Career Growth for Accounting Professionals


122: Diversity, Inclusion, & Being True To Yourself – Jina Etienne, CPA

Jina Etienne joined us for this episode of Life In Accounting, a podcast production of Where Accountants Go.  Jina has had a tremendous career.  From building her own accounting practice, to serving our profession through working at both AICPA and NABA, to now joining Grant Thornton in the role of Director of Diversity & Inclusion!  Jina very openly shared her wisdom and insights with us on this episode, and we were fortunate to have her on the program. Is It Always This Easy? Jina started her career in accounting because the initial accounting course that she had to take as a business major ended up being a relatively easy subject for her.  After realizing she had natural ability in the accounting, and then hearing that it was a very stable career path, she decided to choose accounting as her career.  She started an internship with Touche Ross, and the rest is history. Opportunities Open Up After a few short years in public accounting, Jina decided to start her own practice.  She operated her firm for about 17 years in total and was very successful.  It was through her quest to continue to grow her practice in a way that suited her lifestyle that she came across the opportunity to join AICPA.  Jina figured that she could have a positive influence on far more people through working at AICPA than she could being self-employed, so she took advantage of the opportunity and went to work with the national association. Several years later she also had the opportunity to serve as CEO for NABA, the National Association of Black Accountants, which was also a position that she thoroughly enjoyed.  You’ll hear it in the audio interview, but having the opportunity for public speaking on topics she is passionate about is something that energizes Jina.  Both the AICPA and NABA positions provided her those opportunities. Diversity & Inclusion Jina currently is the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the national accounting firm Grant Thornton.  One of the most educational portions of this podcast episode is the discussion of the difference between diversity and inclusion, as well as the strides we have made as a profession and the challenges that we still face.  Jina is definitely a subject matter expert in the area, and I appreciated the frank discussion we were able to have regarding D&I in our accounting profession.  This interview definitely is more than just a career story – it’s an educational opportunity! Books that Jina mentions in this interview that can help you with your own career include:   “The E-Myth” and “Rich Dad Poor Dad” Other episodes that may interest you include:  Lisa Ong and Sheila Enriquez To listen in on this interview with Jina Etienne, please click on the player below:

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121: From Army Officer, to Partner, to the Consulting Life! An Interview with Ramsey Womack

Ramsey Womack joined us this week to share his story of starting in the Army, to becoming a partner in a public accounting firm, to shifting into the consulting world in order to get more variety in his daily work life. Born Into Accounting Early in the interview Ramsey shares with us that he was “born into accounting” in that he had many family members that were CPAs in his family.  What’s interesting though is that he had an equal passion to serve our country, which was also something he acquired from his family origins.  For this reason, although he majored in accounting in college, he chose to start his career by serving in the Army for the first four years after college. Getting Back In… Moving back into the accounting world proved challenging initially for a few reasons.  He had a tremendous internship with Arthur Andersen during school, but after he served his 4 years in the Army, Andersen was on the brink of closing at that point.  Therefore, he couldn’t return for a full-time position as he had thought he might initially.  Instead, he started to consider other career paths and started in the management training program with Home Depot.  He made a great living with Home Depot, but it became clear quickly that he would have to relocate in order to get promoted, so he decided it was time to return to his original career choice:  Accounting. Out and Up Being the people-person that Ramsey is, one of his friendships ended up landing him in the office of a local accounting firm.  He was able to get on-board with the firm as a staff person, which was a pay cut at the time since he had been building a different career previously, but it was a move that paid off.  In a few short years, he became a manager with the firm, and then in a few more he was a partner.  After many years with the firm, he decided he wanted to expand his experiences and get more variety in his career, so he joined an outsourced consulting group – WG Consulting in Houston, Texas.  Although he is thankful for the time he spent in public accounting, the consulting world is a good fit for him presently as he thoroughly enjoys all the variety that comes with this type of work. If you are transitioning from the military into civilian life, wanting to move up in public accounting, or even interested in the consulting space, this podcast will be invaluable. Other shows you may enjoy:  Libby King, and Roderick Robeson To listen in on this episode with Ramsey Womack, please click on the player below:  

