Passion and Intrigue

What two things can help you succeed the most? Most people think it is intelligence and connections. And yes, those are important, but I would argue that the two most important are passion and intrigue.  Why do I say that? If you have passion about what you do – you will naturally succeed in doing it – because it inspires you, it excites you and it keeps your interest. And if it intrigues you, then you will have the curiosity to keep learning more about it.  It is these two things that I credit with my success.

If you would have asked me 30 years ago if sales tax would be my life long career, I probably wouldn’t have said yes. My career in sales tax actually started off with an internship in the tax department of a utility company after I graduated college. That internship is what lit the spark in not just sales tax but also technology, and made me realize that sales tax is something I was passionate about pursuing.

In the three positions I’ve held before starting my business, I was given the opportunity to leave sales tax and move to income tax and turned it down each time. Why? It just didn’t intrigue me the way sales tax did.  And in fact, in every one of those positions, as I left to move to the next step in my career, I was told that I would fail, that sales tax isn’t a career and that there isn’t a future in sales tax. I guess I proved all those people wrong!

I was honored to be named one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting by Accounting Today for 2018. This is the fourth year that I have received this honor, and each time I take a moment to stop and be thankful for everything that has happened to bring me to this point in my career.

First of all, congratulations to all of my fellow nominees. I’m especially honored to be on this year’s Top 100 list with Scott McFarlane and Scott Peterson of Avalara (one of our partner companies), which had its initial public offering this year. Along with the South Dakota v. Wayfair decision, they’ve had a momentous year! Congratulations to them both.

As part of the survey for the 2018 Top 100 list, all of the candidates were asked, “What one thing would you tell a new accountant just starting their career?” Believe it or not, this is a question I get a lot! So I was well prepared to provide some insights and it is passion and intrigue. Here’s how I responded:

I talk to a lot of young professionals and my consistent response is find something about your career that intrigues you even if it isn’t the “sexy” issue. Discover what you are good at in terms of the nature of the work and then find a way to marry those two things. If you can do the functional work where you excel in the tax area you enjoy – you will succeed – always! Don’t get put into a box – advocate for yourself to make sure you can succeed.

Of all the sales tax professionals I’ve met throughout my career, a surprisingly common theme amongst us is that we didn’t consciously choose a career in sales tax. Rather, it chose us. That’s to say, for many of us, when we graduated college, we didn’t say, “I’m going to pursue a career in sales tax!” In fact, rarely is sales tax even taught in undergraduate accounting programs.

For many other sales tax professionals I’ve met, they started off in different disciplines and at some point in their journey started working with sales tax and discovered that they had a passion for it. Whether it is sales tax or another tax discipline, if you find that you are passionate about it and have a talent for it, go for it! It may take you much farther than you could even imagine.

Certainly, when I was taking part in my internship, I couldn’t have anticipated how far sales tax would take me, leading up to this moment. If you follow the Sales Tax Institute, you are well aware that 2018 has been a monumental, game-changing year for sales tax. And the reason why is the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the landmark case South Dakota v. Wayfair.

We’ve been busy at the Sales Tax Institute since the Court handed down their Wayfair decision on June 21 by publishing blog posts, teaching webinars about the implications of Wayfair, keeping you up to date with our Remote Seller Nexus Chart and Remote Seller Resources page, and we even launched our new Sales Tax Jumpstart course to help fast-track students on sales tax essentials post-Wayfair.

Something like Wayfair only comes along once in a career, if you’re lucky. One of my colleagues referred to it as the “Super Bowl of Sales Tax,” and that is not an overstatement. I don’t know that we’ll see something this impactful for sales tax for many years to come.

To bring it back to the earliest days of my career, I don’t think I ever could have predicted something like Wayfair happening back then. And yet, here I am, navigating this massive development with all of you and sharing my insights, guidance and training that comes with 30+ years in the game. I’m thrilled to be in this position, educating clients and students and helping guide them through the new, post-Wayfair sales tax landscape.

It goes to show that you never know how far your passion can take you in your career. I was lucky enough to find something I was passionate about and had a real skill for right out of college. Not everyone is able to find a discipline they’re excited about right off the bat. In fact, most don’t find it until later in their career.

So it comes back to my advice for young (and even not so young!) professionals. No matter what industry you’re in, don’t be afraid to branch out and explore different specialties. You might just find that thing that you truly care about and are good at. And once you find that, it’s just a matter of time before your career can really take off. Look where it got me!

I’d like to thank Accounting Today for including me in this year’s Top 100 list. I’d also like to thank all of my colleagues, fellow Sales Tax Institute faculty members, clients, students, and most importantly you for being a part of this journey.

Posted on September 26, 2018

About the Author:

Diane L. Yetter

Founder of the Sales Tax Institute

Diane L. Yetter is a strategist, advisor, speaker, and author in the field of sales and use tax. She is president and founder of YETTER Tax and founder of the Sales Tax Institute. You can find Diane on LinkedIn and Twitter.