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Navigating Leadership Insights from WSCPA Emerging Leaders

April 29, 2024

by Daniel Fleming

The WSCPA Emerging Leaders Committee (ELC) is a dynamic group of aspiring CPAs and recently-licensed professionals—each with a passion for propelling the accounting profession forward. Their mission? To create a community brimming with engaging opportunities tailored for young professionals, while also leveraging their knowledge and experience to be the next wave of industry leaders. Meet key leaders of the committee and hear about their vision for the profession's future, how they manage work-life balance, and the support they've received from the WSCPA on their professional journey.

As an Emerging Leader with the WSCPA, how do you engage and empower fellow young professionals to become more active and influential contributors to the organization's mission and goals?

H. Fleming: As an Emerging Leader working at a mid-size firm, I am fortunate to have a wide pool of young professionals to engage with and inform about events put on by the WSCPA and ELC. Through mentorship programs and word of mouth, I do my best to share the benefits that result from involvement in various events. The world is ever-changing, and obstacles and opportunities are constantly arising, which makes it that much more important to set an example and encourage peers and colleagues to attend these networking events and stay involved. Once you attend one, you realize the accounting world is not all a scary place, and it can actually be really fun!

A. Vergara: I do my best to speak to everyone in the room. I love to seek out those that stay seated during networking breaks and make it my goal to hear their story. I also make sure to share my story and explain to my fellow young professionals the importance of getting active and the power of networking. I cannot stress that enough! Get involved, get networking, get connected!

In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues or trends facing the accounting industry today, and how do you see young leaders contributing to address these challenges?

K. Gilmore: One of the most pressing issues has been the decline in interest in the public accounting profession. There are so many benefits to having a background in accounting that extend beyond working in public accounting that I feel get overlooked, especially by young students trying to decide on a career path. The advantages of having this background and understanding your company’s financial statements as someone who may be applying for a CEO position or starting their own business are immense. This has also created a demand that exceeds the supply of accounting firms willing to take on new clients. I think young leaders can be advocates for the industry and really stress those advantages that come along with that kind of background which will in turn help to reduce the stress that the demand has placed on the industry.

A. Schaffer: In my opinion, the decline in people entering our industry, coupled with increasing regulatory requirements, has resulted in a crisis of audit/accounting quality. Young accountants will be instrumental in modernizing firm processes, bringing their unique experience of growing up in the Digital Age to help find technological efficiencies critical to reducing workloads.

How has your involvement with the WSCPA contributed to your growth as a leader, and what unique opportunities have you found through your affiliation?

H. Erven: WSCPA is a great organization to be affiliated with. My involvement in WSCPA committees has positively contributed to my growth as a leader. In my opinion, a good leader is someone who has integrity, self-awareness, courage, respect, compassion, resilience, and gratitude. Being involved with WSCPA committees has boosted my confidence greatly in areas that I am passionate about, such as helping other young professionals to achieve their dreams of becoming a CPA and connecting them with other professionals in the accounting industry as well as collaborating with other leaders in the industry to come up with new ideas to attract college students majoring in accounting to become future CPAs.

C. Ommen: Being involved with the WSCPA has been integral in helping me feel more connected to a larger community after moving halfway across the country, and I’d say the WSCPA’s biggest influence on my growth in leadership has come from the chance to meet and learn from other members. I’ve never known a professional existence outside of public accounting, and, especially as a committee member, it’s beneficial to be able to connect and engage with people from other areas of the profession and practice more meaningful communication around issues that affect us all―—everyone from students to CEOs to retirees.

H. Fleming: My involvement with the WSCPA has opened several doors to attending training sessions, planning events through the ELC, volunteering in various capacities, and much more. I was honored to speak on a panel with two other professionals, sharing insights and tips with others preparing for, or in the process of, obtaining their CPA. Participation with the ELC has also provided valuable networking opportunities and helped me to learn about different industries within the accounting world. These experiences and involvement with the WSCPA have been instrumental in advancing my professional development and personal growth.

A. Vergara: I wouldn’t be where I am today without the WSCPA. Everyone involved with the WSCPA has made it their goal to make sure each member feels empowered and has the tools to advocate for themselves no matter what. I would not have the skills nor the growth as a leader if I had not been so actively involved with the WSCPA. I thought I was going to be forever stuck working bookkeeping jobs even after I finished school and got my CPA license. Yet here I am working at such an amazing firm, on the ELC, co-chairing the WSCPA Tacoma Chapter Board, and with the resources to continue after my license and career.

How do you balance the demands of leadership roles with maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and do you have any tips for other young professionals striving for similar equilibrium in their careers?

K. Gilmore: It is a constant challenge for me, but I’ve found that setting clear boundaries for yourself is a good way to combat the demands of personal and professional life. When I get off work, I may receive work-related emails throughout the evening, but those can wait until the morning. I’m also fortunate to have bosses that understand the various challenges that come along with work and life demands. It is something that I prioritized in finding a job. I want to be successful and knowledgeable in my industry but not at the risk of my health. I think finding an employer that aligns with your own outlook on work-life balance is key.

C. Ommen: For me, it involves a lot of setting boundaries and trying to hold myself accountable to them, mostly because I find it very easy to give too much weight to the “work” side of the spectrum. Practicing things like keeping consistent work and personal times, shutting off work-related message notifications, and taking all my PTO each year really help me reset, refresh, and maintain a healthier middle ground. I also consider myself incredibly fortunate to work for a firm where employees are encouraged to seek their own best version of work-life balance―I’m positive I wouldn’t be able to successfully sustain mine without the invaluable support of my mentors and team.

A. Schaffer: I’ve always been a “yes” person, like many people in our industry, so healthy work-life balance is never easy. However, I can say that I’ve only accepted leadership roles that I was truly excited about, and that I am always careful about looking at my calendar and not overcommitting. Sometimes balance isn’t trying to fit everything into one day but being more flexible with your time—accepting that one day/week/month may be work focused, and the next more people/relationship focused.      

Want to learn more about getting involved with the Emerging Leaders Committee? Connect with me.

Daniel Fleming is WSCPA Manager of Membership. Contact Daniel by email.

This article appears in the spring 2024 issue of the Washington CPA magazine. Read more here.

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