This issue's Generational Viewpoints features two individuals from the Rochester, N.Y.-based multi-office firm EFP Rotenberg LLP (www.efprotenberg.com). Darla Wheaton, partner and head of the Attest Department, a Baby Boomer born in 1963, and Gen Y staff accountant Joe Barone, born in 1986, shared their thoughts regarding the following question:
"If you could change one thing about public accounting, what would it be?"
BARONE'S GEN Y VIEWPOINT
I've been in public accounting since June 2008. I was hired by my current firm out of college and, aside from my previous 15-hour-per-week internship and high school grocery store job, this is my first true work experience.
Two years ago, I would have written a multi-page essay on everything I would change about the CPA Exam. Fortunately, I survived the difficulty of preparing for it and, looking back, I'm glad the experience was as demanding as it was. That first year of intense learning and preparation for the exam, while working and learning in my new career, was definitely not impossible, and it was necessary to prepare me for the career path I'm on today.
That said, if I could currently change anything about public accounting, it would obviously be the hours! I say "obviously" because I'm writing this during busy season, and my co-workers and I have been working between 50 and 70 hours a week. Don't get me wrong - we knew what we were getting into when we signed on, and most of us truly enjoy our jobs. We work in a fast-paced, non-repetitive environment that provides plenty of challenge, long-term financial benefits, and better job security than most professions.
But as smart as accountants are known to be, I wonder why we haven't solved our work-compression issues after all these years. Deadlines - like April 15 - can't be changed, but with all the advances in technology and planning that the profession has adopted, it seems that we should be able to make the hours more consistent and reasonable year-round. Maybe we should make more of an effort to change the standard year-end to something other than Dec. 31?
The mentality appears to be, "The compressed work load and extra hours are just the way it is, and there's nothing we can do about it." As a staff accountant who has been working in public accounting for only a couple of years (with many more to go), I say we should do something about it, and I'm open to brainstorming solutions!
At this point in the busy season, we are all looking forward to finishing our many projects, having free time to spend with friends and family, and enjoying the end-of-busy-season party and beautiful summer hours that await us! And I am dreaming of a day for all CPAs when we can experience post-April 15 work/life balance year-round.
WHEATON'S BOOMER VIEWPOINT
If I could change one thing about public accounting, I would change the perception of what public accounting is, and what it provides to the public and to current and future employees.
I would like to get the word out that:
* CPA doesn't equal "tax." While tax is one of the primary service areas, it is only one of many specialties.
* Accounting is not black and white. There are a lot of estimates used.
* Fortunately, not every audit uncovers fraud.
* An audit examines only those numbers above a reasonable threshold. In reality, the smaller amounts are immaterial.
* Only one year of work experience is necessary to become a licensed CPA, so it is important to consider the extent and type of experience a CPA has when seeking to engage one.
Accounting students and graduates should know that:
* An accounting degree is the basic foundation upon which career training and life-long learning is applied - not the "end-all."
* There is no predetermined advancement schedule for becoming supervisor, manager and then principal or partner. It's important to set goals and discuss your ambitions with potential employers to understand the requirements for each step in your career.
* Writing and communication skills matter! It's definitely not just about numbers.
* You will most likely come out of your first busy season relieved that it wasn't as difficult as you heard it would be.
Anyone considering career or college options should know that:
* We are not just bean counters - we can be fun and engaging!
* A successful career in public accounting requires social skills and the ability to sell. If you have these skills and like numbers, public accounting may be a great choice for you.
* Frequent questioning of the status quo makes for strong auditing skills when combined with the appropriate knowledge.
Public accounting has provided me with a career far beyond what I ever expected. I would like to see these truths about the profession I love communicated widely!
This column is facilitated and edited by Krista Remer, the Generation X consultant, and Jennifer Wilson, the Baby Boomer co-founder and partner of ConvergenceCoaching LLC (www.convergencecoaching.com), a leadership and marketing coaching and training and development firm that specializes in helping CPA and IT firms achieve success. To have your firm considered for a future Accounting Tomorrow column, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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