The Kentucky CPA Journal

KyCPA member spotlights

Issue 1
February 12, 2020

Mike Wagner

Meet Mike Wagner, CPA, from Louisville, Kentucky. Wagner is a financial analyst at AmerisourceBergen. He has a B.S. in accounting and B.B.A in finance from the  University of Kentucky.

What influenced your decision to become a CPA?

Many of the business people I most respected while in school, professors and professional mentors alike, were CPAs, so that heavily influenced me to pursue my own license. It is a privilege for me to now be counted among them, especially Jane Wells, Ray Burgess, Jennifer Siebenthaler (UK professors) and Scott Neal and Jerry Zimmerer (professional mentors). I also believe it is incredibly valuable to have such a rigorous certification to lend credibility to one's skill set. As a wise Econ professor once told me, "there's qualified, and then there's certified. You want to be both, but make sure you're certified."

What's the best aspect of your job?

The best aspect of my job is learning about the business and then taking that knowledge and figuring out how it can contribute to the success of the organization. Every decision in business has a financial impact, even if it's hard to quantify. I find it challenging--in a good way--to use financial information to understand how the business is running and then partnering with operators to improve results and make everyone more successful. Many people who run businesses aren't skilled financially, so it can be a real value-add to lend a financial lens to a variety of organizational facets.

Being a CPA, what opportunities did this career path open for you?

Being a CPA has opened many opportunities for me. I worked for five years (first as an intern and then later full-time) in personal finance, helping people plan for their futures and manage their assets. Now I work in corporate finance, where I do the same sorts of things but for a company. I have also had opportunities to work in public accounting, corporate accounting, insurance and tax preparation, to name a few. The business world respects the CPA license very much, and as much as anything it gives employers comfort that they are hiring a capable professional who can contribute creative solutions to complex problems.

How have the KyCPA committees that you have served on influenced the profession?

I serve on the CPE committee and the Members in Business and Industry committee. The former helps put together a wonderful slate of courses each year that our members can use to refresh and grow their knowledge base to better serve clients and the public. The latter focuses on providing resources and knowledge to those CPAs who are not working in accounting firms. Our bi-annual conferences also provide ample opportunities for networking and professional growth through the exchange of practical knowledge from a variety of industries. (Click here to sign up to serve on a KyCPA committee.)

How has being a KyCPA committee member helped you make a difference?

There's an old maxim that many hands make light work. I have just tried to show up and lend whatever help I can, be it an opinion, a review, an introduction of a speaker at a conference, or something else. I have been fortunate enough to meet many talented and passionate people who give generously of their time to advance KyCPA's work. No matter what room we might find ourselves in, CPAs are looked to as experts on sophisticated matters, and it is a real privilege for me to contribute in a small way to upholding this character of our profession.(Click here to sign up to serve on a KyCPA committee.) 

How has your committee involvement improved your networking contacts?

As someone still only a few years into my career, it is pretty neat to say I have professional relationships with controllers and CFOs and very talented business people. Knowing people is great, but learning from them is even better, and I have learned so much by listening and asking questions. I always come away from committee meetings with new thoughts and perspectives to consider. Best of all, our shared purpose of the committee allows me the opportunity to share my own thoughts, skills and talents. It's not, "here's my business card, maybe you can give me a job some day." It's "let me work with you to create this positive outcome," which in turn helps to build meaningful relationships from which to grow. (Click here to sign up to serve on a KyCPA committee.)

Any advice to students working towards becoming a CPA or new CPAs?

First, learn as much as you can wherever you are, even if you think you won't be there long. Second, figure out how to add value wherever you are, even if it has nothing to do with your CPA skills. Finally, use your skills to engage in something bigger than your specific role. Join a KyCPA committee, help your sister do her taxes, teach a free financial literacy seminar, etc. There are so many ways to give back, and our profession and Commonwealth will be all the better for it.

Click here to read the next member spotlight, Emily Donovan.

CPA Exam

KyCPA student members may attend CPA Exam Workshops for free, receive discounts on CPA Exam review courses and more.