Becky Keran, new board chair steps up to the plate

| April 2018 Footnote

With the wind to her back and the sun in her eyes, Becky Keran, CPA, MBA is poised to lead the MNCPA board as its new chair. The avid baseball fan and executive director, accounting with Health Fitness Corporation sat down with us to talk career, life and what she sees in the future for the accounting profession.

What is your background as a CPA?

To be honest, I didn't start out my career thinking about being a CPA. I graduated from college with a double major in French and business because I loved learning languages, and thought I might pursue international business. However, in my first few positions, I discovered a love for accounting work; it was amazing to see how the flow of payables, receivables, cash and journal entries were put together like puzzle pieces -- and voila, there was a financial statement! I decided if I really liked this work, I should get the CPA credential. So, after a few more classes at the University of Minnesota and a couple sessions taking the exam, I became a CPA. I gained the experience requirement with KPMG's tax practice, and have continued to broaden my experiences at Best Buy and currently with Health Fitness. I have been fortunate to work with many great mentors over the years who have supported me in taking on new challenges.

What led you to becoming the MNCPA board chair?

In my early years, I remember CPAs volunteering in St. Paul to rake leaves for those in need. Then, while serving on the Minnesota Board of Accountancy (BOA), I experienced the MNCPA with a new perspective -- as a strong partner supporting the needs of CPAs while maintaining the high standards of integrity required by the licensure.

When my term on the BOA ended, I looked forward to serving the CPA profession from a different outlook. Serving on the MNCPA board has provided me insight into challenges facing the profession, and I am honored to serve as chair in the coming year.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

It's probably not a surprise that, like most CPAs, I am a lifelong learner. I have challenged myself to learn many new hobbies, including hiking, knitting, making jewelry, collecting stamps, practicing yoga and camping. My most recent hobby is participating in community theatrical productions. I had a role in "Hairspray -- the Musical" last spring. This activity took me out of my comfort zone -- researching and interpreting character motivation, and learning some choreography! It was invigorating challenging myself and being on stage!

What excites you most about the role of MNCPA board chair?

This is an exciting time to serve on the board, as there are many important issues facing the profession: artificial intelligence that will drive change in how audits are performed, blockchain technology that impacts how and when business activities are recorded, the new CGMA credential, new ways to earn continuing education credits, changes to the diversity of our workforce, to name a few. I am honored to serve with CPAs who openly discuss each of these topics, and aspire to set a strategic path that will continue to serve the profession well.

What have you learned from previous board chairs about assuming the position? What advice have any of them given you?

Each of the previous chairs with whom I have served have brought their unique talents and perspectives to the MNCPA board. Their advice to me has been simple: Just be who you are and bring your true self to the board. They have each remained true to the core values of our organization -- ethics, excellence, innovation, lifelong learning, service and inclusiveness. And, of course, they have reminded me about the phenomenal work done by the MNCPA staff; they are the true heart and soul of our society. Our board has the privilege to keep its strategic focus because of the incredible work the staff does to run the organization.

What do you see are the biggest challenges facing the accounting profession today and what are some of the biggest opportunities for young CPAs?

The biggest challenge is there are multiple changes coming more quickly than ever experienced. So, how do we keep up? The great news is that there are strong CPAs forging the path, and we have the passion and skills to drive toward success for the future.

Young CPAs have a great opportunity to shape the future of our profession. They have learned and grown in a time with ever-changing technology, and can influence how the accounting profession continues to provide stewardship over financial activities.

With that in mind, where do you see the profession in five years?

The accounting profession will continue to change in the coming years. However, the passion, talents and skills of those who choose to tackle these challenges will cause the profession to continue to be held in high esteem and provide a channel for continuous growth and excellence.

What do you like to do outside of work and why?

Tim and I have been married for more than 25 years, and we have two wonderful sons who are now developing their own paths as they attend college. I have really enjoyed our partnership in raising our sons into independent and contributing members of society.

I love to explore new places with no set agenda. When our kids were growing up, we would hit the road for two weeks, and just go where the wind took us. It is great to explore and to learn about cities, parks and backroads from the people who live there. We spent many vacations in the southwest, where every turn on the highway provides an incredible new vista. Every vacation gives us the opportunity to drive on new roads!

What has been your favorite place to explore?

One of my favorite parts of the United States is Zion National Park in Utah. Our family has been to this park several times and we love exploring new areas; it is so different each time we are there. One time, we hiked in the Virgin River up a narrow winding canyon. The high and narrow canyon walls, changing depths of the river and the reflection of light as the day passed were all spectacular! Perhaps my next trip to Zion will take me to Angels Landing!

What else, besides accounting practices, do you enjoy learning about and why?

Generally, I like learning how to put new process and capability puzzles together. Recently, I worked on a project to develop a new capability for our company. I loved working with a group of experts from different areas of our organization to piece together this concept and determine how to make it work. Each person contributed insight from their areas of expertise. Our desire to create a new and successful solution drove our commitment to tackling the hurdles we encountered. I enjoy collaborating in the development of business processes, new capabilities and news ideas to turn them into executable operations.

What do you read, watch or listen to every day?

Lately, I have been listening to Minnesota Public Radio during my commute. In addition to hearing about the day's events and weather, they have great segments on a wide variety of topics. It's a great opportunity to learn something new while sitting in a slow commute. I recently read "On Fire: The Seven Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life," written by John O'Leary. It is an amazing story about a man who survived literally being on fire, and how this has inspired him to live his life to his fullest potential each day.

Let's say you have a free Sunday afternoon. What are you doing?

If it's the summer, I'm probably keeping score while watching a baseball game -- it doesn't matter what level. Baseball has always been my favorite sport! If it's the winter, I'm out cross-country skiing. I love the beauty of being in the forest while getting great exercise in the snow (I do live in Minnesota, after all).

What has been your most rewarding experience as a CPA?

It has been an honor serving on both boards I've served on. I really enjoy the work I do, and I am grateful for the opportunity to give back to this profession.