As I reflect on what I am thankful for this year, I really am thankful for the gifts from others that have helped me to be successful in all my endeavors. So I thought I’d write a little mini-series sharing some insight into these gifts over the Thanksgiving weekend. My first two posts were about Confidence and Independence, lastly I give thanks for Opportunity.
Confidence and Independence are both very internal gifts that are given through the wealth of support and thoughtfulness of those around us. An external gift that also comes from others is that of Opportunity. Once given (or learned, depending on how you look at it), it’s very difficult to take away Confidence and Independence. Opportunity, on the other hand, is something upon which we are totally reliant upon others to give and reliant upon others continuing to give. Opportunity is something that we can be ready for [see Being Ready When Opportunity Knocks], but it isn’t something that we can necessarily bring to ourselves. I see the gift of Opportunity generally taking two forms: (1) the Opportunity to Start, and (2) the Opportunity to Serve.
The Opportunity to Start
The Opportunity to Start can also be thought of the as the proverbial “foot in the door”. It’s the opportunity to start doing something. To gain this gift, someone must see in you the potential to do something or to contribute something, and they must invite you into the appropriate role.
I have been gifted with many Opportunities to Start and here is a sampling from my career as a CPA (Sorry, it’s a kinda long list, so skip to the bottom to read more about the Opportunity to Serve):
- First, my thanks to Karen Silverstein and Arnold Kameda, the recruiter and IT manager (respectively), who saw potential in me, and gave me the opportunity to start work at Coopers & Lybrand (yes, this is back in the Big 8 days) as an intern in the IT department and eventually transition into both financial and IT audit.
- Thank you to Masae Dote and Patrick Oki, at the time both managers at C&L/PwC, who saw that my skills could be applied beyond audit and gave me the opportunity to start working with 7-Eleven Hawaii on both financial audit and IT audit (from Masae) and IT consulting (from Patrick). This was the start of my exposure into the consulting realm and one that I have stuck with ever since.
- Speaking of 7-Eleven Hawaii, my thanks to Greg Hanna, then Controller, now CEO of 7-Eleven Hawaii, who gave me the opportunity to start my own firm by taking a risk and switching the outsourcing of their application development over to me when I was considering striking out on my own. 7-Eleven Hawaii continues today to be my largest and longest term client (14 years and counting!).
- Taking one step back in the timeline, thank you to Brian Dickson, Dave Kapusta, and Luanne Pavco, my mentors from the PwC Washington Consulting Practice as we worked on a world-wide, multi-year, several multi-million dollar Navy knowledge management project spanning, Hawaii, San Diego, Washington state, ships in the Persian Gulf, and a week long stay on an aircraft carrier doing war games off the coast of California. It was from them that I started to learn what it really meant to be a world-class consultant.
- My start in the CPA professional world came at the hands of Kathy Castillo, Executive Director of the Hawaii Society of CPAs (HSCPA), who gave me my start doing some professional writing for the HSCPA monthly magazine and supported my efforts to bring more IT-related education to Hawaii’s CPA community.
- The start of my national-level CPA career came from Nancy Cohen and Dave Cieslak, then AICPA Senior Manager and chair of the IT Executive Committee (respectively). Nancy and Dave gave me the opportunity to start participating as a volunteer at the AICPA’s IT Executive Committee…a great opportunity for a then 29 year old, aspiring CPA consultant. This lead to many other opportunities including speaking at AICPA conferences and having my writing published by the AICPA; both activities which I continue to enjoy today. Last month, I also returned to the IT Executive Committee to take the helm as committee chair.
- Last but not least, I got my start in the leadership of the CPA profession through Ernie Almonte, past chairman of the AICPA. Ernie gave me two great opportunities. First, he started the AICPA Leadership Academy, where I really learned what it mean to be a CPA and how to start exercising my leadership. Secondly, he gave me start in leading the CPA profession by getting me into an at-large position on the AICPA Council and providing me with the Opportunity to Serve my profession.
So you can see that my success has been dependent upon people giving me the gift of the Opportunity to Start. The Opportunity to Start also often leads to the second type of Opportunity, the Opportunity to Serve.
The Opportunity to Serve
It was my Aunty Reita who first made me realize that being called to serve was indeed an Opportunity. This came three years ago when my grandmother was dying of cancer. We were talking about how much work and energy was going into both taking care of my grandmothers needs, and also maintaining her house, garden, and taking care of my grandfather’s needs. And my aunt said to me that being given the Opportunity to Serve is a great honor. It means that the person giving you the Opportunity has great faith and trust in you. It is also an Opportunity that must be given, and especially when it comes to someone’s health and financial well-being, it is not an Opportunity that is given lightly.
In this case, I was starting to take care of all of my grandparents finances, both the day-to-day expenses, medical expenses and arrangements associated with my grandmother’s illness, trusts, and other end-of-life readiness like funeral pre-arrangements and property ownership. My grandmother had previously taken care of all of it herself and I was one of the very few (if not the only) one that she had discussed her intentions and directions with–I had not realized this. I thought she had discussed this with my aunts and uncles too. But I learned from my aunt that my grandmother really trusted me–as did the rest of my family–and so I was given the Opportunity to Serve both my grandmother and my family in ensuring that the finances and other “family business” was handled properly. And remember I’m not a tax CPA! So I had to learn about estate planning and trust administration to ensure that I could do a good job.
Another example of the Opportunity to Serve is the Opportunity to Serve my profession. Unlike the family calling above (where some may argue that I was the only logical choice since I am the only CPA in the family), the Opportunity to Serve in a professional setting is a great honor where “many may be called, but few are chosen.”
The evolution of the Opportunity to Start into the Opportunity to Serve is already hinted at in last three bullets above describing the progression of my involvement with the CPA profession from the state level (HSCPA), into a national professional committee (IT Executive Committee), and finally into a national governing body (Council). While these roles present great opportunities for personal growth, they also enable me to really give back to my profession: my mentors, my colleagues, my peers, and future CPAs. In accepting many of these leadership roles, I agree not only to deliver good results and exercise professional care, but really to serve and steward the trust given to me by those who provide the Opportunity to Serve (see Servant Leadership for more on this concept).
Thank you for the Opportunity
So I conclude the last (and longest) entry in my mini-series on giving thanks by thanking you for the Opportunity to share my perspective with you. I hope that it has provided you with some insight into who I am and also with some lessons learned that you can apply back into your life.
Please comment and share some of your perspective with me too. After all, the more we can all learn from each other, the easier it will be for all of us to get through this adventure we call life.