It’s quite likely you are, or have been, a Cubester® —a term created by Ashley Autrey and Daniel Travis early in their careers at PKF Texas, a Houston-based CPA firm—to describe a young CPA working in a company or practice at the staff or senior level.
As a Cubester, you have a long and rewarding career ahead of you, one that you may just be starting with dreams of transitioning from your staff-level position into management. So, what happens when you are promoted and become a supervisor? To help answer this question, we caught up with Daniel Travis, who is now a Tax manager, about how he made the leap, and how he adjusted his outlook and expectations along the way.
Daniel began his career with PKF Texas in August 2004 after graduating from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Starting out as a full-time, entry level staff accountant, he was responsible for preparing tax returns and assisting other CPAs with their workloads. Working at the staff level helped Daniel integrate into the firm’s culture (which attracted him to PKF Texas), available career paths, and the expectations for advancement.
Oh, there is one other important detail: He set an early goal for himself of moving up through the ranks of the firm, with an eye on reaching the director level. Daniel came in with the realistic expectation of starting at the staff level and taking advantage of the opportunities PKF Texas offered to build his skills.
“With my determination to make the most of each phase of my career, I understood I would progress up to the next level when I was ready to take on a new role,” Daniel says.
This determination proved beneficial as he made the successful transition from staff professional to manager. Now in his third year as a manager, Daniel is responsible for coordinating various projects within the firm, training and mentoring those around him, representing the firm externally, and helping grow the client base. Although his priorities and expectations haven’t changed much since he began his career—he is still focused on completing the tasks at hand and putting the best product forward—the real change has come in how those tasks are accomplished.
“Learning how to accommodate others and myself, while maintaining the work goal is an ever-evolving process that becomes more complicated with each level of advancement,” says Daniel. “Regarding expectations, my original point of view has held consistent. My expectation that I will learn and act professionally has not changed, and the expectation that others do the same hasn’t changed either. That being said, the firm’s expectation for me has changed. It’s now one of teaching others and instilling in them the values that the firm wishes for each of its employees to possess.”
Young CPAs are often eager to climb the career ladder, but Daniel offers this advice: ambition is a great trait to have, but there is a lot for the young CPA to learn. He says each role you have will help you grow as a professional, teaching you new and better ways to handle challenging situations. And, take the time to hone your people skills and flexibility.
“If you become too wrapped up in solely advancing yourself quickly, you might miss out on important lessons and the chance to help others grow,” says Daniel. “Those that are driven to achieve will always be looking for the next mountain to climb. If you take a breath and enjoy the scenery a little bit, you will still achieve the goal of being at the top—and may have more fun along the way.
Daniel offers a final thought to accounting professionals who are just starting out.
“The best advice that was given to me was to act at the level where you see yourself. The easiest way to make the transition is to start acting in that capacity. If you do, then the transition becomes a formality as you are already performing at a higher level. It is the ‘Act as if …’ mantra.”
Seizing the opportunities that present themselves to you in your firm will largely depend on your approach. By setting solid goals and expectations early on, and establishing good working relationships with managers who can mentor and teach you, you create the foundation for a smooth transition from Cubester to supervisor—when the time is right.
Editor’s Note: Each issue of PKF Texas’ magazine, The Leading Edge, includes an article called “Cubester Chat.” Written by staff or senior-level accountants, Cubester Chat addresses many of the challenges and opportunities young employees face in their companies and firms. Access the current issue and archives by visiting the PKF Texas Publications page.