CPA CAREER

A couple of weeks ago, Lisa, a teacher at the University of Victoria (and an old friend of mine) reached out to me as she has a couple of students heading down the CPA path and she wanted to introduce them to some individuals in the CPA community. I was thrilled and honoured by this request, not to mention that it got me to travel back in time down memory lane and make me feel young again! I shared a short bio with her and it was met by an overwhelming inflow of questions which were so smart & thoughtful that I decided to share them with you here, in the hopes that they can help answer some of your own questions, if you think of heading down a similar path or a CPA career.

My bio: I’ve always been interested in Fashion, but numbers just made sense to me, therefore I pursued an education in Accounting at McGill University & became a CPA, CA in 2011. This title opened up a wide array of doors that propelled my career & fast-tracked my dream to work in Fashion.  I started my career at RCGT & although auditing did not fuel my fire, I’ve learnt a great deal from the experience. I currently hold the position of Senior Pricing Manager at a successful outwear brand & I’m the Founder & Editor of Working Chix – a Fashion Beauty & Lifestyle blog. It may seem like 3 very distinct worlds (Accountancy, Apparel & Blogging) and they are in many facets, but the skills, knowledge and experience I have gained in obtaining my designation were invaluable & transferrable to all 3 industries. My title has been valued and well respected throughout my career and allowed me to built credibility in all 3 fields. Obtaining my designation stands as my biggest pride & one of the best decisions I have made in life.

Question1:
Thanks for sharing your experience. I really envy you having such an amazing career. I’d like to know what did you learn from your last work career in RCGT? Which part of this career makes you decide to leave this job?

Answer part 1: My auditing job at RCGT taught me so many valuable lessons. Aside from being able to apply the accounting  & auditing concepts I learnt at school, it taught me how to work in a fast pace environment and how to deal with people. Depending on the size of the client, you can be moving from one client to the next every other week, which forces you to adapt to a new environment and new people.

Answer part 2: Working in audit is very demanding and there were weeks where I worked over 60 hrs, so you really have to be passionate about it, and I wasn’t that passionate about audit. I didn’t mind the hard work, but I wanted to do something I loved, and that’s why I decided to leave audit and try my luck in the Fashion industry. 

Question 2:
Hi Anna,Thanks for sharing your experience. I wonder that what are some challenges you faced when you decided to shift from one career field to another? What motivates you to change your profession to the fashion industry? Thanks.

Answer part 1:  I would say there are 2 big challenges in shifting to another field: The 1st biggest challenge is getting your foot through the door. Without experience in a given industry it’s hard to grab someone’s attention, but if you’re persistent & hard working, someone will take notice and give you a chance. The 2nd biggest challenge in moving from one industry to another is that you need to learn the new industry. Luckily, while working in audit I had a lot of experience moving from one client to another, having to learn their business fast, their Internal Controls, accounting principles and processes – which definitely played to my advantage when I moved to Fashion. I learnt fast and adapted quickly, but it was definitely a challenge in the beginning.

Answer part 2: Working in audit is very demanding and there were weeks where I worked over 60 hrs, so you really have to be passionate about it, and I wasn’t that passionate about audit. I didn’t mind the hard work, but I wanted to do something I loved, and that’s why I decided to leave auditing and try my luck in the Fashion industry. 

Question 3:
Good morning/afternoon, dear Anna, Your rich work experience makes me admire very much. I would like to ask you how to balance your three fields, Accountancy, Apparel & Blogging. It seems like a very interesting mix. How do you balance your personal time and your work time?

Answer: I see it like this: we all have the same 24hrs in a day, but how we chose to use those hours is totally in our control. It’s possible to do it all, but you need to carve out the time, and when you’re passionate about something, carving out that time becomes easier. It definitely takes some planning, discipline and sacrifice. For example, there are weekends that I will work on blog posts & photo shoots instead of spending the days at the beach or on the couch binging on Netflix. However, I also make sure that I take some days off to recharge my batteries & spend time with friends & family. It’s really all about planning & committing to that plan.

Question 4:
Hi Anna, thank you for answering our questions! Do you feel that you could have been happy working as a CPA in a different sector? Ostensibly, many accountants will choose to take roles that simply require an “accountant”. How has prioritizing a specific industry impacted the enjoyment of your career? 

Answer: It’s hard to say how a path not chosen would have affected me to be honest. I don’t like to look back and I don’t regret any of the choices that I made. I’m really happy with my career path & where I am today. I guess the “accountant” life was just not for me, but I know it’s a career many of my friends enjoy, in various industries.