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120: Relationship Coach for Your Soul, Your Self, and Your Money – Robina Bennion CPA

Robina Bennion, a CPA with a highly specialized business coaching individuals on the key areas of soul, self, and money, joined us for this episode of Life In Accounting, the Where Accountants Go podcast.  In addition to being a CPA, Robina is a Certified Money Coach (CMC) as well!  This episode is truly enlightening and has something for everyone. Early Career Robina started as many CPAs do.  She encountered an individual she admired greatly at an early age that happened to be a CPA.  It was through that interaction that she became interested in the career path, and after college went into public accounting doing both audit and tax work with a smaller firm.  The variety of experience that she gained while working at smaller firms seems to have served her well. Mergers Although Robina joined the firms we discussed mostly post-merger, we still get into a short discussion of what it takes to be successful at a firm after they have went through the merger process with another CPA firm.  Robina has some valuable insights for us, namely to 1) be open to sharing knowledge, 2) to be open to learning, and probably the most important, 3) to be patient. Coaching for Your Soul… This particular line was what initially caught my attention when I invited Robina on the show.  She is a “relationship coach for your soul, your self, and your money”.  I found that holistic approach to be very intriguing, and couldn’t resist reaching out to her so that we could find out more.  You’ll need to listen to the full episode to get the full picture of Robina’s business because she describes it far better than we ever could here.  However, in a nutshell Robina takes a more well-rounded approach when working with her coaching clients that includes, but is in no way limited to, studying their behavioral patterns when it comes to finances. If you enjoy this episode, you will likely appreciate these interviews as well:  Sarah Elliott and Brian Kush. To listen in, please click on the media player below:

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34 Professional Certifications You Can Get in Accounting, Tax, Audit, and More (Guest Blog)

