Mandy Nelson, CPA

Mandy Nelson, CPA
Mandy Nelson, CPA, is a partner in KPMG's Department of Professional Practice and serves on the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants board of directors. (Photo by Allison Shelley/AP Images)

An intellectual challenge: I started in the audit practice at KPMG, and the opportunity came to work for the Department of Professional Practice (DPP). DPP is KPMG's primary resource for keeping organizations and engagement professionals apprised of professional practice issues, emerging accounting issues, and the application of accounting and auditing standards. Some people rotate through, but I stayed. I get to see standards go from discussion all the way to how clients implement them. It's rewarding answering questions to help people understand and apply standards. It's like an intellectual puzzle each day. Not everyone gets to wake up and have no idea what questions will be facing you that day.

Prioritization is key: As we go through the year, my team in DPP keeps notes on areas where we seem to be getting a lot of questions from our engagement professionals. We also talk to practice leaders out in the operating offices. From there, we come up with a list of priorities. When there's a new standard becoming effective in a year or two, we have to start making our engagement professionals aware. We often have to train again in challenging areas, even after a standard is implemented. It's our job to look at how much time must be devoted to topics.

A method to training: Training needs to be a logical progression and bring more to the person than they get from reading the standard. I explain the nuances and how we got there. I help our engagement professionals understand where they and their clients are going to have to devote the most attention, and I look at the different levels—what does a partner need to know, versus the audit staff. Who needs to explain it to a client? After a training session, I get input from participants to see if I answered their questions or made them think. It's not a bad thing for them to walk away and continue to think about an issue. If they have a question in their mind, we encourage them to follow up with us.

Think beyond the slide show: The development of training has to be more than the bullets on the slide. It's going to take a lot of time to make it more. You've got to own the topic before you can teach the topic. People come to the training wanting more than they can read in the summary of the standard. That takes a lot more planning than just taking a highlighter to the document to make your slides.

Find a compatible partner: In doing this type of work, it's important to find one or two people that you really mesh with as a presenter. It's always so much more interesting to have two presenters who can talk to each other, and it enhances the experience for the audience. My partner and I have fun presenting together. We do a lot of webcasts and distance learning. If you're talking to a wall, it's hard to come across as excited. When we present together, it's not flat recitation, it's interaction.

As told to Lea Hart (, a freelance writer in Durham, N.C.

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