Question 5:
Hi, Anna. It is inspiring to hear about your experience, I wish I can work on stuff I am keen on one day. However, I know that the focus on my own interest will narrow the scope of my job searching, so I want to know that when you were doing the job search, did you only apply to the company with the element of fashion of you searched a broader base?

Answer: I think that when you’re a CPA, the scope is not that narrow b/c of your breath of knowledge & experience in many industries, especially if you work a few years in audit. I only applied to Fashion companies, but to this day headhunters still approach me with job propositions in a wide array of industries; therefore I don’t feel like I have limited myself in that respect.

Question 6:

Thank you for sharing your experience, it is great to hear the value of the CPA designation beyond the traditional accounting and finance industry. During your time RCGT, where you able to gain exposure and make connections with clients in other industries? If so, how valuable was that experience in creating opportunities after you obtained your CPA designation?

Answer: Absolutely, creating a network is one of the biggest assets, and working at RCGT I definitely gained both exposure & made connections with clients, colleagues, peers and partners. I am still part of the RCGT network and continue to nurture the relationships I forged. I know of many colleagues who left RCGT to work for their clients in their accounting departments. I didn’t work for any Fashion clients at the time, therefore the connections didn’t necessarily land me a job, but they have broadened my network.

Question 7:
Hi Anna,I am thrilled that someone have multiple destinations like you can integrates and makes it! As you have developed so much in more than one industries, how do you manage your time and keep yourself energized most of the time? 

Answer: It definitely takes some planning, discipline and sacrifice. For example, there are weekends that I will work on blog posts & photo shoots instead of spending the days at the beach or on the couch binging on Netflix. Honestly, my energy comes from the passion I have for what I do! However, I also make sure that I take some days off to recharge my batteries & spend time with friends & family. It’s really all about planning & committing to that plan.

Question 8:
Hi Anna! I loved hearing about how you were able to translate your skill with numbers into Fashion, as it seems commonplace that people think you have to stay an accountant after getting your CPA. My question is, do you think your CPA gave you more confidence to enter the fashion industry? Would you have changed anything about your journey to Canada Goose, or do you believe it would have been unattainable without a CPA?

Answer part 1: My CPA title definitely gave me more confidence to enter the Fashion industry. Even though I didn’t have the industry knowledge or experience, I gained an invaluable set of skills that could be translated to Fashion: analysis, problem solving, critical thinking, adapting to a fast pace environment & dealing with people. All those skills are crucial in any industry.

Answer part 2: I don’t regret any of the choices that I made and I’m really happy with my career path & where I am today. I think that getting to my position could have been attainable, but not this quickly without a CPA. I jumped pretty quickly from analyst to manager and my CPA title, as well as the skills I gained had a lot to do with that.

Question 9:
Hi Anna. I understand that accounting requires significant time management, especially in the CFE exam. And based on your profile, you seem to use these skills in your career often. My question is did you have these time management and prioritizing skills prior to starting your CPA, or were they skills learned through the designation?

Answer: Writing that exam was definitely one of the hardest things I ever prepped for and it could not have been achieved without time management and prioritization. I think I already had a good basis in those skills prior to the designation as I worked during my University years and had to manage my time, but those skills were strengthened during the designation and can be learnt at anytime (prior or during). You just need to plan, commit & remain consistent. Even though a lot of my work is digital, I still have a paper agenda & I like to check things off my list, it keeps me motivated and productive.

Question 10:
Hi Anna, thank you for sharing your experience with me! It is nice to see that you have great success in fashion. I am curious that did you have a clear goal before taking the CPA? In other words, did you forecast that you will get a fashion job in the future? It is incredible to bind hobbies with work, but I have no idea how to see them together. What are your thoughts about connecting fashion and CPA? 

Answer: Honestly, my only clear goal at the time was to get my CPA & I didn’t even think about getting a job in Fashion in the future. Once you start working, you get exposure to so many things and connections just happen. It doesn’t matter if it’s Fashion, Technology or Pharmaceuticals, every industry needs accountants, analysts & managers, so you can make your place anywhere you want! 

Question 11:
Hi Anna, thanks for sharing your story! As a future CPA with many interests and passions outside of accounting, it was very encouraging for me to hear how you’ve been able to bridge your different interests into a cohesive career. I am curious about how this all took shape for you. Did you ever consider fashion to be more of a hobby/interest or did you always think of it as an aspect of your professional career?

