To celebrate international youth day, The Accountant and International Accounting Bulletin asks professionals aged under 35 to share their thoughts on the profession: why they qualify as accountants, whether it was challenging and, now that they are in, how they see the profession and where it is going.
Robert A. Smith
I am 28 years old and I live and work in downtown Dallas, Texas as an international tax manager at Saville CPAs & Advisors. I've been at Saville for about two and a half years, starting as a tax senior. At Saville I helped launch the Global Tax & Advisory Group as a new niche practice. Prior to that, I spent about three years at Anchin Block & Anchin LLP in New York City.
The Great Recession hit while I was majoring in finance as an undergraduate, so finance jobs were drying up. Accounting had more prospects, so I did a Master's in Accounting, I ended up doing tax because of a scholarship, and it turned out that I loved it. International tax made sense because it is an in-demand area and I get to work with clients and fellow advisors from around the world, which is a lot of fun.
Due to the course requirements, I couldn't sit for the CPA exam until I finished my Master's. My professors made it clear that they expected all students to complete the exam before working full-time, so I decided to take the entire four-part exam in two months. Any moment not working was devoted to studying for the exam, and I was fortunate to get it done. I am very glad that I finished the exam before I started working as a tax staff member.
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Accounting is honestly never boring, and I think that is especially true of tax. A lot of people think of accountants as reserved and introverted, but I have found that there is a lot of entrepreneurial opportunity in working at a public accounting firm. I do a lot of networking and client development in my niche area, and I also enjoy mentoring younger professionals and helping them grow their careers. For a young professional who is looking to make a difference, there is a wealth of opportunity in accounting and tax.
Public accounting is known for long hours, especially during busy seasons, but I am pleased to see that a lot of firms are making the work environment more flexible. A lot of employees at Saville take advantage of flex time or reduced schedules, and even working remotely when needed. It's been a real help to me when there is inclement weather or I need to balance home and work life. Also, I think that firms need to understand that a lot of accountants from the Millennial generation are looking for entrepreneurial opportunities, because many of our peers are working at exciting startups. I've been very fortunate to have worked with partners throughout my career who have encouraged me to get involved with launching niche practices, like international tax at Saville or the Art Group at Anchin. It's tempting to say that the staff need to "pay their dues" and fit into the same old mould, but giving the younger professionals real opportunities to grow is good for the whole firm.
Whenever a new tax law is passed or accounting pronouncement issued, it levels the playing field between young accountants and experienced CPAs. After all, a new rule is new to everyone. So I would recommend to young accountants that they strive to be the first to understand the new rule and teach others about it. This is the best way to quickly become a valuable resource to the firm and to the profession.
Saville is a member of Allinial Global, and I think that Allinial Global really gets it when it comes to the Millennial generation. The association brings knowledgeable speakers to its conferences who understand how Millennial accountants think and can explain to the more senior partners how to utilize those talents and adjust the work environment to encourage the best from Millennials. As far as the accounting societies are concerned, I think that they are moving in the right direction. I know a number of other young professionals who have been rising through the ranks of our state society, and I'm encouraged by what I'm seeing at the AICPA. The profession is doing really well and this is a great opportunity to start to hand the reins to the next generation to grow it even more.