Silke Olsen is a CPA and the Firm-Wide Recruiting Leader at Moss Adams and a Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) Professional Partner. We sat down with Silke to talk about how her experience within the accounting profession and BAP can help accounting students gain further insight as to what it takes to be successful in their accounting careers.
1. What skills are you looking for in candidates when recruiting?
We just went through an analysis at our firm to think about how the accounting profession is being impacted from a technology disruption perspective. We came up with 7 skills we believe individuals need to thrive in public accounting in a tech-focused evolving profession: Collaboration, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, executive presence, growth mindset, intellectual curiosity, and results focused. We feel these skills will take our firm into the future as we provide training and coursework to grow and develop our people in each of these skill areas.
We went through a rigorous process to determine these skills, which involved 3 factors. First, we interviewed our staff and partners. Next, we looked at our current core competencies, or the qualifications we use to move our professionals from staff to partner. Lastly, we did external research, utilizing the AICPA and other public accounting firms as a resource to determine what skillsets create successful firms.
2. How does BAP help students obtain those skills?
As a BAP Alumni and Professional Partner, I think BAP’s commitment to their students is exceptional. They’re nimble and listen to the firms and other organizations such as public accounting firms, private industry, CPA Review courses and State Societies to ensure their members meet the needs of the marketplace. A great example of this is the focus on technology. Many conversations at BAP leadership meetings revolve around questions like, “What can we do to help students prepare for a tech driven environment? What skills will they need? How can we help them succeed in world?” This is why BAP is such a highly regarded organization.
I can attest to this. As the Firm-wide Recruiting Leader at Moss Adams, I’m confident when I hire a BAP member because I know that they’ve been given the skills and tools they need to be successful.
3. What do you think is the most important thing students can do now to get a jump start in their accounting career?
Join BAP, because it’s a channel to any market you want to work in. Whether you want to go work for a CPA review course, state society, private industry, or public accounting, BAP is going to connect you to your future employer and give you the skills to prepare for that future employment, such as mentoring, training with peers, public speaking, collaboration, and all the important soft skills you need to know early on to be successful in your career.
I tell students all the time, “Go conduct informational interviews. Learn from others. That’s how you’ll find out what’s right for you in your career track.” And the response I usually get is nervousness. They ask me, “How do I get in touch with these people?” And the answer is, through BAP! Not only do they allow you to network with firms and companies to evaluate where you want to work; they also show you the importance of owning your career. It starts at the college level. So get involved and don’t wait for things to come to you. BAP gives you an avenue to do that, but it’s ultimately up to you.
4. What is the most important thing you have learned as a recruiter?
You have to give to get. If you approach life or career opportunities wanting to give back or give of yourself in some way, then the opportunities will fall at your feet. Walk into every situation with that servant mentality and whatever you’re seeking will come back in spades. Focus on helping others and giving back, which is really what BAP is all about. You can’t live life by your own agenda alone.
I look at our professionals, some of who have been at the firm for 15 years, and others who were students I hired and have made partner. What they all have in common at the base of their success is focus on client service, building teams, and doing community outreach. If you’re loyal, get your job done, and focus on doing what’s right, you’ll get that next opportunity, challenge, or promotion. That next thing you’re seeking will come.
5. How is the accounting profession evolving?
Machine learning is happening and we’re not just number crunchers anymore. We need to be more than that. That’s where data analytics come in. We have to ask ourselves, “What value are we giving to our clients?” And the answer is it all comes down to relationships. That has to be the core of who we are. There’s this mindset shift that we’re not just accountants; we’re business advisers. We’re coming alongside our clients’ and teams’ needs, and giving back in that way. That’s the service we’re providing. If students can just approach their future career with that mentality, they’ll be that much more successful.