I was born in London, England, to parents of Indian descent and grew up in a single-parent household most of my childhood. My mother had the opportunity to emigrate to the United States, and we moved to Queens when I was 16.
My career in accounting started at an independent bookstore, which surprisingly is still there to this day. I started as a bookkeeper using a DOS-based accounting system. It was a great learning experience in understanding the basics of bookkeeping, bill paying, and payroll. I worked during the day and went to school at night, studying accounting at Baruch College. I moved to a small firm with two partners (Irvings Roth & Rubin PLLC) and was exposed to assurance, tax, and advisory services. I spent five years at the firm, going from an intern to a full-time position as staff accountant. That experience provided a solid foundation of the accounting field that helped me pass the CPA exam. The firm, and in particular the managing partner, Ira Rubin, gave me a lot of flexibility when I was studying for the exam. Over the course of 12 months, I passed each part of the exam on my first attempt. I experienced burnout working in public accounting for five years, however, and moved to the accounting operations department at PBS station Thirteen in New York City, to get exposure to a larger organization.
The Smartphone Generation
The ascension of smartphone technology created a surge in entrepreneurship. Seeing an opportunity, I started doing part-time tax compliance work for technology startups exploiting this lucrative area. I soon realized my passion was to run my own business, and with the support of my family—in particular my wife Louiza—I made the leap into entrepreneurship. Today, my firm, Shay CPA P.C., helps many smartphone entrepreneurs with their tax compliance and also acts as a virtual controller. The firm engages CPA-track students from Baruch College and St. John’s University to work with us part-time, providing a steady growth of employees. These young accounting majors are able to get hands-on experience, and I’ve learned lot about managing a next-gen workforce and keeping them motivated as they juggle multiple priorities.
The NYSSCPA has also recognized the importance of the tech industry. The Society created the Emerging Technology Entrepreneurial Committee (ETEC) to discuss emerging trends and issues in the industry and develop an official tool kit to provide critical and practical knowledge to entrepreneurs and investors in the industry from the perspective of a CPA. I am proud to serve as chair of this committee.
As much as technology makes our lives easier there are inherent risks, as illustrated by recent IRS security breaches. Data protection is essential for CPAs; our firm uses secure file sharing portals that require clients to create usernames and passwords to access their data. In addition, signing up as a tax professional on the New York State website (tax.ny.gov) is a great way to request power of attorney from clients and have everything accessible through a single login. Registered professionals can file sales tax returns, process payroll, and respond to notices through the easy-to-use platform.
Entrepreneurship: The Solution to Diversity
Technology is breaking down barriers to entry. The need for traditional office space and costly servers is being replaced with flexible co-working arrangements and cloud computing. Large, midsize, and small firms and accounting societies nationwide should take a page from the tech industry and consider creating accelerators and incubators. Minorities and women who would otherwise become disenfranchised can use these spaces to create the firms of the future through mentorship, access to capital clients, and an innovative environment. These new kinds of firms could keep the profession relevant and prepare accountants for the increasing automation, outsourcing, and “Uberization” that poses an existential threat to many industries. Accountants want to be empowered and challenged by the work that they do and deal with the risks and rewards that come with it. Creating a secure environment for entrepreneurship opportunities earlier than the partner/manager level could be a way to accomplish this and increase retention at the same time.