What do you get when you take an accountant to an eLearning convention on the Las Vegas strip? It sounds like the start to a pretty terrible joke, but fortunately, it is the pilgrimage I’ve had the honor to make since 2015. Every year, I am lucky enough to attend (and sometimes even speak at) an eLearning conference called DevLearn, one of the largest eLearning conferences in the United States. This year’s theme was “Where learning comes to life!” and it certainly did feel lively, bright, and energetic. In this blog, I’ll discuss some of my top takeaways as an accountant who attended an eLearning conference full of thousands of some of the brightest and best of the L&D community.
Key Takeaway #1: Innovation is messy
DevLearn is a community of people who come together trying to shape the future of online learning, and it is no surprise that many of the sessions and keynote speakers center their conversations around innovation. One of the keynote speakers was Kevin Bethune, founder and chief creative officer of dreams • design + life, a creative thinktank. One of his most notable takeaways that applies to CPAs and eLearning advocates alike is that innovation is messy. So often as leaders, we shy away from innovating our processes, our products, and our strategies because it sounds too hard and too messy. But we should all be seeking change. And as leaders, we should be enabling those around us to be the ones to rise, express their thoughts and opinions, and enact change to make your teams better, your company better, and the world at whole a better place. Are you acting as a servant leader, clearing the path for innovation, and giving your teams a safe place to try, fail, and learn? Or are you a gatekeeper, preventing change from getting through the door?
Key Takeaway #2: Look for the connections
We are, all of us, seeking connection: whether it be in the classroom or with a potential client. One of my favorite speakers of the session was Kate the Chemist. Dr. Kate Biberdorf is a chemist, science entertainer, and professor at The University of Texas. Her passion, energy, love of the classroom, and love of science is such a joy to see on stage. Her keynote focused on things any educator could do to improve their craft. And in the accounting community, we are all educators of the next generation of accountants and auditors. One of her top pieces of advice was to make a connection…and quickly! When you first start engaging with a crowd or an individual, you have about 60 seconds to engage their attention…and this is best done by making a connection. How will what you have to say make their life better? Will they be better at their jobs? If you can make a connection between what you have to say and your audience, you’ll have their attention and a chance at making a real impact.
Key Takeaway #3: Make it accessible for all
One of the most prominent themes, and arguably one of the most important themes, of the entire conference was accessibility. For years, the internet and the world of online learning was only accessible to able-bodied learners, but that is quickly beginning to change! Accessibility is no longer just a compliance exercise! People are starting to design their digital content with accessibility in mind, instead of thinking of ways to make already designed content accessible. This accessibility-first mindset produces an output that is still great for an able-bodied human AND a great experience for someone who may be navigating through content with a screen reader or another “non-traditional” method. In a world that is increasingly virtual, it is vital to make sure that accounting firms and training providers alike are prepared to be inclusive of all. The future is coming where a visually impaired or hearing impaired learner can be an auditor and use all the same technology as their “able” team members thanks to the “accessible-first” mindset. How cool is that?
Key Takeaway #4: Who is at the table matters, including you!
Another key theme from DevLearn, which has been a key theme for a few years now, is the importance of diversity. It started with the importance of making sure the images you use in your learning, on your website, in your marketing collateral, everywhere, are inclusive of all. And since then, the diversity discussion has transformed each year. This year, there were two key messages here that struck me:
- Make sure you have a diverse group with a seat at the table where decisions are made. Diverse backgrounds, diverse experience, diverse training, and pedigrees. The more diversity you can bring to the table, the more your company will be prepared to innovate, grow, and change, and benefit from the ability to see things from different perspectives and lenses.
- Make sure you represent yourself and who you stand for well. Are you a woman in a male dominated industry, like Kate the Chemist? She makes sure she is the image of the scientist she wished for as a little girl. She wears high heels and makeup but is still an amazingly smart scientist. For me, personally, as a working mom with a leadership position, it is SO important to me that my daughters and the women I lead see that you can be a mom (or not…up to you) and have a successful career. Only you can define success and what it means for yourself. Leaders can have understanding and empathy for personal lives. I work hard, but I’m always there for my kids when they need me, and I do my best to support the people I work with when they need the same understanding. And if I can do it, so can anyone (if that is what you choose and are willing to work for).
Key Takeaway #5: Change is coming fast and furious – be prepared!
The bottom line in all these takeaways? Change. It is coming for us no matter what we do to stop it. So, we better get on board and get prepared. The accounting industry of tomorrow will look almost unrecognizable from the one we’re used to. Technology is evolving at an increasingly rapid pace. We can see it already in the audit and accounting profession using Big Data, automated audit process, automated data processing and analysis, and more! Even just with the leap we’ve all made to be virtual in the past few years is a huge shift! If you don’t want to be left behind as the innovators of tomorrow shape the profession, the time to get prepared and educated is now!
As always, I’ve walked away from another great DevLearn conference feeling inspired, hopeful, and excited about the future of eLearning, the future of the accounting profession, and just the future in general. If you ever have the opportunity, I encourage you to get out there in the community, attend a conference, and see where inspiration may strike in your world!
About GAAP Dynamics
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