AICPA Native American Heritage Month Profile
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Professional Insights

AICPA Native American Heritage Month Profile

2 months ago · 4 min read · AICPA Insights Blog

Tell us about yourself. Who are you? How would you describe yourself?

In this Q&A, meet Tasha Repp, CPA, Partner, National Practice Leader, Tribal & Gaming, Moss Adams.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and I’ve been living in Bellingham, WA, since I started with Moss Adams in 1997.

My husband, Cody, is the STAT nurse at our local hospital, and we have two energetic young boys, Brogan, 12, and Hudson, 10. Our family loves all the activities that make living in the Pacific Northwest special, including camping, kayaking, skiing and hiking. I’m also a bit of a foodie and love enjoying food and wine with friends and family.

I am a citizen of the Samish Indian Nation, a small tribe located in the San Juan Islands of Washington. That background has significantly influenced who I am, what I value, and how I approach my work — and why leading our Tribal & Gaming National Practice and my involvement in our firm’s inclusion and diversity efforts have been so personally and professionally rewarding.

How were you introduced to the accounting profession?

I didn’t grow up dreaming about a career in accounting. I worked many jobs throughout middle school and high school — including working for a local tax CPA — and remember thinking it wasn’t the type of work that interested me. Going to college, I was looking for a path that would lead me to work that was personally rewarding and keep me close to home and family. After heading down several different paths, a close family friend sat me down and suggested I think about a business or accounting degree, as it would allow for a lot of flexibility in the type of company you work for and where you work.

I was fortunate that the firm that offered me a job over 25 years ago, Moss Adams, had a

national practice working with tribes. While providing accounting and auditing services to tribal governments and their related entities, I can also share a practical, clear understanding of audit results to help them improve their operations. Ultimately, I found a career that was both personally rewarding and close to home.

How has your heritage contributed to your success as an individual and as a professional?

Through my heritage, I’ve learned the importance of sharing knowledge to empower others. One of the important lessons conveyed to me through the teachings of my elders is to share your knowledge with others. For my tribe, the Samish Indian Nation, passing along this knowledge is vital for ensuring that my children and future generations know and appreciate our tribal culture and traditions. In the business realm, this is equally as important. Sharing knowledge empowers others and contributes to supporting the collective community.

This philosophy is something I’ve embraced throughout my career. I’m fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work with tribes across the country and learn best practices from them. This has allowed me to share this knowledge with my team, clients and prospects to ensure they have the resources to thrive and learn from the mistakes and successes of others.

More importantly, and more personally rewarding, it has allowed me to share my knowledge and experience with organizations advocating for tribal interests, like the Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA). In my work to educate others on tribal financial matters, I was appointed by the NAFOA to represent tribal financial reporting interests on an advisory council to the Governmental Accountability Standards Board (GASB). For six years, I provided feedback to GASB on setting new accounting standards, which apply to almost all tribal governments and their businesses. These standards can significantly impact tribal and accounting finance teams and the users of tribal financial statements. I was honored to be doing this incredibly important work.

Has mentorship been a significant factor in terms of propelling your career?

Absolutely. Mentors are everywhere. You can learn from so many people if you look for opportunities to listen and learn. There are a collective group of people that I consider mentors, and I’ve learned different things by staying curious and engaging with a broad range of people personally and professionally over the years.

Working in an organization where very few leaders look like you can feel challenging.

Do you have any advice and encouragement for young Native American CPAs?

I think one important key is to look for ways to connect with people that have shared experiences, even if they aren’t in your organization. That may mean getting involved in organizations like NAFOA or building your personal network.

It is also important to advocate for what you need and what is important to you. Look for organizations with a supportive team environment where people listen, and there is a culture of people and clients you want to work with.

I am fortunate to have found a role where I feel professionally and personally fulfilled through my work at the firm and with my clients. Finding that sense of belonging is important and can be created in many different ways.

Are there any organizations you turn to that support Native American professionals, specifically accountants and finance professionals?

NAFOA is an incredible organization dedicated to improving economic opportunities for Native American tribes through advocacy, events, leadership development and education initiatives.

NAFOA has resources and opportunities for anyone thinking about a career in finance. For example, they regularly host a free online career readiness and personal finance program for 18­-to-26-year-old Native American youths to build personal finance skills and an understanding of issues impacting tribal economies.

From your standpoint, as a diverse professional in this profession, what DEI challenges would you like to see organizations, specifically related to accounting and finance focus on overcoming?

The biggest obstacle is cultivating a pipeline of people interested in the profession, and creating awareness and an understanding of the career path early on is one of the biggest opportunities. The younger Native generation may not think about accounting as a career opportunity because they don’t know anyone in their family or community who is one. I’d like to see more high school accounting programs in remote and underserved communities to expand awareness and open doors to a new pipeline of potential candidates.

Another challenge is the fifth-year requirement often needed to sit for the CPA Exam. Even when a Native student makes it over all the hurdles and pursues a four-year college degree, the fifth year poses a challenge. If they come from a family that needs their support, the cost, lost wages, and time are significant obstacles. I’d like to see programs at colleges that can help students overcome these hurdles.

It all boils down to engaging and connecting with people early on, creating access to education and resources and building organizations where people can be their authentic selves.

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