(Reposted with permission from Accountant’s Accelerator, a division of Sandra L. Leyva, Inc.) While the Certified Public Accountant will always be the Holy Grail of certifications in our profession, there is no shortage of additional certifications you can reach for. This blog post is my attempt to list them all in one place so you can choose wisely about the best way to spend your study time. Certifications help to assure clients of a level of expertise achieved in a certain area. They build credibility, some more than others of course. They also provide accountants with a structure approach to building expertise in a particular area. There are many categories of certifications, and for this article, we’ll focus on two major categories: certifications that demonstrate core technical accounting, audit, or tax expertise, and certifications that demonstrate specialized knowledge in accounting, tax, and finance. General certifications for technical accounting knowledge Certified Public Accountant. We simply have to start with the CPA. The CPA is not only a certification with a grueling exam, college hours, experience, ethics, and a stringent application process, it’s in effect a state license too. Each state in the US has rules on how a CPA can maintain their license to practice with the state’s governing body. Each CPA firm also requires a firm license along with peer review requirements. California: Illinois: New York: Texas: I’m guessing there are about half a million CPAs in the U.S.  Outside the U.S., there are equivalent designations. For example, in Canada, CPA stands for Chartered Professional Accountant, and in the UK and Australia, it’s CA: Chartered Accountant. Certified Management Accountant. The CMA is a certification most often earned by professional working in industry or government. It’s administered by the Institute of Management Accountants, who has more than 100,000 members worldwide. Chartered Global Management Accountant CGMA. is a management accounting designation with more than 150,000 designees worldwide. It can be earned through the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) or the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). Certified Bookkeeper CB. is offered by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. It’s a really great way to distinguish yourself from other bookkeepers. Certified Internal Auditor. The Institute of Internal Auditors is well known for its Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification, but it also has several other certifications for auditors to earn: CGAP – Certified Government Auditing Professional, CFSA – Certified Financial Services Auditor, CCSA – Certification in Control Self-Assessment, CRMA – Certification in Risk Management Assurance, QIAL – Qualification in Internal Audit Leadership, and BEAC – Certifications for Environmental, Health, and Safety Auditors. Enrolled Agent. The EA is a great designation for serious US tax professionals. It’s administered by the IRS. Specialized professional certifications: Certified Financial Planner CFPs have knowledge in budgeting, planning for retirement, saving for education, managing taxes and insurance coverage, and investing. Personal Financial Specialist.  The AICPA offers a personal financial planning credential which demonstrates your expertise and financial planning insight to prospective clients and employers. Chartered Financial Analyst. The CFA credential is held by over 150,000 professionals around the world. The charter gives a strong understanding of advanced investment analysis and real-world portfolio management skills. Certified Fraud Examiner. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, with nearly 850,000 members, offers the CFE, a credential that demonstrates expertise in fraud prevention, detection and deterrence. Certified in Financial Forensics. The AICPA offers the CFF which measures forensic accounting skills in bankruptcy, insolvency and reorganization; computer forensic analysis; economic damages calculations; fraud prevention; and valuations. Accredited Senior Appraiser. The ASA credential demonstrates expertise in valuation and is offered by the American Society of Appraisers. Accredited in Business Valuation. The AICPA offers the ABV designation for business valuation professionals. Certified in Entity and Intangible Valuations™ .The CEIV is offered by the AICPA for professionals involved in fair value measurements. Certified Valuation Analyst and Accredited Valuation Analyst. The CVA and AVA credentials are offered by the National Association of Valuation Analysts. Certified Information Technology Professional. The CITP is offered by the AICPA to information technology consultants and experts. Certified Information Systems Auditor. ISACA (which now only goes by the acronym that previously stood for Information Systems Audit and Control Association) offers the CISA as well as several other certifications: Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT), and Cybersecurity Nexus – CSX Certificate and CSXP Certification. Certified in Strategy and Competitive Analysis. Once you’re a CMA, you can reach for the specialty designation, CSCA, Certified in Strategy and Competitive Analysis. Registered Social Security Analyst. The RSSA is offered by the National Association of Registered Social Security Analysts for professionals who help clients optimize their social security benefits and retirement cash flow. Certified Business Profit Consultant. The CBPC is offered by my company (Sandra L. Leyva, Inc.). It provides basic training and tools in four advisory areas: revenue growth, cash flow, profitability, and pricing, and it’s designed for the small firm owner who wants to take the first step to adding a service line beyond compliance work to their business. Certified Profit First Professional. The Profit First Professionals organization offers the CPFC. It’s training and a methodology that you license to use with your clients. Certified Tax Coach. Certified Tax Coach, LLC, a non-profit organization, provides training and certification to become a CTC. There is a a licensing requirement which includes active licensure as a CPA, EA, or attorney in good standing. Two more certifications you can get after CTC include Certified Tax Planner (3 years active practice as a planner and tax planning experience requirement) and Certified Tax Strategist (3 years active practice as a planner and tax planning experience requirement). Fundamental Payroll Certification. The American Payroll Association offers the FPC for payroll beginners and service and support professionals in positions requiring payroll knowledge. Certified Payroll Professional. The American Payroll Association also offers the CPP, which requires payroll experience, an exam, and a rigorous application process. As you can see, it would be quite ambitious to earn all 34 designations. The hardest part is to choose the ones that you feel will give you the skills you need as well as a satisfying career. (For more information on Accountant’s Accelerator, please visit For podcasts regarding passing certification exams, please visit our podcast page at Where Accountants Go -

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Book Review: The 2-Hour Job Search (Author Steve Dalton)

