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Growth Paths Challenge Black Accountants

Jun 21st 2016
Freelance Business Writer
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NABA Convention 2016

Perhaps your goal is to eventually move up the ranks, from being a manager in an accounting firm to becoming a partner, or shifting from a cost accounting center to central accounting.

Today, there is a pressing need among black accountants to develop leadership skills to move up the ranks and make career transitions. This overarching theme will be addressed at the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) Annual Convention and Expo. The five-day experience kicks off today.

NABA President and CEO Jina Etienne plans to offer specific insights to attendees on what professionals need to do to position themselves to secure various jobs in the marketplace today. She will speak on what companies can do to improve retention efforts for diverse talent. Etienne will inform attendees on why they should now shift their focus on developing leadership skills instead of technical skills, a growing trend.

“In today’s economy, particularly driven by firms doing more with less, you need to be a leader,” she says. “You need to have strong core leadership competencies which will help you develop your people, attract new clients, and retain business.”

Etienne noted that 2016 convention attendees will hear about best practices they can apply to maximize future opportunities. Those tips are tied to “Accelerate Your Growth and Advancement,” which is the convention’s theme. This theme has become urgent as outsourcing, automation, mobile applications, and virtual collaboration has changed the nature of the workplace for accounting professionals, Etienne says.

She also noted that NABA is working to develop fresh communications and demonstrate thought leadership regarding recruitment and retention barriers facing people of color in the profession, as well as create new tools, resources, and programs focused on leadership competencies and technical excellence and offer new opportunities for members to deepen existing or develop new, authentic, and meaningful connections and grow their professional network.

In speaking to several black accounting professionals, their reasons for attending this year’s NABA confab seemed to meet with the conference agenda.

E. ZeNai Brooks, a not-for-profit audit senior at Greenwalt CPAs in Indianapolis, said in addition to networking with colleagues and peers, she plans to obtain CPE credits and leadership training. “I hope to strengthen my personal brand and sharpen my skills in order to project my career toward partnership within my firm,” she says.

Danitra Mason, senior audit manager at KPMG in Pittsburgh, says it is important to continuously develop her skills inside and outside of the office as a senior manager in public accounting. Mason also noted she likes that she will be surrounded by talented professionals who share her cultural background and understand the dynamics she faces daily as a minority in the profession.

“[The convention] meets a need to connect and collaborate that, to my knowledge, is currently unmatched,” Mason says.

And for Justin A. Butler, vice president of strategy at Synchrony Financial in Minneapolis, formerly GE Capital Retail Finance, this year’s event will be the 10th straight convention he has attended.

He is looking forward to taking part in the C-suite breakfast where new and seasoned executives mingle and opine on relevant topics of the day. He served on NABA’s board of directors from 2011 through 2015.

Butler is one of a growing number of professionals, as well as accountants, planning to advance their career in business and industry, as he plans to soon move to Target Corp. as senior director of enterprise risk management.

“I tend to lean heavily on my NABA colleagues for guidance and input on becoming a more dynamic leader,” he says.

This year’s convention is the culmination of three years as NABA board chairman for Kenneth Cooke. In a recent interview, he says during that time the group has seen tremendous membership growth and transformation within NABA and the industry. Cooke says NABA’s Vision2020 will enhance the opportunities for members to have a seat at the proverbial “corporate table.” Vision2020 is NABA’s new three-year strategic plan.

“Our goal is for more NABA members to secure the director level and above jobs in accounting and finance, with ultimately more black accountants moving into the C-suite-level opportunities.”

Beginning next year, NABA will launch new programs, developed nationally but delivered locally, focused on leadership competencies. The group plans to work in collaboration with corporate partners so that new leadership development content aligns with the needs of the firms, businesses, and organizations.

Over the next three years, NABA will also be creating new member-only tools and resources to compliment and reinforce the programs, which will not only attract new members but will also improve value for existing members.

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