Ask the CEO: New Jersey Society of CPAs

Ralph Albert Thomas, CEO and executive director, New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants, answers questions from NJSCPA member Emily Vu.

Vu: Are you enjoying your post at NJSCPA, and what projects are you working on now?

Thomas: Absolutely. It definitely keeps me on my toes. It's interesting and challenging because our members cross several generational lines. But with those challenges come opportunities. Among the many initiatives at the Society, we're looking at what role we can play in cultivating the next generation of leaders for the accounting profession. We're also examining the changing delivery methods for continuing education based on members' needs and preferences as well as ways to keep that education timely and relevant.

What advice can you give young accounting professionals for channeling their careers?

Do some research and talk with established practitioners about some of the many accounting specialties available, such as tax, audit, forensic accounting, and financial planning. Conduct a self-examination to determine if you prefer a large firm or small firm, public or private accounting, and so on. Understand demographic and employment trends to see what skill sets will be in demand. Also, join professional organizations and take advantage of their many resources.

What is the accounting profession doing to enhance diversity?

The profession's leaders have identified four areas to bolster: creating awareness of the accounting profession among minorities; increasing the pipeline of minority practitioners; retention; and advancement. We also need to actively promote younger, dynamic minority role models already in the profession. I've recently become part of the American Institute of CPAs National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion to help address these issues.