No D in firm: Should a dominant personality stay in public practice?

By Samantha Taylor, PME, CPA, CA
Feb 26, 2021

A learner emailed me after reading Do you even Accountant?

I took the DiSC profile test, was 100% truthful and ended up bang smack in the middle of D. My “report card” from middle-school reads just as discussed in this blog! Ha.

Sometimes I do think that accounting is too docile a career for me (although I enjoy it a lot!) but reading this post made me more confident in my choice. Perhaps public practice will not be my chosen route. Got any tips for me?! 

Thanks again,

A learner

My first tip is attributable to a YouTuber: It’s only a problem when it’s a problem. Let’s dive in. 

Are you progressing?  

Are you learning and able to attain your CPA (i.e. is your employer supportive of your studies)? Then perhaps action is not required at this time. You are enjoying it “a lot” which is great! 

Accounting is a versatile skillset

I see accounting as a tool. one that I also like a lot! However, it is how we use a tool that determines its usefulness. Bonus: if you find yourself in a position you do not like, cool, change it. CPAs are versatile and whatever experience you have gained can fuel your future endeavours. There is no such thing as “wasted time”, only lessons learned to be used later.

Re-assess early and often 

Make and re-evaluate your goals every two-to-three years, which is advice I received from a Big-4 audit partner when I probed him mid-coffee for wisdom to share with learners. When pressed, he suggested a timeline of pre-CPA and every two-to-three years after that. His reasoning was to first establish a base-level of applied proficiency (CPA designation) and then proceed from there.

I would layer onto that advice to try your best to leave TO something versus leaving FROM something.  

Teamwork makes the dreamwork

Consider not doing this alone. I have no doubt you could successfully go it alone and as a “D” perhaps you may even prefer to, but why? Each Saturday during the modules Michelle, a DC personality, and I would set up in Starbucks and collaborate remotely to prepare for the national exam for the legacy designation we earned. We continue to support and celebrate each other more than a decade later. 

Accountants are famous 

Accounting is a platform of knowledge where you choose your next adventure. Some notable accountants include Canadian cross-fit games athlete Brent Fikowski, TV superstar detective Peter Falk (Columbo), and Nike co-founder Phil Knight.

Are there misconceptions out there about what accountants can do and their perceived level of fun? Heck yes. Sometimes those stereotypes come in handy. From firm partners to consultants to educators, CPAs represent all personality types in all roles.

Summer shenanigans

August 2019 I was flying through Montreal to San Francisco when border security skeptically assessed my travel intentions. 

Stern Handsome Guard: “Why are you going to San Francisco?” he inquired.

Concerned Canadian Accountant: “For a conference,” I replied politely. 

SHG: “What type of conference?” he continued.

CCA: “Accounting,” I replied.

That grabbed his attention.

SHG: “And exactly how many accountants are going to be there?” he continued, now smiling.

CCA: “Over two thousand,” I said, returning the smile. 

SHG: “Ooooh well then, do not have too much fun,” he said laughingly with an eye roll.

He stamped my passport and gestured me to proceed. 

The joke was on him. I had a blast getting lost in the streets, joining an impromptu washroom salsa-dancing party, and building friendships I hope last a long, long time. 

Closing time 

Many people will look at your situation through their lens and project their insecurities or judgments on you. From that space, they may offer unsolicited advice on how you should live your life.

I end this as I started: It’s only a problem when it’s a problem for YOU. 

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Maya Angelou

Do you have feedback on this post or a question you’d like answered by an experienced CPAWSB educator? Please contact your facilitator or send a question to the General Topic in the Candidate Discussion forum. 

Samantha Taylor, PME, CPA, CA, is an educator and lead policy advisor for CPAWSB and an instructor of accounting at Dalhousie University. She is on a mission to understand and enable learner efficacy while eliminating doldrums occasionally associated with accounting education. Read more of Sam’s posts at the CPAWSB blog.