help CPAs and service professionals with stay ahead of change and in front of 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.