What young CPAs are thankful for 

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, recent graduates of the AICPA Leadership Academy reflect on what the profession has given them in the past year. 
by Samiha Khanna 
Published November 17, 2015

The annual Thanksgiving tradition is a reminder to slow down and consider the great things that happened this year, both personally and professionally.

For many young CPAs, 2015 was another year of growth—perhaps getting a raise, taking on a new leadership position, or even starting their own firms.

We asked several young CPAs, all of whom participated in the 2015 AICPA Leadership Academy, to share the milestones they achieved this year and reflect on the reasons they’re thankful to work in the accounting profession.


Diego J. Baca, CPADiego J. Baca, CPA
Assurance, EY, Denver.
age 29

“This year, I’ve had a lot of opportunities outside the audit room, including mentoring young people from high school all the way through staff and seniors at my firm. It’s an exciting time to be a CPA because, just as the business world continues to change, so does our profession. With big data, globalization, and other macroeconomic issues at the forefront of today’s business world, we’re in a profession that has the opportunity to take the leap from relevant to indispensable.”


Renee R. Bardenwerper, CPARenee R. Bardenwerper, CPA
Manager, Winter, Kloman, Moter & Repp, S.C., Oconomowoc, Wis.
age 35

“Over the past few years, I have become a main client contact and have done more general consulting for our clients. My confidence continues to grow as a result, and I have built more long-lasting, quality relationships. These relationships allow me to better support clients and understand their needs. I am grateful to work for a company that supports me both personally and professionally. I am fortunate to work in a job that recognizes me as a leader and supports me in the development of my skill set.”


Ryan Corbett, CPA, CGMARyan Corbett, CPA, CGMA
Lead corporate accountant and M&A leader, Intuit, San Diego.
age 32

“I took on a new role this year as mergers and acquisitions leader. The risk identification and management skills I learned through years of auditing have incredibly high value in this role. No deal is ever the same. You have to be able to absorb lots of information quickly, identify solutions, and then manage them to outcomes that have high impact. You need a lot of confidence, and years in the trenches of public accounting encourages that.”


Rod K. Dooley, CPA/PFS/CFFRod K. Dooley, CPA/PFS/CFF
Partner, Dooley and Co. LLC, Lexington, S.C.
age 31

“This year, we consolidated our offices into one newly renovated facility in Lexington. Centralizing operations has increased our efficiency and provides a more cost-effective and timely work product for our clients. I am also grateful to be in a respected profession that continues to see more growth opportunities during a time of economic and political uncertainty.”


Adam Dubuque, CPAAdam Dubuque, CPA
Principal, Johnson Lambert LLP, Burlington, Vt.
age 34

“This past year, I’ve had the opportunity to be more involved with various initiatives at both the office and firm levels, including branding, marketing, recruiting and delivery of technical content to our clients, prospects, and fellow service providers. I'm grateful to be part of a profession that enables me to interact with today’s business leaders. I work with companies in a wide variety of industries, both large and small, and I enjoy the experience of being a trusted and valued business partner to them and their customers.”


Cheryl L. Exline, CPA, CGMACheryl L. Exline, CPA, CGMA
Manager, Arnett Carbis Toothman LLP, Charleston, W.Va.
age 35

“This year, I was promoted to a manager in our tax department. I am grateful for the ability to help clients. I work with small businesses that need help with many different areas, such as payroll, bookkeeping, or software. The ability to leave a client’s office knowing that you made a difference that day is a great feeling.”


Rodalyn Gerardo, CPA, CGMA, CIA, CGFM, CGAPRodalyn Gerardo, CPA, CGMA, CIA, CGFM, CGAP
Audit supervisor, Office of Public Accountability, Hagatna, Guam
age 34

“I am always grateful for the opportunity to be considered a role model for aspiring accountants and young professionals. This year, one of my best friends decided that she will go back to school to pursue a college degree in accounting after being away from school for over 15 years. In addition, I was humbled when one of our new staff auditors informed me that he wanted to work at our office after attending a company tour while he was a student at the University of Guam all because he was impressed with my certifications.”


Joanie Monaghan, CPA, CGMAJoanie Monaghan, CPA, CGMA
Financial accounting manager, Eagle County Government, Avon, Colo.
age 30

“I am grateful for being a CPA because it has allowed me to find a career in the Vail Valley, where full-time, year-round, good jobs are very hard to find. This year, I have become much more involved in staff development in the finance department and throughout the organization. While some of these interactions aren’t explicitly part of my job description, I have found it to be beneficial to the county, and personally rewarding to work with people, teaching them how to improve processes or just understand financial accounting a little better.”


Gary Mornhinweg, CPA, CGMAGary Mornhinweg, CPA, CGMA
Accounting manager, Cheyenne Petroleum Co., Oklahoma City
age 30

“Attending the Leadership Academy, I have a rejuvenated outlook on the profession. It has positively changed my professional life. I’m also grateful for the unlimited opportunities as a CPA. Working in the oil industry, which is going through a downturn, I don’t worry because there’s a high demand for CPA professionals.”


Jessica Satterfield, CPA, CGMAJessica Satterfield, CPA, CGMA
Controller, Incite Rehab, Conway, Ark.
age 31

“I have grown as a leader in the past year. I have had quite a few challenges in my position that, although difficult to navigate at the time, have turned into great learning experiences and growth as a CPA and as a leader. I am grateful that my CPA education and training prepared me for a life of various experiences that many professions do not offer. With the increase in the utilization of the CGMA designation, it’s an exciting time to be a CPA, as we are no longer just looked at as the tax or audit public accountant. CPAs are an essential component to any great organization.”


Lindsay Stevenson, CPALindsay Stevenson, CPA
Vice president of finance and tax, 1st Financial Bank USA, Dakota Dunes, S.D.
age 33

“I am grateful for the versatility of being a CPA. Joining a bank after 13 years in public accounting, I was nervous. I thought I wouldn’t be what they were looking for. I was wrong—they wanted a CPA who understood tax, accounting policies, and the financial environment. I appreciate the professional network that CPAs enjoy, from state societies to the AICPA; CPAs have such a depth of resources. CPAs are so supportive of each other’s successes and innovations. I’m also grateful for the excitement of young CPAs who are driving the profession to be future-thinking, innovative, creative, and a voice for shaping meaningful public policies.”


Brian Vnak, CPA, CFPBrian Vnak, CPA, CFP
Director of integrated advice strategies, Wealth Enhancement Group, Plymouth, Minn.
age 35

“The CPA designation instantly brands me as a capable, credible, critical thinker, even when I’m working on non-typical CPA projects. During 2015, this has been a great foot in the door for the opportunity to make an impact in unexpected ways, and build confidence as a leader.”


Maria Pearman Young, CPA, CGMAMaria Pearman Young, CPA, CGMA
Principal, Radix Accounting, Portland, Ore.
age 35

“Our firm is growing. We’ve tripled our revenue this year and grown from two to seven people. I’m grateful for the stability of my career. I’m grateful to be in a line of work that truly is a profession—a place where one can devote their life’s work to the practice. And the work is something that has tangible effects on your clients’ well-being.”

We want to hear from you! Find the Young CPA Network on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, and tell us what you are thankful for.

Samiha Khanna is a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C.

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