CEO Compass - Summer 2022

by Ralph Albert Thomas, CPA (DC), CGMA | NJCPA CEO and Executive Director | July 11, 2022

Why Young Professionals Need to be the NJCPA’s Next Investment

As I drove north on the Garden State Parkway on a humid June Friday afternoon, I couldn’t help but smile. I wasn’t relishing not being one of those sitting in southbound Jersey Shore traffic. I was thinking about our just-completed 2022 NJCPA Convention and Expo at the Borgata in Atlantic City. I was smiling knowing we all successfully gathered at our first in-person Convention since 2019. Like many of us, I’m left with lots of hope for the future of the profession and this great organization. 

We welcomed more than 550 members and nearly 800 attendees to this year’s event, not far off from our 2019 numbers. The Convention theme was “The Way Forward: Transform. Innovate. Grow,” but it might as well have been, “I’m so happy to be here!” That was a popular refrain from attendees. 

We heard from great speakers, such as Jim Bourke, Dr. Kecia Williams Smith, Donny Shimamoto, Gene Marks and G. Scott Clemons, and celebrated members and leaders at our Annual Business Meeting and through the 2022 Ovation Awards. We had some hiccups during and after the event, including some post-event positive COVID tests, but the 2022 Convention & Expo was in one member’s words, “out of this world.” 

This year, I was especially encouraged by the energy and creativity from our emerging leaders, many of whom were attending the Convention for the first time. As we move forward, the NJCPA has an amazing opportunity to reinvent what it means to be a member and create new ways for young professionals to engage with the organization and our profession. From our discussions and surveys, here are four changes young professionals would love to see take hold over the next five years. 

  • Involve young professionals in top-level boards, committees and interest groups. Giving emerging leaders a seat at the table and responsibility to manage a project will not only build their confidence and trust in leadership, but it allows them to learn leadership and decision-making skills firsthand. They can bring forward a new perspective, boost emerging leader morale and eventually boost our member pipeline. 
  • Help them build their networks. It’s great to meet other emerging leaders in the same field who they can relate to, but they also want to meet people from different career levels and disciplines. The NJCPA, our leaders and members need to help young professionals navigate their career path by making it easier to build their networks — or by being their network.  
  • Bridge the gap between student and mid-level career programs. The NJCPA has amazing incentives to get students to join, including scholarships and CPA Exam assistance. But when students get that degree and transition into the workforce, the same level of opportunity is not always there, even though that’s when it’s needed most. The NJCPA’s proposed new Affiliate category will enable young professionals to take advantage of the benefits of membership (e.g., discounts, training) while we showcase to them the relevance and benefits of the CPA credential. 
  • Make sure our organization’s values line up with theirs. Millennials are phasing out of the emerging leader category, and Gen Z is starting to make up a bigger portion of the workplace and potential members. According to a recent Deloitte survey, Gen Z workers are drawn to companies and organizations that align with their values. Sustainability, social justice, DEI and student loan debt are just a few topics that young members are looking to take a stance on. 

If we want the NJCPA and the accounting profession to be forward-thinking and future-proof, and our membership pipeline full, then today is the day to start investing in our young professionals. 

As always, please let us know your thoughts at And plan to join us for a free Membership+ webinar on Aug. 11 or 18 that will delve more into the challenges and opportunities with the CPA pipeline.

Ralph Albert Thomas

Ralph Albert Thomas

Ralph Albert Thomas, CPA (DC), CGMA, is the CEO and executive director of the New Jersey Society of CPAs. He is a former national and chapter president of the National Association of Black Accountants, was chair of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s State Society Relations Committee and is a member of the accounting advisory boards of Lehigh, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Montclair State, Felician and Thomas Edison universities and Middlesex County College.

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