Out of 30 applicants from all IMA global regions, the five YP members selected to participate were Sean Stein Smith, CMA, CPA, financial analyst at Hackensack University Medical Center and vice president of communications for IMA’s Bergen-Rockland-Meadowlands Chapter; Emily Ryan, CMA, accounting supervisor at Cargill and IMA Member-at-Large; Pierce Kohls, CMA, senior accountant at TENTE Casters, Inc. and member of IMA’s Northern Kentucky Chapter; Katie Jackson, CMA, CPA, partner at Smillie & Jackson CPAs LLC and president of IMA’s Greater Ozarks Chapter; and Billy Kernan, founder of WTK Management, former chair of the IMA Young Professional Advisory Committee and Director-at-Large for IMA’s Chicago Chapter.“The YP Leadership Experience is another way that IMA supports the career development of our young professionals,” said Ben Mulling, CMA, CPA, CITP, Chair of the IMA Global Board of Directors and CFO of TENTE Casters Inc.
To apply for the Leadership Experience, YPs watched a recorded webinar, “Leading Change,” which featured IMA Chair Ben Mulling, and wrote a short essay on what leadership meant to them. They had to submit their essay to IMA with their résumé, a recommendation letter from their manager, and an application form. YPs were drawn to the prospect of networking with and learning from senior industry leaders, participating in a variety of sessions and meetings, and experiencing the inner workings of a global board at a high level. A few themes emerged during the meetings:
Before arriving at the Board meeting, the YPs weren’t sure what to expect: “I knew that I would be sitting in on meetings but wasn’t really sure how much I would be expected to participate,” Kohls said. They were surprised, however, that Board members encouraged their ideas, valued their input, and empowered them to get involved. “We were actively engaged, challenged on our views, and really made to feel like we were part of the process,” Smith added.
In addition to being part of the meetings, the YPs were able to observe how the global board of a nonprofit operates and see the amount of work that goes into running a board meeting. Board members from around the world, IMA staff, and volunteers worked together to create a sense of community and inclusion. “IMA recognizes that Young Professional members are the future of the organization,” Ryan said.
Smith added: “The passion and energy that everyone, including both the Board members and the outstanding support team onsite, brought to the experience, as well as their readiness to help and assist, were very impressive. It’s one thing to think of corporate governance, strategic planning, and organizational directives, but seeing the process firsthand is something entirely different.”
While participating in the meetings, the YPs used and developed their soft skills, including leadership, listening, and communication. Contributing their feedback helped the YPs understand their value to the organization’s future and to share their vision with seasoned professional volunteers. “My advice to other Young Professionals is to strive to continue your education and develop your soft skills. Being able to communicate, critically observe, and lead are what employers want from their potential top-level employees,” Kohls explained.
Another way to develop your skills and continue your education is to earn the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential, which the Board members constantly emphasized. The credential can help you earn higher pay, stay competent in an ever-evolving industry, and attain your career goals. “The goals you set for yourself are what drive your success. Take the time to think them through, but set them high. The only limit is what you put on yourself,” Jackson urged.
There was also valuable time before and after the meetings to network with industry leaders from around the world. The YPs connected with IMA Board members from diverse backgrounds, fields, and experience. These new contacts can serve as mentors, career advisors, and more. “Getting to meet the Board members, IMA staff, and the other participants was a highlight. Many people give their talent and time to ensure the success of IMA,” Jackson noted.
Building relationships with peers and forging lifelong connections is also important for both personal and professional growth. “I left the meetings with a renewed excitement about the future of IMA and some new business contacts who inspired me with their dedication to the profession and willingness to mentor young accountants,” Ryan added.
The five YPs plan to meet again in June 2016 for IMA’s 97th Annual Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev., and plan to stay involved in IMA by joining the Board and/or IMA committees. “Take control of your career by getting involved with a professional association that aligns with your passions and career goals. Doors continue to open for me, and it all started when I joined IMA,” Kernan advised.
A TWO-WAY STREET
Not only was this authentic, real-world experience beneficial to the YPs, but the Board also benefitted from hearing their perspectives about organization plans and challenges and hearing what they value as members, which will help shape the future of IMA. This type of feedback is how organizations are able to grow and develop. Kernan said: “I left Colorado feeling as if I belonged to a strong, positive community of individuals working toward a common goal while supporting each other.”
If you’re interested in joining the Young Professionals Committee, contact Pat Stefanczyk, IMA vice president of governance and volunteer service, at email@example.com.