When I recently volunteered to serve as a mentor for the Indiana CPA Society’s Scholars program, I reflected on what mentoring means to me and what kind of mentor I want to be for others.
My mind first went to the individuals—family, friends, colleagues, bosses—who have mentored me personally and professionally throughout the years, and what has made them so invaluable.
They listen. They care. They inspire. They don’t always have the answer that I’m looking for, but often they can help me find it. Perhaps more importantly, though, they understand me because they have made the conscious commitment to invest time in learning who I am, what drives me, and what I strive to achieve.
And while I have been fortunate enough to develop a support network around me to navigate through some of life’s challenges that go hand-in-hand with growing up in a blue-collar environment as a son of immigrant parents, being a first-generation college student, and entering a profession as an underrepresented minority, I also find myself reflecting on the mentors that I didn’t
have when I could have benefited from direction, advice and guidance.
"I can’t help but wonder whether there was an easier path if I only had access to someone who could help me. Today, through the Scholars program, I can be the mentor for others that I once needed."
From learning on my own about the many different career paths that I could embark on with an accounting degree (There’s more to the profession than audit and tax?), to being introduced to the delicate dance of networking (What’s an elevator pitch?), preparing a resume, attending career fairs (I need a suit? And it costs how much?!), and interviewing with firms as a college student, I often found myself behind the curve in many situations that seemingly most of my peers were already aware of and prepared to tackle. Sure, I eventually found my way through the process (in great part due to the many resources my university offered), but I can’t help but wonder whether there was an easier path if I only had access to someone (anyone, really) who had been in my position before who could help me. Today, through the Scholars program, I can be the mentor for others that I once needed.
In many ways, this same motivation to share my time and experiences with someone who may benefit from my mentorship is what also inspires me to work alongside local Latino professionals (from firms such as Crowe, Deloitte, PwC, and KPMG, among others) to re-activate the Indianapolis chapter of the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA)
, a chapter that disbanded years ago. My hope for our newly formed chapter is that we can create a forum where Latino professionals not only can network and empower each other, but also collectively develop future leaders from underrepresented backgrounds.
While our overall chapter efforts are still at an early stage—the chapter won’t be up and running until January 2023—it is evident that there is a shared desire among our founding members to invest time in our community and in those who knowingly, or unknowingly, need someone in their life to guide them through what might be a scary sequence of firsts for them, and often times for their immediate families too (first time thinking about a college education, first time thinking about how to pay for college, first time touring a college campus, etc.).
We aim to accomplish this through various initiatives including outreach events, board panels, workshops, networking events, partnerships with local universities and colleges, and partnerships with other associations with similar DEI objectives and goals (like the Indiana CPA Society). Perhaps more importantly though, it is also my hope that our mere presence in our communities as a group of professionals who are clearly willing and able to provide guidance (and easily accessible, too) inspires students from underrepresented backgrounds and motivates them to learn more about what a college education can do for them (“If they were able to navigate through the same challenges that I’m facing, I can too.”)
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and continue to promote DEI initiatives for a more equitable future with proportionate representation of all backgrounds—particularly in the accounting profession—it is important to recognize the impact that we can make by seeking out opportunities to mentor aspiring students early on in their academic journey.
"Regardless of your nationality/race/ethnicity/background, as a professional you are more than well-positioned to provide meaningful mentorship to students seeking guidance. You have a story to share."
The call to action is simple: realize that regardless of your nationality/race/ethnicity/background, as a professional you are more than well-positioned to provide meaningful mentorship to students seeking guidance. You have a story to share. Your academic background and professional experience, regardless of how limited or trivial it may seem to you, could mean everything to an aspiring student who has never been exposed to that world. Making yourself available to someone who could benefit from your allyship/mentorship while they are still in high school or college could help undercut at an early stage the disparities in representation that we later try to address with other DEI initiatives such as increased recruiting efforts, that frankly might be too little too late.
All views and opinions expressed within this publication are my own and may not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Protiviti, ALPFA, or the Indiana CPA Society. For more information about the Indianapolis ALPFA chapter, or to get involved, contact Jose at firstname.lastname@example.org.