Sonoma County CPA Thelma Kirkwood wins 2019 Latino Business Leadership Awards
Rohnert Park-based Thelma Kirkwood, CPA, said her biggest career obstacle was being in a male-dominated profession.
Professional background: Certified public accountant
Education: Bachelor of Science, business administration with an emphasis in accounting, San Francisco State University
Staff: Jennifer Walker, senior accountant; Desiree Eddleman, bookkeeper; Jessica Lyeth, bookkeeper; Carlos Alcala, administration
Biography: I started out actually wanting to be a nurse.
Took higher level math classes in high school. After visiting the Irwin Memorial Blood Bank and fainting while standing up, I had to re-think my future career.
In senior year of high school I decided to take a bookkeeping class (which my calculus teacher thought was beneath me). That class and teacher changed my life for it was a natural fit. The teacher introduced me to the concept of becoming a Certified Public Accountant and encouraged me to go into that field.
Once I received my degree in accounting, I work at a small CPA firm in San Rafael. When that firm dissolved, I decided to start my own practice and slowly grew it. My firm is a small CPA firm (total staff of five) in Rohnert Park and we focus on providing accounting/tax services and consultation to small businesses.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?
Keeping up with the ever-changing tax and accounting world….
What is the achievement you are most proud of?
Raising my son (who is now 24). Beyond all, he is my greatest joy!
What is your biggest challenge today?
Keeping my firm current to the demanding and changing accounting/tax environment.
What are you most proud of regarding the achievements of the area Latino business community and what are the greatest challenges faced by that community?
Very proud that myself (being of Nicaraguan heritage) and some of my staff are bi-lingual. We are very proud to hand-hold many in the Latino Community with explanations of accounting and tax law which are very complicated to even the non-Latino community.
Words that best describe you: Community minded, hand-holding, Dedicated, Detailed, Hardworking, forward looking
As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
Biggest obstacle was being a minority woman in a male-dominated industry. I overcame this by staying focused on growing my firm and letting my work speak for itself. By far, my firm and my reputation have grown by word-of-mouth
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?
The world of accounting and tax will get more and more complex. Regulations will become more rigorous and businesses will be under much more scrutiny. This industry will continue to grow.
Who was your most important mentor?
My parents (especially my Nicaraguan mother) and family continue to be my mentors and greatest cheerleaders. They made it possible for me to obtain my full education and fulfill my American Dream.
Tell us about your community involvement: I am a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Rohnert Park Chamber of Commerce (I was its treasurer for six years). I am active in my church and volunteer (behind the scenes) for various organizations. I also contribute financially for various local nonprofits for I believe in giving back some of my success. Lastly, I was the treasurer for two successful election campaigns for Amy Ahanotu, Rohnert Park City Council.