Answer: Fashion has always been just a hobby for me and I didn’t envision it as a career until I got my title. It’s like this: you have an end goal in mind and everything you do is towards that goal. When it’s achieved, you can move on to the next goal. That’s what happened to me: I got my CPA, CA title, and then I started to think “Well now that I have this, what do I really want to do”? That is when I decided that I wanted to move to the Fashion industry. 


Question 12:

Hi Anna, it sounds like you have benefited immensely from getting your CPA designation. I am curious, aside from your designation, what other decisions / events in your career stand out as particularly important?

Answer: My 1st biggest decision was moving to the Fashion industry, which is what triggered this career. My 2nd biggest decision was to start blog, which opened a whole new world for me. I would say that the biggest event was getting my foot through the door by getting my 1st job at a Fashion brand as a Financial Analyst and getting that 1st year of experience, which forged the path for me, as every job after that I was recruited for via Linkedin, I did not apply. Bonus advice: Make sure you have a Linkedin profile if you want to propel your career, it’s THE platform for professionals and if you’re not on it, you might miss out on some great opportunities.

Question 13:
Hi Anna,I really like your working experiences because I am also really interested in Fashion. My question is how could you manage your time effectively to be able to be a manager and a blogger at the same time? Thank you.

Answer: I see it like this: we all have the same 24hrs in a day, but how we chose to use those hours is totally in our control. It’s possible to do it all, but you need to carve out the time, and when you’re passionate about something, carving out that time becomes easier. It definitely takes some planning, discipline and sacrifice. For example, there are weekends that I will work on blog posts & photo shoots instead of spending the days at the beach or on the couch binging on Netflix. However, I also make sure that I take some days off to recharge my batteries & spend time with friends & family. It’s really all about planning & committing to that plan.

Question 14:

How do you find your accounting background assists you in your fashion and blogging career? Is there another designation that you think would assist you in your career?

Answer part 1: My accounting background taught me so many valuable skills: time management, analytical skills, problem solving skills, social skills, negotiation skills, how to thrive in a fast pace environment, how to deal with people and so much more. All those skills translate to both fashion & blogging.

Answer part 2: I’m not interested in another designation at this time, but I’m always on the path of personal improvement by reading books and articles on the subject matters that concern my fields, taking online courses to deepen my skills & always being curious.

Question 15:
Thank you for sharing your unique experience with us. I am curious about what makes you decide to pursue CPA while you are interested in fashion? Also, how you find your distinct work including accountancy, apparel & blogging relate to each other?

Answer part 1: I was always good with numbers and Fashion was always more of a hobby for me. I knew I wanted to study business and so I started in Accounting and Finance in my 1st year at McGill. I soon discovered that accounting was 2nd nature to me & the CPA designation was recognized worldwide; it was a career I could practice from anywhere in the world, which is why I decided to pursue it.

Answer part 2: All 3 fields require similar skills: analytical skills, social skills, negotiation skills, problem solving skills, etc. Having a CPA also makes you understand how companies work as a whole, not just a specific department in silo, which makes you an invaluable partner.

Question 16:
Hi, Anna! It is very surprising that you pursued your dream about fashion and became a CPA at the same time? I am interested that how the  skills and experience you got in the process of learning CPA classes can help your work about fashion? If someone also wants to go the similar path like you, what is the most important suggestion you want to give?
Thank you!

Answer part 1: Both fields require similar skills: analytical skills, social skills, negotiation skills, problem solving kills, etc. Having a CPA also makes you understand how companies work as a whole, not just a specific department in silo, which makes you an invaluable partner.

Answer part 2: The most important advice I can give is to be confident, both in your skills & your worth as well as in the risks you decide to take. No matter what industry you decide to pursue, do it with confidence, believe in yourself, work hard & be persistent. Also, be curious, learn about the industry you want to go in, what skills do you need to develop to get there, etc.

Question 17:
Hi Anna, super interesting to hear about how your designation has allowed you to pursue paths you are truly interested in and leverage those skills! I also hope to be able to use my designation to work in industry and pursue some of my passions that way. My question is do you find it difficult to adjust to the differences in the different workplaces (going from accounting to fashion, etc.)? And how do you best use your experience from one workplace to help you at your next job? Thanks so much!

Answer part 1: It’s always difficult to adjust at the beginning, but that’s as true from one industry to another as it is from one company to another. Even within the Fashion industry, every company is very different: different business model, different processes, different strategies and different ways of doing things. What played in my favor is working in audit – I travelled to a new client sometimes ever other week, and I had to learn how to adapt to a new environment and new people. This has built a resilience that helped me adapt when I moved to Fashion and sill serves me when I move from one company to another within the industry.

