When Michele A. Coleman, CPA, manager of General Accounting for Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham, Maryland, decided to enter the AICPA 2012 Leadership Academy, she didn't know it would change her life. The program had a significant impact on her leadership skills and setting goals for the future. Here’s what she had to say about what she does and how the Leadership Academy impacted her career.
Edge: Tell us about your career.
Michele Coleman: My experience is pretty well rounded. I’m now working in healthcare and its various requirements, but I’ve also worked in energy, real estate, retail, and nonprofit. I have never been stuck in one area. I believe I would not be the manager I am today without this variety of experience.
Edge: What do you do in your position at Doctors Hospital?
Michele Coleman: Day-to-day, I supervise three accountants, manage treasury functions, and serve as the financial liaison to our managers and department heads in the hospital. I handle monthly close processes and prepare financials.
Edge: You have a master’s degree in taxation. What made you want to choose tax rather than accounting or another area?
Michele Coleman: I studied taxation to broaden my horizons. I was grandfathered in for CPA exam before the 150 hour requirement. For my master’s degree from American University, I chose a subject that would keep my interest and broaden my career.
I actually call my master’s experience a “boot camp!” It completely changed the way I work. The first test I took, I got a low grade and was heartbroken. I had never gotten a grade like that on anything in my life. The program made me a better researcher, fact finder, and problem solver.
Edge: What’s unique about your undergraduate degree?
Michele Coleman: I went away to a 4-year university, but my family couldn’t afford it so I went home and studied at Prince George’s Community College and the University of Maryland University College. As a result, I didn’t go to school with my peers. I was 18 and going to school with adults. Many were employed in careers and went back to school to get a certificate, or just to progress and grow.
My undergraduate work was a great experience. Most of my professors were in industry, government, or private practice rather than in academia. As a result, I think I received a more realistic education. One day, I’d even like to teach at the university level!
Edge: Why did you apply to the 2012 AICPA Leadership Academy?
Michele Coleman: A lot of accounting professionals are promoted for technical skills and not people skills. I applied to the Academy because I have more experience managing processes than people. To continue to grow my career, I needed more leadership skills.
Edge: What impact did the Academy have on your career?
Michele Coleman: It was huge. The Academy not only helped me with my leadership; it helped me set goals for my future. I had always said I wanted to be a CFO, but the Leadership Academy made me realized that I have broader knowledge and skills, so I have revised that goal and now want to grow my skills so that I can one day be a CEO.
Edge: What other opportunities did the Leadership Academy afford you?
Michele Coleman: Participating in the Academy opened up so many doors. For example, I am now a new member of the Board of Trustees for the AICPA Foundation, an organization established back in 1922 to advance the science of accountancy and accounting education. So far, it has been a great experience to be part of this. I am learning so much and helping give back to the accounting community.
Edge: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Michele Coleman: The Leadership Academy also helped me define personal goals. My husband and I had tried for several years to become parents. I had given up that goal, but the process at the Academy made me realize that I was not ready to give up. I’m now expecting twins in October!
Edge: Congratulations! That is exciting! Good luck!
About the AICPA Leadership Academy
The AICPA Leadership Academy was established to inspire, nurture, and empower the next generation of CPA leaders by providing them with advanced leadership training, access to well-connected professional networks and opportunities to exercise leadership within the profession. The deadline to apply for the 2013 class has passed, but stay tuned later this year for announcements about the 2014 class. Here’s a video with more information.