Debra is a CPA, a pillar in her community and so much more in her accounting journey.
EVP and CFO
Provident Resources Group
Baton Rouge, LA
A career with longevity
I’ve been a CPA for over 40 years. I worked in public practice for the first half of my career before deciding that the not-for-profit sector was the one for me. I spent 20 years as President and CFO of Provident Resources Group, an organization that serves multiple charitable missions, including helping low-income families, students and the elderly with housing.
I stepped back in 2020 with the idea of working toward retirement, but I’ve stayed on in an advisory capacity to our senior leadership. I’m also still President of one of Provident’s subsidiaries – so retirement will have to wait!
From bookkeeper to CFO
My first job was doing bookkeeping for a car dealership right out of high school. It came naturally to me so when I started college, I knew I wanted to study business. A career in accounting attracted the highest opening salary, which is why I picked it as my major! I love looking at numbers and believe that being able to use them to tell a story is a gift.
Sense of community
Even when I worked in public accounting, I was always involved with the local community. I love the feeling that, at a small level, I’m contributing to something bigger.
It was also where I realized that not-for-profit organizations have the same goals as any business. They value a CPA’s expertise in financial matters and their skills can help not-for-profits make wiser decisions and meet their goals. For example, when I was a volunteer at a national level, I was elected to serve as President of the American Heart Association in 2010-11 where I shared my CPA skills to help deliver our mission.
My volunteer work taught me much about running an efficient not-for-profit, and I have used that knowledge and experience in my work at Provident. I’m proud to have helped shape Provident into a national, mission-based organization focused on building communities. We’ve built a team of people who are not only competent but who are kind and collaborative. We are a service-oriented team who wants to do the right thing for our community, Provident and our teams.
More than an accounting job
If you want a flexible career, one that has certainty, you can’t go wrong with being a CPA. You’ll never just be doing an accounting job. Increased regulation and processes are in every facet of organizations now, and CPAs are needed to facilitate all of that, in every sector.
When I was CFO at Provident, I rarely spent more than one or two hours a day actually manipulating numbers. I was deeply involved with operations, decision-making, and strategic planning.
Thanks to the ethical and educational standards that we have to follow, CPAs are considered some of the most trusted professionals that businesses engage. I truly believe it’s our north star to have our ethics rules: it’s the most valued foundational element that being a CPA has provided me.
Looking to the future
I think the concept of retirement has changed. It’s not about stopping work completely anymore. Demand for CPAs is very high and will continue for years to come. As such, I’ll carry on as long as I’m still enjoying what I do! As a CPA professional, I don’t need someone to dictate how I do things which allows me to do things on my own time, on my own schedule.