Answer part 2: All the experience & knowledge gained in one workplace can be translated to another. Even though industries or companies are different, you can always identify similarities and apply that knowledge and experience. It’s important to 1st listen and learn how things work at the new workplace and then determine what is your value added, how can you bring something to the table and draw on your past experience to do it.

Question 18:
Hi Anna, This may be a broad question, but do you find that a majority of CPA’s pursue a career in accounting alone, or do you see many of your peers branching out into other areas like yourself? Thank you!

Answer: The majority of my peers branched out to other industries from insurance to banking to technology. Some stayed in accounting, other moved to other roles. The CPA designation truly opens a lot of doors, especially if you gain experience in audit, b/c you get to learn the businesses of companies in various fields and that exposure is everything.

Question 19:
Hi Anna, Thanks for sharing a bit about your professional life. From an outsiders perspective, it seems as though these are three very different roles. I was wondering if you experienced any moments where you felt it was clear on how these three paths bridged together? 

Answer: All 3 fields require similar skills: analytical skills, social skills, negotiation skills, problem solving skills, etc. Having a CPA also makes you understand how companies work as a whole, not just a specific department in silo, which makes you an invaluable partner. Also, when I research things for my job, it often gives me ideas for blog posts & it opens up a new perspective and new way of thinking. The same is true when I refresh my CPA knowledge to get my CPD credits yearly, I always learn something that is applicable to my current job and makes me see thing more clearly. 

Question 20:
Hey Anna!It was really inspiring to read about your story. How did you manage to connect yourself to fashion? Like, did you have to do a lot of networking with people beyond your circle? If so, what are some tips that allowed you to successfully network outside of your current industry?

Answer: I got my foot through the door into Fashion through persistence; I kept on applying to various positions at several companies until one stuck. However, all the success that followed was definitely helped by the network of people I have cultivated throughout the years. Networking is very important and in order to do it successfully, you just need to get yourself out there and attend events. Given the current situation, face to face events might be hard, but there are so many digital ways to connect with people: Join groups to discuss topics that are of interest, join book clubs (I’m part of the McGill Book Club), connect with people on Linkedin, etc. It’s also important to build a network of peers at school & at work. Whatever job you’re doing right now, always do the best you can, even if it’s not your dream job, b/c you want to be praised & recognized and build a reputation for yourself– word travels fast & wide, and this world is a lot smaller than it may seem.

Question 21:
Hi Anna!Thanks for taking the time to share a bit about your journey and answering our questions! It’s super inspiring to hear how you used your CPA designation to pursue a position in an industry you’re passionate about. What helped you stay motivated throughout your CPA education and initial jobs to reach your goal of working in Fashion? What resources or experiences helped your transition into the Fashion industry and what tips would you have for someone who’d want to follow a similar path?

Answer part 1: What kept me motivated during my CPA education is my end goal: getting that highly coveted CPA,CA title. Whenever I got discouraged, I reminded myself why I was doing this for & I made it public. All my friends and all my co-workers knew that I was pursuing the CPA designation; therefore failure to achieve it was not an option – that is what propelled me.

Answer part 2: My experience in audit definitely helped me in transitioning to the fashion industry as it taught me so many valuable skills: time management, analytical skills, problem solving skills, social skills, negotiation skills, how to thrive in a fast pace environment, how to deal with people and so much more.

Answer part 3: My advice is to be confident, persistent & hard working. Build a reputation, always keep learning and growing, and open a Linkedin account to not miss any opportunities. Linkedin is how I landed most of my jobs!

Question 22:
Hi Anna, It is awesome that you are combining your interest in fashion with work! I fully agree that the CPA designation opens a variety of career opportunities. My question is that what has been the most rewarding experience so far in your career after achieving the designation?
Thanks! 

Answer: One of my most rewarding experiences was getting recruited for all my roles after getting my foot through the door in Fashion. I never applied to jobs after that, the jobs found me (through Linkedin) Also, making my place in the blogging industry was very rewarding. It took a lot of work & grit, but it paid off. This part of my life allows me to be creative, meet new people & have fun.

Question 23:
Hi Anna, Since you had other passion (fashion) in addition to Accounting, how did you motivate yourself when you were studying for CPA exams? Didn’t you get kind of distracted by other interests?

