Nicole DeRosa on Leadership, Opening Doors, and Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
Nicole DeRosa, Senior Tax Manager at Wiss, sits down with Wiss Marketing to share her story.
Could you tell us a little bit about your background?
Personally, I have always gravitated toward math and science so I knew it was likely that I’d end up doing something in that general arena. In my junior year in high school, I took an accounting class and knew at that point that I wanted to be an Accountant. Unusual, I know because back then, the stigma of ‘an accountant’ was so “un-cool” and, who really knows what they want to be when they grow up at that age? I declared accounting as my major going into college and subsequently failed my first accounting class but stuck with it. I graduated with my Masters in Accountancy from Fairleigh Dickinson here in Florham Park, which is quite funny to me because I literally have come full circle being that our office is now across the street from where I went to college!
As soon as I graduated, the CPA exam was my next hurdle. I knew how important it was for me to become a licensed CPA if I wanted to be successful in the accounting profession. While working at an entry-level tax position, and also recovering from hip surgery – I used my time wisely to study. I’ll never forget finding out my last score. It was a December night… right before Christmas. I screamed. My parents came rushing upstairs, my brother came out of his bedroom (all had thought something bad had happened), but it was just my excitement. They were equally as excited, probably more so because they didn’t have to hear about the exam anymore!
Wow. You don’t shy away from a challenge!
I gave myself a goal: I wanted to become a Zumba Fitness instructor, but only after I got my CPA license —it was both a challenge and a reward! I love to keep active. Growing up I was always involved in dance and gymnastics, which then led me to cheerleading (hence, where my hip problems all likely came from!). I’m equally passionate about teaching too, so, teaching Zumba was the perfect fit!
“I gave myself a goal: I wanted to become Zumba Fitness instructor, but only after I got my CPA license—it was both a challenge and a reward!”
We’ve seen you work a room—you seem like a natural speaker.
Believe it or not, I get so nervous about public speaking; though, when it comes to teaching Zumba in front of a crowd, I’m not shy at all. In fact, I became an adjunct professor mainly to overcome this fear of speaking! I knew that if I put myself in a position to speak in front of a large group, I would eventually become more comfortable addressing a room. After teaching for four semesters, I can now say that I really enjoy public speaking and instead of shying away from speaking opportunities, I run towards them.
Teaching has also opened doors, too. It’s how I ultimately became a discussion leader with Surgent CPE and the AICPA.
“Believe it or not, I get so nervous public speaking…”
What effect has working at Wiss had on your career?
Teaching, writing, and being active in the profession through the NJCPA are all very important to me. Asides from fully supporting my passions in the accounting profession, Wiss actually enables me to do them which is so important to me.
Since joining Wiss, I’ve helped to build out the firm-wide tax training, which is very crucial to not just staff for their development, but also for our firm’s future as a whole.
What’s pretty cool about Wiss is that yes, we are a ‘smaller’ firm, but we truly have wide-reaching affiliations and partnerships. Thanks to our network, I’ve been able to write tax pieces and connect them with real-life, relevant, and dare I say, fun, events.
“What’s pretty cool about Wiss is that yes, we are a ‘smaller’ firm, but we truly have wide-reaching affiliations and partnerships.”
Through the respect, appreciation, and value I feel at Wiss from everyone (managing partner to interns), I’ve gained confidence in my abilities, a reborn sense of purpose in the profession, and I truly look forward to what each day has to bring—even during crunch time!
“I truly look forward to what each day has to bring—even during crunch time!”
How would you describe your leadership style?
I’m big on lead how you would have liked to have been led. Perhaps I’ve developed this over the years just based on what I personally was not a fan of, but I like to always think of it as a work in process and always evolving. Obviously, everyone’s preferences are different than others, but I like to try to think of myself in others’ shoes and ultimately think about how my actions and ways of doing things will affect others. With that being said – micro-managing, for me is a huge no-no. It’s just not something I was ever receptive to and people generally don’t react well to it.
“I’m big on lead how you would have liked to have been led.”
I like to make sure to teach as I lead. It’s so important to explain ‘the why’ and ultimately provide a solid basis for growth because how else are people going to learn if you just tell them to do something without understanding why they’re actually doing it?
I like to also get to know those who I’m leading. At the end of the day, yes, we are all colleagues, but we do spend a lot of time together during work hours so, it’s important for me to foster deeper relationships as well.
“I like to make sure to teach as I lead. It’s so important to explain ‘the why’ and ultimately provide a solid basis for growth.”
When you’re not leading at Wiss or teaching Zumba, what do you enjoy doing?
I love arts and crafts and just making things, whether it’s painting ceramics, cross-stitching, or diamond dot painting (you should look it up!), I just love being creative! It’s also how I also relax.
You can invite 4 guests, dead or alive, to a dinner party. Who do you invite?
Derek Jeter and The New kids on the Block… and I’d probably ask to sit right between Derek and Donnie Wahlberg. That would be an awesome dinner!
Do you have a goal in the works? (We suspect you do!)
I do! I would love to teach a personal development course or a tax course at a national conference or something of that caliber.
Lastly, what was your most impressive cheerleading move?
I was a flyer so I was the person who stood on people’s hands in the air, and if I wasn’t doing that I’d be flipping around on the ground doing back-handsprings/back tucks. (The irony, I’m afraid of heights, go figure!