For Diana Sullivan, a career as a CPA has enabled her to explore two major interests — accounting and social service. As a controller for a Capitol Area Council of the Boys Scouts of America in Austin, Texas, Sullivan has been able to devote her life’s work to a cause she also finds worthwhile. She is also a past president of the Austin Chapter of CPAs, a board member of the Texas Society of CPAs, Chair of the TSCPA’s Business and Industry committee, and has a long history of community volunteerism, especially in financial literacy.
Question: What drew you to the field and your particular area of expertise?
Sullivan: “I did well and enjoyed college accounting. I have an entrepreneurial viewpoint, and great financial management is critical to business success. I work in non-profit accounting because, as a volunteer and parent I saw the benefits of Scouting, and I enjoy being involved in this worthwhile mission. Work at a small non-profit is especially interesting because a small team takes on a wide variety of tasks.”
Question: How do you describe what you do to people outside the field?
Sullivan: “I tell them that I help our non-profit, a Boy Scout council with the mission of preparing young people to make ethical choices over a lifetime, by providing good management of the Council’s resources.”
Question: Accounting often has a reputation for being “boring.” Is this fair? How would you dispel this myth?
Sullivan: “Some accounting jobs might be boring, and some people might speculate that accounting would be boring for them, but I have not experienced that at all. My job contains plenty of variety – working not just alone, but with people; challenging problem solving; communicating financial information; and working with technology. I have also worked in public accounting doing taxes, and there was a huge variety of personal and business financial situations.”
Question: What are the best aspects of your job?
Sullivan: “I work with incredible colleagues and volunteers. I am absolutely amazed at the charitable labor that busy, successful volunteers provide. My job is hectic and interesting, but I feel valued at my organization and can spend adequate time with my family.”
Question: Where do you see the profession headed? For people just starting their education or their professional career, what should they consider specializing in or studying?
Sullivan: “As our field increases in complexity, CPAs are moving into specialties and acquiring additional, specialized credentials. A combination information systems and accounting course of study is highly desirable. Work very hard on your communication skills. In college, you can study public speaking and volunteer for leadership roles in your extracurricular activities. After college, you can join Toastmasters, volunteer at charities, and join your professional society. I also urge people to work in public accounting for at least a few years because of its huge variety and opportunities for rapid learning. Make a firm commitment to stay up-to-date and continue to build your knowledge.”