Choosing The Road Less Travelled

Randell Dan P Dalire, CPA, CMA PasserI could still vividly remember when my dad taught me to drive a motorcycle whenever we went to the farm. His instruction was simple – ‘follow the track others drove through,’ eagerly pointing at the road lines where other riders went through. As early as then, I wanted to ask him “how about driving through a new track, and not always following others?”

Since childhood, I always had the appetite to take the roads less travelled since childhood, and that attitude was reinforced by famous people we meet in history. The inventor of Tae Bo, Billy Blanks, quoted “To succeed, particularly early in life, you have to grab on to the thing that separates you from the herd, something that you love intrinsically, and go for it, all out.”

When I entered the academe with a fresh Certified Public Accountant (CPA) License last year, a lot of people were asking why I did not choose public practice or instead work for multinational companies, since most of new passers enter audit firms or become employed with private companies. I couldn’t sign audit reports until after three years, because I know I still need to learn a lot. Global competitiveness fascinates me – such an awesome undertaking to embark on.

Barely two months after the rigors of the CPA board examination, I met Sir Angel V. Secerio through a facebook chat expressing my utmost interest (or call it obsession) in the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential. I was worried of the financial requirements in gaining the certification, thus I planned to take the exam later the next year. It was a huge investment, and I was half-hearted when I was given the initial forecast of fees, not until I learned of the exclusive 50% discount given to fulltime instructors. My bill would be slashed in half, and before I knew it, I was filling out the Insights registration form after being offered a flexible payment plan. I eventually agreed to schedule my exam two months after, which I was happy about, as soon as I received my review materials after Christmas of 2013.

I was leisurely talking to close friends and celebrating the holidays, watching the TV Series Suits when I received the complete set of Wiley CMA Review Materials last December 2013. I told myself “this is it.” The size of the books was overwhelming, some twice my definition of a ‘large book’ in the undergraduate, (two books of that size), plus another two books of compressed outlines. I will be celebrating my 2nd decade birthday 3 days onwards, and there were the four Wiley books at my doorstep waving at me. I always wanted to pursue the CMA title, but that was one of the few days I smiled and jokingly told myself “be careful what you wish for”. So I scanned, smiled at every familiar topic, and got the chill with every unfamiliar topic I saw. I ended up chilling that day, so I planned out a review schedule to start after my birthday.

When work resumed in January, I started using the Wiley online testbank. It was just as overwhelming as the books, daunted at seeing the “unanswered questions” versus the “answered correctly” and “answered incorrectly.” It was then that I disapproved the thought that it was as simple as the Management Advisory Services in the Philippine CPA Board Exam. I knew a two-month preparation plus work was Herculean, certainly not enough to cover all topics, so I ended up categorizing topics according to time allocation. I lingered studying for Part 2 Exam, which covers most of the topics not taken up in the undergraduate like international investment terminologies, US GAAP vis-à-vis IFRS, investment topics unique to US, and US Laws on Financial Reporting and Auditing such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

The two-month preparation was way fast-tracked. I planned a quota of 100 MCQs per day in each of the parts the test bank, but I knew I still need to read through the theory parts. Just like the BIR missing earnings targets, I always answered short of my quota per day, hence adding more and more to my backlogs. I scheduled reading during my free time in the office, but each time didn’t always finish the schedule topic, which replaced my schedule at night assigned to answering the test banks. In most instances, I got too tired after work that I needed to take a good rest. It was mad race against time, against ensuring that I covered all important topics within schedule while ensuring mastery. As the exam date drew closer from months to weeks, I honestly began to worry a lot. I prayed for the topics I did not understand, asking God to shuffle the testbank excluding those topics, or to give me only easy questions instead. The earliest sleeping time was 1AM, and I needed to be ready for work by 7AM. Nevertheless, though the stream of topics was overwhelming, the pacing and strategies of the Wiley Testbank and other Wiley materials greatly helped me to reach ‘safe-zone’ scores. Just as when you thought you learned enough after the CPA Board exam, going global demands lifetime learning. Wiley materials remind financial professionals that: “Wait, there’s more [to learn].” I travelled to Manila a day ahead of the exam schedule. I entered the building ahead of time, so I had a chance to calm down the excitement rush inside the prayer room. I entered the Prometric testing center, verified my schedule, and was instructed to leave everything in the locker, even my rosary. I only got my red hanky inside, which I needed to spread before entering the testing room. The strategy at answering MCQs was the same, you can leave questions consuming much time. On answering the essays, I typed every key as if the keyboard was moving away with time, and I knew I was making noise. On honest regard, the two exam days were filled with the rush of experiencing something new, especially when I realize, “hey, I’m in Ateneo dude!”, and it’s CMA!

