CPAmerica International Helping Next Generation Make Accounting a Career

While online learning has made training far more convenient and cost-effective for CPA firms, it’s also meant less interaction with professional peers.

Alan Deichler

Alan Deichler

Alan Deichler recalls accounting firm leaders lamenting this change during a CPAmerica International regional meeting a couple of years ago in Chicago. The conversation turned to the many introductions and relationships that have been formed through professional development conferences, the value of networking, the assistance peers can lend each other, and the importance of preparing young leaders to take over for their senior counterparts.

Before long, CPAmerica members came up with the idea to get young professionals together for a two-day conference. The aim was to introduce them not only to each other, but to the ideas behind how a CPA firm operates, so they could think about whether they want to become partners and make a career out of accounting.

Deichler, who is president of the accounting association, says member firms sent about 80 “career-coachable” professionals to the Next Generation Conference the first year, and the second event, running Aug. 19-21 in Chicago, will feature two tracks: the basics of leadership principles and practice management for first-timers, and strategies to manage and grow a firm for returning attendees.

Deichler admits that he expected some of the stereotypical responses from Millennials during the first year, such as questions about flexible work arrangements and shorter work weeks. “What we got was career-minded people who wanted to know how to be a partner,” he says. “I felt very encouraged hearing these young people telling me they wanted to know what to do to be successful.”

The conference is open to those with four to 10 years of experience, who are typically “heads down, technical” professionals, Deichler says. This is the point at which many of them decide to stay at an accounting firm or move to private industry. “The partner sees them as auditors and tax people but they haven’t really talked to them about how the firm can be a career for them.”

Speakers include Sam Allred, director at Upstream Academy, who will talk about the one-firm philosophy and personal accountability. Heather Sunderlin, director of employee services at Wall Einhorn & Chernitzer, will discuss business development. Mike Platt, publisher of INSIDE Public Accounting, will present important accounting firm metrics so young professionals will understand why the MP is so worried about utilization and realization. Other speakers include Adam Waytz, a psychologist at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management who studies how people think, and Nancy Fox, a business development and networking consultant.

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