From a Commodore 64 to Top Tech Advisor: How One Pro’s Journey Continues to Be His Inspiration
So many of our past experiences influence our drive and decisions as we move through life.
That’s the message conveyed in a recent podcast, “Dear Accountant: Serendipity in Accounting, Technology and Asian Stereotypes,” hosted by Cece Leung, CPA, with guest Donny Shimamoto, CPA, CITP, CGMA, founder and managing director of IntrapriseTechKnowlogies LLC (ITK).
Leung delved into Shimamoto’s past, his voyage toward and in the accounting profession and how his interests shaped his career and the mission of ITK. Additionally, Leung and Shimamoto discussed Asian representation in the accounting profession, as well as the founding of the Center for Accounting Transformation, which Shimamoto created.
Early Introduction to Accounting
Shimamoto got his start in accounting in high school in his first accounting class, which was being taught by a first-year teacher. His natural talent in accounting not only spurred the educator to check her answers with his, but also helped create the school bookstore, for which Shimamoto served as the bookkeeper. However, his curiosity and fascination with technology led him from dabbling in programming on a Commodore 64 that his aunt gave him to deciding—at the urging of a Controller that he was working for—to major in accounting and information systems in college.
“I ended up doing the double bachelor’s, which also gave me the number of credit hours I needed to get my CPA at that time,” Shimamoto said. His talent led him to a Big Six firm as an IT intern and eventually doing both financial audits and IT audits. Because of his broad IT expertise, he eventually got pulled to the management consulting side.
“So, I was actually developing different Microsoft Access databases at the time to help with some knowledge management projects we were doing for the U.S. Navy,” Shimamoto explained. “I was on an aircraft carrier for a week. We were out on the San Diego coast while they were doing wargames. I don’t know if that’s something many accountants can say they’ve actually done.”
IT Prowess Leads to Beginning of ITK
Shimamoto went on to hone his IT skills and worked for the largest systems integrator in Hawaii but learned he did not care for IT by itself. “They were much less structured, and they didn’t do a good job of what we now call business analysis,” he said. “In my opinion, project management was not as disciplined as we are on the accounting side. So, I just ended up forming my own accounting firm, and that was 20 years ago.”
In the beginning, Shimamoto said he referred to ITK as an IT consulting firm, but after graduating from the first AICPA Leadership Academy in 2009, he changed direction.
“I realized that there’s actually a huge value in the CPA as a brand,” he said. “I started saying we’re a CPA firm that specializes in technology because I found that the trust that’s embedded in the CPA, the automatic recognition, the expertise, and the independence became more critical at that point,, that there’s trust that’s embedded as part of the CPA.”
Shimamoto explained that ITK originally did software development work, but that after Leadership Academy, he focused on where ITK could add value. “We found at that time our value was really in understanding the business strategy and figuring out how the business itself actually operates,” he said. “After that, we can define how technology would support that…Since then, I’ve actually done additional graduate work in organizational development and change management, because what I’ve found as we moved into that spot what was really critical for enacting change, especially transformative change…is getting people to change behavior.”
The Creation of the Center
When Leung asked Shimamoto about the Center for Accounting Transformation he shared that the impetus of the Center is that he saw a need, and the profession started to not resonate with him. For Shimamoto, he enjoyed helping small businesses thrive but said that’s not what the Big Four do. However, because he was working in the Hawaii office of a Big Four firm, he was able to see more of the small business culture. “And so, my experience, I think, was very different, especially compared to today’s Big Four, where they are working on these huge accounts,” he said. “Are they just going through the motions of actually doing the work because you’re not getting to see work that was very impactful?”
He shared that the plight of small businesses during the pandemic spurred the launch. “We became part of that critical care for the businesses to stay open,” he said. “As accountants, we have such a critical role in keeping the small business economy going.”
“We need to do something that really helps empower accountants that are trying to work with small businesses and that’s what the Center for Accounting Transformation is trying to do,” he continued. “We know that we needed to work with the CPA firm associations, the CPA firms, societies, all of these that have accountants working with small businesses, we need to empower them to make the change to adopt the new technologies to understand what’s happening…And our mission in the Center is to accelerate the transformation to those that want to change rather than trying to get everyone to change.”
“Wow. I got chills listening to those because I feel like it’s very much from the heart,” Leung said.
Asian Representation and the Need for DEI in Accounting
Shimamoto and Leung also discussed diversity, equity, and inclusion in the accounting profession. Shimamoto explained that growing up in Hawaii, Asian people were the majority and he didn’t realize the lack of diversity in the accounting profession until he started getting more involved on the national level. Recounting his experience at an AICPA meeting of committee chair persons, he said, “There was one older white woman and me and everyone else was older white males.”
“I’m often the only Asian in the room when I’m at these national or international meetings,” Shimamoto said.
However, Shimamoto said although it may not appear so on the surface, he feels we are making progress.
“If you think about it, what we’re trying to do is get people that are starting at the entry level or mid-level to get up to an executive level, whether it’s an executive at a company or it’s a partner at an accounting firm,” he said. “And that doesn’t happen in a couple of years…So sometimes I look at some of the data and I listen to people say, ‘We’re not making progress,’ and I think, ‘You’re only looking at the top.’”
Leung and Shimamoto both agreed that there needs to be continued hyper-awareness to try and make Asians, more representative in the accounting profession.
Want to learn more about DEI?
To better understand the needs and potential solutions for DEI efforts, research is currently being conducted on DEI journeys in the accounting profession. Accounting professionals are urged to take the 10-minute survey and be on the lookout for results this fall.
Additionally, you can learn more about DEI by attending “The D&I Business Case: Understanding the Link Between Diversity & Performance” and “The Diversity Spectrum,” featuring Center Inspiration Operative Jina Etienne, CPA, CGMA, founder and principal consultant of Etienne Consulting.