The next six weeks was an ‘agony in the garden.’ Waiting for the exam result was like singing “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri – an LSS on the line “I have died everyday waiting for you.” Of all the questions asked, all I dreamt about were the questions I knew I answered incorrectly. That was when I asked myself ‘what about the rush?’ of taking the exam with barely two months to prepare when I could have sat for the testing window in June. I remembered I was not well prepared for the February exam.

April 11. I was in Manila for an audit field work in the Philippine Cooperative Center in Quezon City. I received an SMS from Insights asking me to check my mail and give them a feedback right away. Time stood still. I occasionally sipped coffee to calm my nerves. While I was doing an aging analysis for their receivables, an unknown contact called me up. I knew it was not a domestic call, with a number extension +968, I knew it was Sir Angel. It took a bit of courage to answer my phone, and I greeted him “Hello sir!”

“Hey Randell how’s everything?”

“Okay lang po ako sir. Nasa Manila po ako, nakafield po sir. May result na raw po pero ichecheck ko po mamaya” I answered. I planned to secretly peek at the results after the call, so I can pretend I did not take the exam in case I fail, but I stumbled when I realized, “pero wait sir, ‘di ba may access po kayo sa account ko?”

Randell Dan P Dalire, CPA, CMA-Passer“Hahaha. It’s ok. You passed!” was all he answered. I was like a delighted 5 year-old boy receiving a dream helicopter toy. And it took a bit of time lag to confirm: “Talaga sir? Whoah. Sure na po ba?” I came back to the ‘doubting Thomas’.

“Yes, you made it Randell!” was few of the best words I heard from a very supportive mentor. Even the staff in PCC was overwhelmed, and I couldn’t contain such excitement any further, so though it was my first time to conduct a field work in PCC, we had a good time smiling at another God’s blessing. Again, it’s CMA dude!

It took a lot of courage, self-confidence, and faith in God. Two months straight preparation brought back the exam anxiety during the CPA board, only it’s an entirely new level, and it also brought back the unwavering hope of reaching the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. Warm congratulations from friends after conquering one of the most sought-after certifications worldwide is an honor and a privilege, indeed.

I have a long list of reasons to be thankful for, but on top of it is our Almighty God, who always conquers my stubbornness in reviewing my notes by renewing my strength every day, for his wonderful ways, for every great people he sends in my life. Again, I still could not believe that Sir Angel, whom I only met through facebook, offered me flexible payment terms for the fees barely five days after we met, mentored me all throughout my review, and was the one who called me up all the way from Oman to tell the great news. I’ve already passed the two part exam, but I am yet to meet him in person. Some might think of it as coincidence, but in reality, it’s God’s plan that’s slowly working out. Undeniably, it is one of the best pleasures in life – to witness how his blessings unfold to those who believe in him. At the end of the day, we are all, in fact, entrusted with duties to accomplish great things. In so doing, we are in turn privileged that we may help others accomplish theirs.

And as for me, great achievements spring from a steadfast commitment – a single-minded passion for what we do; an unwavering desire for excellence in the way we think and the way we work. Genuine commitment is what launches us out of bed in the morning, and through the day with a spring in every step. No matter how short the preparation time is, the most basic things should be done, quoting from the words of Padre Pio – “pray, hope and don’t worry.”

My memory is still glued at the “Congratulations!” part of my e-mail from the ICMA Senior VP, Sir Dennis Whitney. For young Filipinos with ambition, there is really no other way to go than to go global, and as for me, dreams are really one of the few great things God purposefully made without limits. Dreams are the ones which separate us from the herd. Dreams define our potentials, our motivations, and our attitude at pushing out limits – the imbued burning passion to conquer the world is every Filipino’s dream. We have just begun doing things we are known to be good at.

Taking the road less travelled such as entering the academe gives us academicians a headstart and an extra mile. My extra mile was not passing the 2-Part CMA Exam, but instead the courage to take the risk, to invest, against all odds, all out, and at all cost. The extra mile was doing things we have never done, to achieve things we have never achieved before.

It pays to move out from the crowd and dare to make a difference.

To God be All the Glory.

 

Randell Dan Dalire, CPA, CMA-Passer

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