Thomas D. Wadelton, CPA, CGMA
INCPAS Board Chair
CFO, Summit CPA Group
The Importance of Initiating Change and Pursuing Big Goals
I’m excited about the CPA profession and the Indiana CPA Society. But if you’d told me 10 years ago that INCPAS would be such an important part of my personal and professional life, I wouldn’t have believed you. Ten years ago, I wasn’t a member of INCPAS or even a CPA.
I fall into a group labeled “the non-traditional CPA” because of the route I took to get here. I earned my degree from Purdue University in Information Technology, then worked at Eli Lilly and Company for three years before going to Indiana University to get an MBA focused in finance. I then became controller of a small company based in Florida before returning to Lilly where I again worked in their IT organization for the next 15 years. Seeing large cuts in resources coming to the IT organization but wanting to stay at Lilly, I orchestrated a move to finance. In a strange twist, I managed IT’s budget and helped them outsource and cut people. At the time, Lilly had a target of reducing their workforce by 5,000 people so being downsized seemed like a likely possibility. I thought a professional certification may help me get a job if I was forced to leave.
In a conversation with a Lilly employee and mentor, Marvin White, I asked about professional certifications. His words were “the CPA is the gold standard.” I half-jokingly argued there were other designations that were easier to get. His response convinced me: “Tom,” he said, “It’s the gold standard for a reason.”
I went back to Indiana University for 18 months, took the exams and earned my license in 2011.
I had an interest in immersing myself in this profession and INCPAS was a perfect fit. Scott Geans introduced me to INCPAS at a Leadership Cabinet meeting in 2010 while I was studying for my first CPA Exam. I found a vibrant professional community and a good group of people.
Since joining the INCPAS Board of Directors in 2012, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of and observe an organization that initiates change. I saw it with Gary Bolinger’s leadership, the board’s energy and a staff that is committed and passionate.
- In one of our early Leadership Cabinet meetings, we talked about the concept of knowledge management and have since made a big bet with the CPA Center of Excellence®.
- Diversity is an important initiative for the profession and the INCPAS Scholars program is novel, successful and being imitated.
- Our work with competency-based education is a first in the country, and we’re on the leading edge for all professions.
- We’ve launched an advocacy council, innovation council and a new leadership program.
The board’s role is to set the strategic direction and priorities for the INCPAS staff. One way the board develops the strategy is through annual task forces.
In the next year, task forces will focus in three key areas:
- Monetizing the value of INCPAS offerings. This topic recognizes the changing landscape of CPE and professional organizations and builds on previous task force work related to understanding the value of INCPAS offerings.
- Developing our strategy around thought leadership. This includes exploring the role of INCPAS as a thought leader and how that capability will be further developed.
- Illuminating the path toward a competency-based profession. INCPAS is leading our profession and others in this area. This is a significant change with many challenges, including our individual willingness to adopt change.
We will also continue to aggressively pursue the four bold challenges in 2025 (which is feeling close).
It feels like a huge task in the year ahead and it is. I’m humbled to be your board chair during such an exciting time. Luckily, we have a great INCPAS staff led by a new and very competent CEO, Jennifer Briggs, CAE. We have a committed, thoughtful and energetic board of directors. And, we have over 8,000 members making INCPAS the home of the most trusted professional.
I’ll leave you with this thought. I know that change is difficult. In a world that is constantly changing, it can be scary and frustrating when things around us change. But as CPAs in Indiana, we want and need INCPAS to thoughtfully initiate change for the benefit of members and the public interest. We need a leadership group willing to make difficult decisions that face the reality of the world to move toward the 2025 vision and those four bold challenges. I’m excited to be part of this change and thank you for your support in this next year.