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Leveraging the AICPA | CIMA Competency and Learning Website for Your Development


Elizabeth pittelkow headshotThe AICPA | CIMA Competency and Learning website has been a very valuable tool to me since its launch in February. It has helped me both build needed competencies on my team and strengthen my own “strategic skills” in communication and leadership.

I have worked at large firms and now a smaller organization, and based on my experience, I believe the website is beneficial to CPAs from any size and type of organization. It offers small firms a full range of technical and non-technical resources, many of which are free. Larger firms may find that the resources have depth that can complement their in-house learning materials; particularly when it comes to non-technical perspectives, such as developing emotional intelligence.

To help you better understand how to leverage the website, I want to share my favorite resources and how they have helped me.  All the resources mentioned below are free for AICPA members.

Building New Competencies for Your Finance Team

My company has approximately 75 employees. As Director of Accounting and Compliance, I function in many areas, from insurance and risk management to financial reporting and HR. I also assist with legal and marketing.

When we had personnel changes this past year, I turned to the AICPA | CIMA Competency and Learning website to find planning, forecasting and budgeting resources. Using these tools helped my team develop a common language and build new competencies quickly and efficiently. I shared many of the website's resources with a staff person who took over several key responsibilities, and it helped her build needed skills in a short period of time. 

One valuable CGMA tool called “Scenario and Contingency Planning” has helped my team better understand the concepts for managing risk in our company. Specifically, the area on the enterprise risk management (ERM) process helped us make risk the focal point of our budgeting process. Our VP of IT Infrastructure implemented the Risk Heat Map tool during our budgeting process. My accounting team used the AICPA | CIMA Competency and Learning website to understand the tool better. The Risk Heat Map tool helped us recognize our short-term and long-term risks and priorities in this high spending area, and it allowed us to look several years out to prioritize our IT spending.

The article “How to identify risks, opportunities through scenario planning” helped my team budget, which enabled collective baseline knowledge and a shared language to discuss certain topics.

In order for CPAs to become effective leaders, they need a solid base of technical knowledge coupled with emotional intelligence. A person with high emotional intelligence has the capacity to understand his or her own emotions as well as the emotions of others. This helps them to lead teams effectively and produce results.

Communication and listening skills are critical to a CPA’s success. I have taught classes on how to cultivate these strategic skills. One of my favorite resources on the website is a Journal of Accountancy article, “Go ahead, take the stage” by J. Carlton Collins, CPA. The article discusses the different ways people learn and how to reach all audience members effectively. One topic it touches on—and something many CPAs can likely relate to—is how to vary your message so it strongly impacts a variety of learners. I also gleaned some helpful tips related to body language and adapting presentations so they have the strongest impacts.

Accessing Resources for Use Outside the Organization

I participate in an Illinois CPA Society women’s mentoring group, and have discovered excellent resources on mentoring from the Competency and Learning website that I have shared with fellow members. As mentors, we meet on a monthly basis to discuss topics that are relevant to our careers, and keep each other accountable for our short-term and long-term professional goals. “Share. Learn. Grow. Mentor. A How To Guide From The AICPA’s Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee” is one article I would recommend, as it provides excellent tips and suggestions for a structured approach to mentoring.

I also visit the website for ideas on discussion topics, and to learn more about opportunities for adding value in the profession and business world. I often email these resources to others in my group, or bring printed copies to our mentorship meetings.

Connecting to an Ongoing Resource

Any time I am asked to take on a new challenge at my organization, I immediately go to the AICPA | CIMA Competency and Learning website for guidance. I know I can count on the website to provide me with the necessary resources and tools. If you have not visited the website yet, I strongly recommend you do. With more than 1,700 articles, publications, videos, webcasts, and self-study courses, you will likely find a resource that will benefit your professional development. To experience the full functionality of the website, you can use your current AICPA login, or create an AICPA account to gain access.

Elizabeth Pittelkow, CPA.CITP, CGMA, DTM is Director of Accounting and Compliance at ArrowStream, Inc. where she works in the areas of accounting, financial reporting, and compliance. Currently, she also serves on AICPA’s Business & Industry Executive Committee (BIEC).


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