The title of this book caught my interest: “The 2-Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Right Job FASTER”.  I’m always interested in good job search advice that I can pass on to friends in the accounting profession that are looking for a better situation.  The mention of technology to expedite the search was intriguing since so many times it hinders more than helps in a typical job search.  This book definitely had some interesting points. Narrowing Your Efforts While the author gets into great depth regarding the process he’s developed for job hunting, the basic premise regarding the use of technology in your job search is to help you narrow down what activities will be most fruitful. While many job seekers may first think of job boards when they think of using tech in their search, the author is more focused on determining who is best to speak with at organizations where you may want to work.  Through his process, you use technology to research good targets for your search, and then approach them the old fashion way – through multiple forms of direct contact.  Being a proponent myself of being more ‘active’ in your job search than merely applying to jobs online, his process makes a lot of sense to me.  Job seekers that are willing to be more targeted in their efforts and take the initiative to reach out on their own generally end up with the best opportunities.  That has long been the case. 2 Hours? In all fairness to potential job seekers that would read the book, I’m not 100% sure about the “2 hour” estimate. However, the author mentions several times throughout the book that there are many rabbit holes that you could find yourself going down that would eat up your time, and that it’s important to avoid those unnecessary efforts.  I think if you have the self-control to only follow what the author prescribes, and avoid doing more in-depth research on items that are unlikely to be fruitful, then the 2-hour estimate may be workable.  It all comes down to following the process with self-control. Taking Control of Your Destiny Overall, what I like about “The 2-Hour Job Search” is the premise that if you are willing to take control of your own job-search destiny by doing a little more work on the search than is typical, you will end up with better results.  So often we find ourselves taking a job because it is the one being offered… not necessarily the best one available in the marketplace for us.  If we spent a little more time on the front end of the search consciously targeting appropriate opportunities that match our long-term goals, we would likely be happier with the results as our careers progress. For more information on this book or to order it, visit: The 2-Hour Job Search  (affiliate link) Mark Goldman CPA

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Applying The Proximity Principle To An Entry-Level Accounting Job Search

In my spare time recently I’ve been enjoying listening to a few podcasts, one of which is “The Ken Coleman Show” where Ken shares job search advice with callers looking to land their dream job.  Frequently the “proximity principle” comes up on Ken’s calls, and I’ve found a lot of truth in that concept.  In applying it to my own specific niche, namely accounting careers, I’ve come to the conclusion that this idea could be highly valuable for entry-level and soon-to-be-graduates in our own profession as well. In a nutshell, the “proximity principle” is the idea that in order to land the position you are targeting, you need to put yourself in proximity to those that have the power to get you there. How does that apply specifically to accounting entry-level positions though? I think it comes down to networking… When you are getting ready to graduate, it’s easy to depend on “the system” to get you an entry-level job. And to some extent this makes sense.  However, it doesn’t work for everyone 100% of the time.  Sometimes individual students need to do more.  This usually comes in the form of networking. If you want to ensure that you land the best job for you specifically, try applying the proximity principle to your own situation. Go where the people are that have the power to connect you or hire you.  Where is that?  The people that have the power to hire you in accounting and to recommend you be hired can be found in many places, but the highest probability outside of career fairs is at professional association meetings.  Association meetings such as your local CPA Society, IMA chapter meeting, Internal Auditors Association meeting, or one of many other accounting organization meetings are usually excellent opportunities for you to engage with those individuals influencing the hiring process.  In these situations, you are more likely to be moved to the top of the stack if they are in a position to be hiring, as well as be considered for positions that may not even have been advertised yet.  Either one is very beneficial.  Having met a decision maker in an organization where you may want to work in advance of the interview process goes a long way towards increasing your chances of landing the job. If you are approaching graduation or simply looking for your first internship, don’t leave it to chance as to whether or not you are selected through a career placement office or from an advertisement response. Take your destiny into your own hands by applying the proximity principle to your own job search.  Go where the true decision makers are, and make an effort to get to know them personally.  It takes additional work, but increases your chances dramatically.  At a minimum, you will get experience interacting with other professionals; but more likely though you will find the position that best fits your overall career desires. Until next time, I wish you the best in your career! Mark Goldman CPA  

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The Most Misspelled Word on Professional Resumes

