Serving his profession, community, and country are all very important to Joe Navarro, CPA, a recent graduate of the AICPA 2013 Leadership Academy who is a business manager for the City of Bakersfield, California.
Let’s take these one by one. First, country: Joe served as a sergeant in Iraq. In fact, his college education and military service are tied together. He joined the military to help finance his education.
Second, community. In addition to his duties as a city employee in Recreation and Parks, he volunteers his time helping the citizens of Bakersfield. He does this as a member of the Financial Literacy Committee within the Bakersfield Chapter of the California Society of CPAs, offering his services to a demographic who can’t always afford to pay for professional advice.
Third, profession. As a recent AICPA Leadership Academy, he joins a group of young CPAs who want to work on behalf of the profession in leadership roles at the AICPA; their local state CPA societies; and local nonprofits, charities, and community boards.
“In this profession, we produce great accountants who know tax and audit, but what’s not taught at an entry level is how to establish leadership qualities as you move up the chain in the organization so you can lead staff, develop your team, and make things happen.”
He compares his observations of his time with the Leadership Academy to his military experience. “There was this sergeant when I was in the military who oozed leadership—and he did it effortlessly. I tried to be around him to watch how and why he did things; sometimes he was shooting from the hip, but he was the real deal.”
Based on his experience with the Leadership Academy, Joe has plans to be very involved in various leadership positions, but also knows there is a learning curve if he is going to achieve a good outcome for his service.
“I am interested in learning more about leadership from the accounting profession angle,” he says. “Who are the accounting mentors and how they are leading the industry? As young leaders in the profession, these are important questions. We can become managers, which is great, but I would much rather be a leader before becoming a manager.”
While it’s easy to assess a young professional’s performance in terms of technical skills and abilities, and industry and accounting knowledge, the more strategic qualities of a person are the ones Joe is more interested in developing.
“How are entry-level accountants contributing to an organization long term? You can’t ask a young person how they are progressing in their ability to lead. In the military, the good leaders weren’t necessarily experts, but they were able to sell their ideas.”
Joe has learned that selling ideas is also very important. “My expertise and what I do for the Recreation and Parks Department is respected. When I was a young kid walking into the boardroom to make a presentation, I wasn’t as valued, but within a few meetings, they knew I was capable.”
Before joining the City of Bakersfield, Joe worked in a local accounting firm. The long hours and the demands of his young family made him want something more stable.
“Before I joined the city, I sat down and wrote out my goals as if I already worked for them. These included being in management within five years, having my CPA license, and supervising personnel. Five years later, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.”
Working for the city also means he has to stay very focused.
“We’re always in the public view and everything we do has to have a purpose. We have to do away with the fluff. Being in public service is in line with my values, serving people, and the community. The skills I’ve gained through the Leadership Academy will help me continue down that path.”