Teacher turned CPA selected for AICPA Leadership Academy

Written on Jul 24, 2019

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager

FosterJessicaInclusion and leading by example are valuable parts of leadership to Jessica Foster, CPA. And now she’s ready to grow those skills and more at the upcoming AICPA Leadership Academy. 

“To successfully lead any person, business group, or anything else you have to know the vision and where you're going in the future,” she said.

Foster, a manager at Cohen & Company, was recently selected to attend the AICPA Leadership Academy in Durham this October. According to the AICPA, the four-day retreat “…exposes the next generation of CPAs to strong leadership ethics and service while providing them with the strategies to forge relationships, to expand their competencies and empower them to become a leader within their organization, community and the CPA profession.”

She said she’s looking forward to hearing from diverse perspectives and further honing her leadership skills, especially in the areas of emotional intelligence, motivating others and seeing the bigger picture.

At Cohen she helps out with the firm’s technical initiatives, such as the independence and training processes. Foster is also team lead for the intern group, a teaching role that plays into her strengths, since before joining the profession she spent three years in a Youngstown high school teaching math. 

She transitioned to accounting after realizing she didn’t envision herself teaching for another 40 years and has found many aspects of accounting and education overlap.

“I just loved auditing,” she said. “It's like a puzzle I'm putting together. And I think it's similar to the teacher grading papers, when I get something from the client and think ‘This might be wrong, let’s talk it through.’”

She’s active in philanthropy and serves as the treasurer of the Alta Care Group, which offers children’s counseling services and is on the finance committee for the Beatitude House, which provides housing and other needs for struggling single mothers or women. She’s also involved with the Junior League of Akron and Youngstown Business Professional Women. 

Through her philanthropy efforts Foster said she feels she has more of an impact now than when she was a teacher but is also still able to have impactful relationships with younger staff and interns.

“I became a teacher because I wanted to give back and I wanted to have those mentorship relationships,” she said. “And I think actually standing up there teaching geometry was secondary to those other things.”

She said the leaders who have made an impact in her life are Pat Piteo, CPA, a former partner of Cohen & Company and her grandfather, Jack O’Connell, who would regularly take her with him to labor union meetings and volunteer events when she was a child.

“It definitely instilled in me from a young age that it's so important to help other people and to give back,” she said. “Anyone can do it; you don't have to just be a teacher or social worker to give back to others.”

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