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Father’s Day wisdom: A CPA dad’s advice

Shutterstock_1074903578In 1981, Paul Stahlin, CPA, CGMA, and a former Chair of the AICPA, got his CPA license. Thirty-three years later, his daughter Emily followed in his footsteps by becoming a CPA as well.

The CPA profession of today isn’t the same as the profession of 1981. Technological innovation has created new opportunities for CPAs to provide value and has even changed how CPAs deliver core services. But even throughout all this change, some lessons Paul has learned in his career still ring true today. In honor of Father’s Day, Paul wrote this letter to Emily to share his advice on how she can thrive in her career as a CPA.

Family picture

Dear Emily,

This Father’s Day, I will be celebrating my 41st year as a father. As I reflect on the last four decades, I’m reminded of all the joy you and your sisters have brought to me and your mom and the many ways you make us proud.

One of these was when you earned your CPA. I know this required hard work, persistence and at times even sacrifice. Your diligence in becoming a CPA is testimony to your competence and, although you probably didn’t realize this at the time, was great preparation for life. The qualities you develop in pursuit of the CPA — a commitment to excellence, the perseverance to overcome obstacles and skills such as leadership, collaboration and objectivity — will help you in many areas of life.

While I’ve been a CPA for almost 40 years, your career is ramping up. The world is a much different place today than when I was a young CPA. The pace of change is blistering, and to maintain a competitive advantage, you need to be agile and willing to try new (and sometimes uncomfortable) things. Fortunately, the technology and tools at your disposal are powerful. As you progress and build your career, I want to share several thoughts to help you on your journey.

1. Adhere to the core values of the profession. Integrity and trust should be foundational to both your personal life and your career. Inevitably there will come a day when these qualities will be tested. In that moment, I hope that you will do the right thing. (I know you will.)

2. Never stop learning. This is a lifelong goal that must happen day by day. Artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and data analytics are not just buzzwords. These technologies are changing the profession. Opportunities abound in both the services CPAs provide as well as how we provide them, but you have to see and seize them. In fact, the CPA profession itself evolves as a result of constant technological advances. If you want to stay relevant, you need to have the digital intelligence to understand how to leverage technology and continually expand your skills.

3. Value the human connection. Technology skills are important, but don’t underestimate the power of skills such as critical thinking, decision-making and empathy. These qualities will not only help you build deeper relationships with your colleagues and clients, but also will allow you to deliver higher-value services. As more routine tasks and processes become automated, these skills will become increasingly important. Work daily to sharpen these “human skills.”

4. Give back. It’s a privilege as a professional to share your blessings of time, talent and treasure. Find an organization that matches your interests and join its board. This will broaden you as an individual, and you’ll be rewarded more than you can imagine. Remember also to mentor the next generation. This profession has given much to you, and it’s your obligation to pay it forward.

5. Integrate your family. When I began my career, the discussion was about work-life balance. Today it is about work-life integration. Explore how you can include family into your workspace. Let them have a lens into your business life. They may have valuable insights from a different perspective. Ultimately, family should come first. Include them in your business life whenever you can.

6. Embrace diversity of mindsets and backgrounds. Variety is the spice of life that can make us richer, fuller humans. Seek out opportunities to emerge yourself in different cultures. Travel when you can. This will provide you with a broader understanding of how people think and react differently. Above all, you might find it will allow you to see how strikingly similar we all really are.

7. Smile more. Life is about the ride, not the destination. Enjoy what you do every day, and if you don’t, make a change. Life is too short not to live it right.

I am proud of all you have accomplished, Emily. I cannot wait to see what the next chapter of your career brings.

Love,

Dad

Paul Stahlin, CPA, CGMA, FCMA. Paul is a corporate board member and former CFO and CEO. He was also a past Chair of the AICPA and a past president of the New Jersey Society of CPAs. 

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