After about three decades in the accounting industry, one would expect that.
However, over all that time, she’ll admit she hasn’t always been a beacon of confidence.
But Wasser, who says she was unhappy during an early stage of her career and wasn’t sure she wanted to remain in public accounting, has spent many years helping shape the major accounting firm she’s now tasked with running the whole Garden State operation for. So, she’s a part of why EisnerAmper is the kind of firm she always hoped it would be.
ROI-NJ spoke with her about that and other trends coming to bear on the profession.
ROI-NJ: You’ve probably seen a lot change in your time in accounting — could you talk about that?
Diane Wasser: The word ‘change’ is an understatement. Technology is now one of the keys to survival. How we utilize it, especially how we audit and prepare tax turns, can really be how we can continue to make the client experience better.
I’ve been in this role for just a couple weeks. Certainly, quality has always at the top in our discussions. And, also, embracing the new ways of how we work and when we work. We have to make sure we understand what makes people the most productive. I’ve done a lot of listening and thinking about that. And enabling a better experience through technology is crucial, and we have to embrace those alternative forms of working.
I think back to when I was working remotely in the mid-’90s. I think I had a cell phone — but I don’t even remember. There was so much less connectivity. But the way it always worked was, sometimes you were in the office, sometimes you were with clients. So, the flexibility was built in from the start. You’re already used to not being in the office, and so you can work from anywhere.
But, to step back, the No. 1 reason my flexibility worked is really because this firm was so completely committed to making it work. Within every flexible work arrangement is a really heavy support system that gets to ‘yes’ instead of going to ‘no.’
ROI: How does the topic of flexible work arrangements interact with the ongoing push to bring more women like yourself into important accounting positions?
DW: I personally think it’s one of the best careers and professions for women. I have two children, now 24 and 21, and I’ve worked a flexible schedule ever since my son was born in 1995, up until my daughter went to college. Flexibility has always been part of the conversation, and it changes over time. I’ve been asked to do panels on work-life balance and about halfway in, I realized that it’s not about work-life balance — it’s just life. And, if you approach it like that, there’s a lot less of a struggle.
With public accounting, you can plan your schedule around something like going into a kindergarten to read a book, or I used to go help out at the lunchroom once a week, just to be present and relevant in my childrens’ and their friends’ lives. So, it’s a flexible career path. But there are time constraints, and we lose people at a certain point in their career because they’re fearful of the unknown, instead of thinking about all the ways it can be a positive experience.
Even myself, I thought a lot about whether I stay in public accounting — every woman, or even every man, might grapple with that when they have children. But, I think, if we can help women get over that hurdle of leaving on their own, we would have better balance at the top.
ROI: What’s most important to prepare people for in the profession? How do you see it evolving?
DW: The future of accounting is a lot more tech-enabled and involves a lot of nonaccountants. If we think of one thing that CEOs talk about when they get together on roundtables, (it) is their vulnerability to cyberattacks. Accountants are also looking to how else we can help and assist clients with concerns, given that. When I started, it was audit, tax and litigation support. Now it’s all that, on a bigger scale, plus cyberprotection and other areas. And that calls for different skillsets.
As far as accounting in New Jersey goes, accounting firms will look different. They will still be relevant for audit and tax, but added onto that will be the component of consulting and advisory around cyberrisk and robotics. It’s really already here. The ‘Big Four’ firms have the wherewithal to explore things sooner on a much larger scale. But I’ve heard some of the managing partners of those firms talk about how their new hire class is made up of CPAs as well as people with IT backgrounds.
It’s going to infiltrate the whole profession. There’s already firms below the Big Four investing in smart audit technology to enable more dynamic audit solutions.
ROI: Do you find that people already in the profession or those just entering it worry that this new tech emphasis will make them seem less valuable to a firm?
DW: Some people do get uneasy when they think about technology’s impact on their job. But, I always see it as a positive because, the more we utilize it, the more it allows people to do more rewarding work. Technology can do what people might get bored with, and, so, daily activities in the profession are much more rewarding. If I think of some of the things I did when I graduated college, making copies all day, I remember my father saying: ‘Hey, you’re getting paid to do it. So read what you’re copying.’ And he was right. I took this rather mundane job and I learned because I was flipping through contracts I was copying. I took something manual and made it more rewarding.
Now, we have larger opportunities for replacing mundane tasks with thinking, and making educated decisions. And our new hires are happy to have those tasks replace with more robust thinking. So, it’s something to be excited about.
Reach Diane Wasser of EisnerAmper at 732-243-7143.