Tayiika M. Dennis, CPA

Principal at CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen LLP), working out of its Century City, Los Angeles, location, and chair of the California Society of Certified Public Accountants.

PHOTO BY MARK VON HOLDEN/AP IMAGES
PHOTO BY MARK VON HOLDEN/AP IMAGES

‘I am focusing on enhancing the image of the CPA …’

Joining the accounting profession: My family has been in either the Navy or nursing. I entered UCLA as a prenursing major, thinking I would follow in their footsteps, but realized that wasn’t the course for me. Then I discovered economics, which led to accounting. I remember my first accounting professor at UCLA, David Ravetch, who was passionate about the subject matter, and, before our final exam, he played his guitar and sang a song about everything he taught us that quarter.

I’ve been in public accounting for 20 years, and one reason I’ve stayed so long is because my specialty area is nonprofit organizations. I work with public charities and private foundations. They provide a valuable service to the communities and individuals they serve. I help them keep their missions alive.

Making CPAs cool: I attended the CalCPA Leadership Institute and was encouraged to join the Los Angeles Chapter board of directors. I was elected L.A. Chapter president for 2015–2016. I started becoming more involved with CalCPA at about the same time I joined my legacy firm, which is now CliftonLarsonAllen. Getting involved with CalCPA was instrumental in my becoming a principal at CLA, and it was a way to give back to the profession.

This year, as chair of the California Society of Certified Public Accountants, I have been looking at how people perceive CPAs. There are obvious qualities people associate with us, such as being good at math and paying attention to detail. There are also some opinions about the profession that are not as positive — for example, that accountants are overworked during busy season and their career paths are limited to doing taxes and audits. In reality, though, accounting offers many different career paths.

Having the education it takes to be a CPA is beneficial, no matter what you choose to do, and it can be a fun, exciting profession. During my term as CalCPA chair, I am focusing on enhancing the image of the CPA and promoting its acronym as the Coolest Profession Around (#coolestprofessionaround).

Promoting diversity in leadership: Part of making the profession more attractive for prospective CPAs is promoting inclusivity. When you look at statistics as reported in the AICPA’s 2021 Trends Report, the percentage of women at the partner level is less than 39%. Only 2% of partners are African American.

One way we can enhance our image is to examine flexibility in the workplace. The pandemic did force some flexibility, and we should keep that up, especially when it comes to women in the profession who may decide to have children. We should offer pathways for them to continue growing in their careers. Even if they work on a 75% or 50% basis, their firms will still benefit from their leadership, and we will create many more opportunities to grow the profession.


Favorite food: Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese — pretty much any Asian cuisine.

Favorite travel destination: Lake Tahoe, where I was born, and Arizona, where many family members live.

Favorite leisure activities: Spending time with my dog, Chez. I love to dress him up for Halloween. (I’m not sure the feeling is mutual.)

Favorite app: YouTube, because you can find everything there.


— As told to Teri Saylor, a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this article or to suggest another subject for Last Word, contact Courtney Vien at Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com

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