Answer: I enjoyed studying accounting and I had a very specific goal in mind to get my CPA title so I kept my eyes on the prize. I told myself that if I got this title, then I could venture into another industry and do something I was passionate about. Distractions will always be present no matter what, but you can learn to tune them out if you have a goal in mind.

Question 24:
As it is difficult to balance life and work, could you share some practical time management tactics with us? How did you allocate your time effectively towards your three different roles? 

Answer: Get a paper agenda! I know, old school right? Well, seeing your time on paper really puts things into perspective. I have both a paper agenda and I have my to do list on my phone to make sure I don’t forget anything, but my paper agenda has all the tasks outlined in detail & I once it’s written down, I commit to it. I know when I have free time and when it’s time to work. It’s definitely easier to allocate time when you’re doing something you’re passionate about, but the reality is that we have time to do it all, we just need to choose what is more important: Binging on Netflix or taking an online course. An important time management tactic is prioritization: always ask for the due date and manage expectations. This way you don’t get overwhelmed and you can deliver on time (or early if possible)!

Question 25:
Hi, Anna! It is interesting that you have engaged in 3 different worlds (Accountancy, Apparel & Blogging). I am wondering how to decide which job is the most suitable one. Could you share with us some experience in switching between different types of work?

Answer: You really need to try different things in order to decide what’s right for you. I didn’t know that Fashion was my calling until I got my title and started thinking: what’s next? The CPAs was my ultimate goal and once I got it, I was able to refocus and think about what I really wanted to do. Even then, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do in Fashion. I knew it had to be numbers related, but I wanted to be as close to the product as much possible and that’s when Pricing sort of found me.

Question 26:
Is it difficult to have a balance between the three different industries of your career, and what piece of advice can you give to students wanting to leverage their accounting knowledge to pursue careers in other industries?

Answer: It’s definitely not easy & sometimes it’s a balancing act between the 3 industries but if you plan your time effectively, you can make it all work! The best advice I can give anyone who wants to leverage their accounting knowledge to pursue careers in other industries is to always be curious and keep learning – get curious about the industry you want to work in, what are the skills required, what do you bring to the table that can be a value add to that industry. The accounting knowledge you acquire can be translated to: being good with numbers, being able to perform cost & margin analysis, understanding Internal Controls –all this is very important in all industries, especially in public companies.

Question 27:
Hi Anna,Considering the three distinct fields you’ve worked in, were there any specific skills or traits that were common across these fields which were essential for success?Thanks!

Answer: All 3 fields require similar skills: analytical skills, social skills, negotiation skills, problem solving skills, etc. Having a CPA also makes you understand how companies work as a whole, not just a specific department in silo, which makes you an invaluable partner. Also, when I research things for my job, it often gives me ideas for blog posts & it opens up a new perspective and new way of thinking. The same is true when I refresh my CPA knowledge to get my CPD credits yearly, I always learn something that is applicable to my current job and makes me see thing more clearly.

Question 28:

Hi Anna, could you share some of the interesting experiences you ever had working in 3 distinct fields? Are there any difficulties? Thank you. 

Answer part 1: I had a ton of interesting experiences in all 3 fields; here are my tops ones in each:

  • Accounting: The 1st client that I was entrusted to audit on my own, managing a team of 3. It was an amazing experience that taught me invaluable skills like leadership & people management, the full audit cycle from top to bottom, as well as time management and prioritization.
  • Fashion: Learning the industry was really interesting, I got to understand how a Fashion Brand worked from the initial design to selling the garments in store and everything in between; it was fascinating, and still is!
  • Blogging: Networking through various events (you get pretty comfortable talking to strangers after a couple of those)

Answer part 2: There are always difficulties in every aspect of a career but if you arm yourself with confidence & hard work, you can solve any problem. In accounting, the difficulty was in managing people for the 1st time and learning the full audit cycle in real life. In Fashion, the difficulty was in learning the inner workings of the industry. In blogging, the difficulty was in differentiating myself from other bloggers & putting my blog on the map.

Question 29:
Hey Anna,Since you’ve always been interested in Fashion, when you initially pursued an education in accounting, did you know you would want to combine this with Fashion someday? If so, knowing what you know now, what is the biggest piece of advice you would give your younger self (before you got started)? Thanks!

Answer: I actually did not know that I would combine accounting with Fashion. I realized that it was a possibility once I obtained my title. The experience gained working with clients from various industries made me open my eyes to all the doors that the CPA title has opened for me.

Thank you,

WCX

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