Ten years have passed since Patrick Lytle, CPA, CGMA, began his stint at SM Energy Company, a publicly traded oil and gas corporation based in Denver. He started with the company as a senior operational accountant, and moved up the ranks steadily into managerial roles. Today, he is director of financial planning and analysis, where he leads a group responsible for the management reporting, budgeting, and long-range planning functions.
But while Lytle conveys enthusiasm about his career and his respective industry, he began to fuel his real passion in 2006, when he was working as an audit manager in public accounting. He decided to enroll then at the University of Colorado Denver to obtain a Master of Science degree in the field. The reason? Lytle knew that he eventually wanted to teach accounting and finance to college students, which is still part of his plan. His passion is clear: He wants to give back, by training, developing, volunteering—and educating.
Here are his thoughts on his past, current, and future as a CPA and CGMA:
Why is teaching your biggest passion?
Personal financial literacy is important to me, and I’ve seen how important it is to those who understand finance, and those who don’t. I’ve seen the career and life implications it has, whether it is saving appropriately, credit card debt, home mortgages, student loans, managing finances, and making sure your salary is sufficient to cover your expenses so you do not get into debt early on. I like teaching kids so they have that base understanding and foundation. My parents did a great job helping me understand the importance of saving and prioritizing where I spent my money, and helping me develop my skills. I see too often where somebody didn’t have that. And when I think about my ultimate goal of teaching at the college level, I will be giving back to those who have helped educate me over the years. I feel blessed because of the educators I’ve had in my life and I want to have that same impact on others.
How do you give back to the community?
We have a Colorado chapter of Junior Achievement USA, and we teach three primary skills: work readiness, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship. I primarily focus on elementary school grades kindergarten through fifth, and I go into a classroom and share with students the importance of financial literacy through fun, interactive lesson plans. It is very age-appropriate: In kindergarten the lesson focuses on themselves, and in first grade, their families, and then our community, our city, our region, and finally in fifth grade, our nation. It builds year after year. If they go through the whole program, by the end they have a good understanding of how business works.
In addition to helping Junior Achievement USA and numerous other organizations, SM is a financial sponsor of Habitat for Humanity and many of our employees participate in build days, where we volunteer our time to help build homes. And I sit on a board of directors for the nonprofit oil and gas organization, the Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies (COPAS) Colorado chapter.
I am also a member of AICPA’s Student Recruitment Committee. We are focused on reaching college students to encourage them to enter accounting programs, sit for the CPA exam, and ultimately become a CPA. This is another way I serve in a volunteer capacity and it is also in-line with my desire to teach, as I got into the classroom and present on the many benefits of CPA licensure on behalf of the AICPA.
I also coach my kids’ sports teams. I love giving back to the community, volunteering in that way, and it is another way for me to coach and train and have an impact on kids.
What have you learned about yourself through your work, your mentoring, and your volunteerism?
Probably to be less selfish. In all of this, something has to give, and my wife and I put others first. We try, of course, to have our family time, and we are focused on giving to our kids. What’s most fulfilling to me is making an impact on others’ lives. I want to make a difference.
You graduated from the AICPA Leadership Academy in 2014. What did you gain from that experience?
Leadership has always been important to me, and the Leadership Academy was a way to develop and grow my leadership skills. I had been a supervisor for a couple years and had little formal training, and felt the Academy would assist me in my time of need. It helped me discover my true passion, which is teaching and training and development, sharing my knowledge with others, helping train and develop my team, or through community involvement. One day I want to be a college professor, a second career down the road, so teaching and training and development will all lead me to that future goal of teaching accounting and finance to college students. I learned that that’s what drives and motivates me.
Why is the Oil and Gas industry a good fit for your personality and expertise?
My background as a CPA and CGMA is perfect for the role I’m in. I’m a problem solver and faced with different problems every day that I get to work through, and work with my team to try to solve, whether it’s how to lower costs or help identify ways to improve production or create more margin. My finance background is beneficial to helping make business decisions, and so from a day-to-day standpoint that’s what I really enjoy.
What has been your biggest challenge professionally?
The biggest challenge thus far in my career has been figuring out the balance between work and personal time. I have very high expectations for myself and those expectations span across both my personal goals and my professional goals. I want to be successful in both parts of my life and figuring out how to accomplish those goals without one being at the expense of the other is a constant challenge. I learned some tools through my participation in the AICPA’s Leadership Academy program to prioritize my goals and desires.
What prompted you to acquire the CGMA designation in 2012?
It is a designation specific to those of us in industry that do more management accounting. The CPA designation is well respected and a great credential and was most relevant to me when I was in public accounting early in my career. But the CGMA designation shows that I am an expert in the business and in the financial side of a business, not just public accounting, and that was what was important to me.
How do the CPA and CGMA designations fit with your aspirations?
One of the big passions I have is teaching, so that continuous lifelong learning that is required as a CPA speaks to me. I love to learn, and love to teach others and that is what draws me to the CPA profession—and the CGMA builds on that because it is another credential that demonstrates knowledge and understanding of the business.
What would you tell young professionals who want to become a CGMA?
I would say, “Go for it.” The career opportunities are endless. Most people think CPAs prepare tax returns or audit financial statements, but there are so many career options as a CPA or a CGMA. You can work in government, Corporate America, nonprofits, or even for organizations such as the FBI. You can work for oil and gas companies, financial services, or videogame companies. There is an opportunity as a CPA or CGMA to work in any industry or for any type of organization.