During my sophomore year in high school, I made the conscious decision that I would never depend on anyone for anything, and I took ownership of being responsible for my welfare and success in life. Thus, while preparing for college and thinking about what to major in, I realized that accounting was a solid career choice that would allow me the opportunity to provide for myself. I was excited about the many avenues available in the profession, but I also realized that in order to achieve the most success, I needed to become a licensed CPA.

Although I did declare a major in accounting, I needed to be sure it was the right decision; I was not willing to risk the waste of time, effort, and money that would be the result of switching majors partway through college. So I decided to spend the summer leading up to my freshman year in college gaining experience in the accounting profession. Without any direct contacts at a CPA firm or any company’s accounting department, I decided to seek temporary work. My sister gave me the phone number of temp agency she had experience with. After speaking to the person who answered the phone, however, I realized that my sister had given me the wrong number, and that I was speaking to someone at a CPA firm. By the time I got off of the phone, I had an interview scheduled for later that week, at which I landed the perfect summer job with a sole practitioner. I continued to work on client accounts for this sole practitioner on a part-time basis for a few years during college, including those of high-net-worth individuals and small businesses in various industries.

Feeling the need to gain experience in private accounting, I decided to work part-time as a bookkeeper for a thriving car carrier company throughout the rest of college. It was a great experience, but when comparing the public and private experiences, I knew the diversity of public accounting would keep my interest, and that I would be able to serve multiple individuals and entities rather than just one.

An Unexpected Detour

Even so, my career path has not been straight. I have had to face many challenges, including no longer being able to work due to two simultaneous debilitating illnesses. During my time rehabilitating, I realized the significance of giving back—the difference it makes to individuals, organizations, and the community as a whole. I recognized that I could make a difference by volunteering my time. I cofounded two not-for-profit organizations (NFP)—one to help find a cure for the illnesses that I had endured, and the other to provide support groups for those afflicted with those illnesses and their families. I was also significantly involved with several other NFPs as I slowly reentered the working world.


Years later, after my recovery, I had the opportunity to reenter public accounting. Within two months of being at a public accounting firm, I was asked if I was open to working on NFP engagements. Having hands-on experience, I had a full understanding of and regard for the importance of NFPs, an enormous amount of respect for the work and dedication that go into carrying out their missions, and an appreciation for the supporting operations.

I was happy to be performing NFP engagements; it added another layer to how I could help make a difference and give back. I said yes, although I made it clear that I did not want to be pigeonholed. I wanted at least as much experience with for-profits so as not to lose the diversity of my client base.

I was working at a CPA firm of approximately 40 people when we merged into PKF O’Connor Davies, LLP, a firm of approximately 800, at the beginning of 2019. The practice areas and specialties of the firm are varied, and the talent is diverse. Fortunately, within a few short months, I found myself working on more NFP engagements and being exposed to even more experts in the field, adding to the depth and breadth of my knowledge and experience, and enabling me to provide even greater value to my clients. With a firm this size, career options are endless, and I have finally committed to concentrating on NFPs.

Through my chosen profession—one I am very passionate about—I give back. This includes working with the management of my NFP clients to best achieve their goals, serving as president of my local chapter of the NYSSCPA, chairing a statewide technical committee, being a member of my college’s alumni board, and being a Paul Harris Fellow of my local Rotary Club. My decision to become a CPA not only enables me to successfully carry out the decision I made when I was 15, but it also supports my desire to give back where I live and work.

Lenore C. Sanchez, CPA is a manager at PKF O’Connor Davies, LLP, Woodcliff Lake, N.J.