By Maureen Renzi, vice president – communications
Great topic. Beautiful venue. Engaged participants. The PICPA Greater Philadelphia Chapter’s “Revolutionize Your Career: How to Land a Seat on a Board” had all the components of a successful event. Attendees had lots of great things to say, and I learned as much from the attendees as I did from the presenters – the hallmark of a winning program!
The panel presentation was led by Jeff Constable, and featured Rich Haverstick, Charissa Lillie, and Jane Scaccetti. Their distinguished careers led to discussions that were insightful and genuine, and they answered some very specific tactical questions from people interested in advancing their own board participation.
In addition to advice you might expect at this type of meeting for CPAs – such as emphasizing financial skills and a basic knowledge of the business they will govern – the panelists encouraged participants to expand their horizons. A board member must be a lifelong learner who is willing to consider everything from customer service to cybersecurity, and must appreciate and foster a culture supportive of diversity and inclusion.
One of the most fascinating discussions was how conversations have changed regarding composition of the board. Public boards are looking for more diverse members to hold leadership positions. Lillie noted that younger board members, too, are an increasingly targeted group since they better understand the targeted audience of the products or services that many corporations are selling. Haverstick encouraged participants to look at the proxy statements and review the discussions related to greater diversity.
Scaccetti pointed to research that shows diversity improves decision-making in the boardroom. She observed that one woman on a board is generally ignored; two women elicit a “they said” mentality; but when at least three women are on the board, they finally get recognized. The challenge is to be recognized as a valuable addition by current board members and others engaged in the process of nominating new board members.
These comments brought me back to the PICPA and member opportunities. In the CPA profession, members always talk about the importance of networking. When we ask about the PICPA value proposition, members say networking is a valuable benefit. This event demonstrated that value. Panelists gave insight into some real-life challenges and opportunities. They provided some guidance on what to look for in proxy statements and other research to help you identify future opportunities. However, these tools can only bring you so close to your next career move. Personal contacts, positioning yourself as a leader, and being a lifelong learner are going to make you stand out. By participating in your professional association, you can use that experience as a catalyst to professional success.