Having worked in the accounting-employment world now for over 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to see thousands of accounting resumes. Some are excellent, and some are still being perfected. However, there is one misspelling that seems to come up over and over again. Before you read on, answer this question… What do you think the most commonly misspelled word on a professional resume these days may be? Perhaps you would guess "their" versus "there"? If you were referring to writing in general that may be the case. People regularly confuse the two in general writing. In fact it's a mistake I frequently catch myself making, although I usually just say it's a typo. J If not there/their, it must be "it's" and "'its" then, right? No, but definitely another good guess. "It's", which is the contracted form of "it is" or "it has", is frequently confused with "its" as well, but there is one flaw in that logic. "It's" and "its" are not words you see frequently on resumes; so although they are commonly misused, they just are not used much in this context. (By the way, for those that are curious, "its" is just the possessive form of "it".) The most commonly misspelled word on professional resumes is <drum roll>... the word "manager", unless of course you really are in charge of something that involves "mangers". People frequently commit the typo that leaves out the middle "a" in "manager", leaving a word that word processing programs still recognize - the word "manger". So even if you use the spell-check function, the mistake doesn't get corrected. You are proudly announcing to the world that you are an "Accounting Manger", "Manger of Finance", "Payroll Manger" or something similar. So now that you know this, what do you do? Re-read your resume of course, and go to the extra step of having a friend read it as well. Often it is difficult for us to see errors such as this when we are the author. However, I guarantee you that the employer reviewing your resume will notice. And they may not find it quite as entertaining. I wish you the best in your career! Mark Goldman CPA

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Resume Advice That’s Truly Novel from Ken Coleman

It’s rare that we come across anything truly new in the world of job search advice, but a few months ago I was referred by a friend to another podcaster’s website - .  This is the website for the popular radio production, “The Ken Coleman Show”, that features Ken Coleman taking calls from individuals looking for their dream job.  Ken is affiliated with the Dave Ramsey organization, and after listening for a few months now, I have to say that he gives exceptional job search advice.  He has a very novel, yet practical approach. One of the extremely unique tools he has for his audience is a free e-book titled, “How To Write The Perfect Resume”. It does require that you enter your email address in order to download the file, but immediately afterwards you get access to the document.  Generally I wouldn’t write about such things in this blog, but I found the information truly too valuable not to want to share. If you are in a situation where your resume doesn’t seem to be doing its job of getting your foot in the door for an interview, and you’ve maybe even had others give you feedback on it, I suggest you visit the website and download his guide. It’s a very short and easy read, but in it Coleman shares some insight on how to build a resume that I’ve honestly never seen before.  It really is unique. If you are in that situation, I hope you find this information beneficial. Visit for the “How To Write The Perfect Resume” guide.  (We have no affiliation and get no benefit from sharing this – it’s purely for the reader’s benefit if needed). I wish you the best in your career! Mark Goldman CPA

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Thanksgiving 2018: Have You Said “Thank You” To Someone That Made A Difference Recently?

Generally I take a break from doing the Where Accountants Go podcast each year at Thanksgiving and simply do a blog post related to the Thanksgiving season. As luck would have it, one of the topics on my mind recently has been having an attitude of gratefulness. I’ve been very, very fortunate to have many mentors in my career that have taught me valuable lessons along the way. Some have been supervisors at work, some have been peers, some have been fellow members in professional associations, and some have simply been friends.  I have much appreciated the insight and advice I’ve received from these individuals over the years. As you can tell from the title of this post though, I have a question for you! Who have you said ‘thank you’ to recently?  Have you let those mentors know what a difference they have made for you in your career, and possibly even in your life?  This is a great time of year to personally let them know what a meaningful impact they have had on your success. Give them a call, or even take them to lunch or for a quick coffee. If you can’t see them in person, write them a 3-4 sentence thank you card.  Or if you feel extremely inspired, take the time to write a more formal lengthy letter.  We don’t receive many thank you letters these days, if any.  I guarantee you will brighten that person’s day, and likely their week or even month by doing so. Obviously we should be grateful at all times during the year… this time of year it’s perhaps just a little easier to remember. And don’t feel like it will be taken for granted by the recipient.  A sincere thank you to someone that cares about you is never unappreciated. Think back. Who has made a difference for you in your career?  Who has invested themselves in your success?  Give that person a sincere thank you.  Both of you will feel better from the experience. Happy Thanksgiving! And as always, I wish you the best in your career. Mark Goldman CPA

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