Paddling Your Accounting Career

165477500_ASKAccounting is dynamic. To be able to go with the waves, CPAs should be dynamic, too.

Mady, a fresh graduate from college, went to the beach to relax and pamper herself in an exotic resort in the Philippines. She deserves it. After all, she just hurdled past the tough Philippine CPA board examinations last May.

She sat down in one of the chairs stationed at the coast line. After a while, she noticed two men pulling a kayak down the water against the dancing waves with paddles firmly gripped on their sides.

“Wow! I’d like to go kayaking, too,” she told herself.

She keenly observed how the two men did kayaking. After twenty minutes of observing, she thought she learned a lot that she wanted to try kayaking. She was about to stand up to go to the kayak when a thought came up and she realized, kayaking just reminded her of one of the truths of being an accountant – that we should keep on paddling!

Waves in the accounting industry do not cease. The business world is so dynamic. There is a concerted effort around international accounting bodies and organizations to promote and expand accounting education. Through higher quality teaching, accountants develop their communication skills to facilitate effective financial and management reporting. Innovative accounting concepts continue to be discovered to adapt to the changing times.

Accounting, being the language of business, is ever-changing. Because of this, accountants as we are cannot afford to stay stagnant. Steadiness, complacency even, should not be part of any accountant’s dictionary. In fact, if you stop paddling your accounting know-how, you don’t stay the same either. It’s either you get drifted away from the point you should be paddling to or you get pulled to a direction you never envision of going to. To stay in charge of your accounting career, you have to keep on paddling.

How then can you do this?

There are a lot of ways to paddle your accounting career, and going after international accounting certifications definitely tops the menu.

You may choose to further study and get your next title which may be CMA (the gold standard of achievement in accounting and financial management), CIA (the globally accepted certification for internal auditors and remains the standard by which individuals demonstrate their competency and professionalism in the internal auditing), or CFE (accounting professionals tasked to reducing business fraud world-wide to inspire public confidence in the integrity and objectivity within the profession). Select which field that you want to specialize in and paddle your way to your desired destination. With the options presented below, you can be harnessed in paddling your way to a more rewarding career in the industry.

Certified Management Accountant: With this, you can move your career as a management accountant and be of contribution to the business in the field of risk management, internal decision making, planning and cost management, and budgeting, among others. As the business organization keeps on growing, complexities in decision making follow. Be of help to your organization. Be a Certified Management Accountant.

Certified Internal Auditor: Businesses grow into empires. The larger it gets, the riskier it becomes. This is the reason why organizations started to consider hiring more competent professionals to serve as chief audit executives, audit managers, audit staff, risk management staff, and the like. By being a Certified Internal Auditor, you can go even further.

Certified Fraud Examiner: Accounting scandals are one of the big waves that attack business entities. At times, they need Superman or Iron Man to save the stakeholders from big losses that fraud may cause. And because CFEs have a unique set of skills in resolving allegations of fraud, examining data and records to detect and trace fraudulent transactions, obtaining evidence, taking statements, writing fraud examination reports, testifying to findings, and assisting on the improvement of fraud prevention and detection, they can be the Superman and Iron Man to save the valuable investments of business stakeholders. You can be one of them. Be a Certified Fraud Examiner.

Certified Information Systems Auditor: Information systems (IS) play a major role in business enterprises. It is something that you need to have. But information systems are not created equal. Because of this, there is a need for IS audit, control and security professionals. Do you want to grab this highest paying and sought-after IT certification? Raise your banner – be a Certified Information Systems Auditor.

These are not mutually exclusive and if you want to, you can get all these certifications. Don’t you worry, there are still more if you finish these four.

Take it from Mady’s realization – the similarity of kayaking and accounting. Accounting is dynamic and so shall accountants be. As a CPA, to keep on paddling is not an option but rather a necessity in order to stay competitive.

Paddle your way to the end zone.

“The man who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow, is uneducated the day after.” – Newton D. Baker

Defining The Filipino CPA’s Winning Edge

160313062_AccountantEvery race is given an equal opportunity to excel internationally. But standing on your strength rocks gives one the winning edge in the global game.

As a Filipino CPA, how do you excel and get ahead of the pack? Knowing your strength rocks give you the idea how and where to build your professional muscles to be able to jump onto the career you have been aspiring for, not just in the local field but also in the global arena. By ‘global arena’ we do not just mean working abroad, but also working locally in a multinational company, or while serving international clients.

In this article, we will emphasize the three known strength rocks that a Filipino CPA possesses. Along the lines, tough encouragement is issued to those who fall short of this supposedly winning edge.

First strength rock:  Proficiency in international standards

The Philippine Board of Investments stated in its 2011 report that there are about 2,500 to 3,000 new CPAs annually, adept in Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAPs) and International Accounting Standards (IAS).

This adeptness in technical know-how is not just a statement of what is happening but is also a statement of marketing that raises the global expectation among Filipino CPAs as world-class professionals based on this criterion among others. Hence, every CPA aspirant is being tested of this norm and as such, every accounting professional should live up to it.

Second strength rock:  Command of the universally accepted language

Several papers and publications refer to this as the Filipino’s proficiency in English. We are known for this but I felt the need, not to cite supporting facts on this, but to issue a word of caution – that this claimed strength can fall to a burning weakness.

Because of this perceived strength, some Filipinos slack in improving their language skills. Some claim that they can speak better than other nationalities. Some say, “A lot of Asians and even Europeans speak English with a lot of grammatical errors so why should I even bother improving on my grammar?”

The challenge is in not making others’ weakness as your standard but to set your own standard a notch higher than the present level you are at.

On the other hand, there are Filipino professionals that master this language tool but forgot about the language goal. English is the tool, but to communicate is the goal.

Take time to invest attention in working on this second strength rock, and the horizon should not be on the tool alone but aligned to the goal of communication.

Third strength rock:  Integrity.

This is not normally part of the list and it seems a cliché to put it but a man of integrity always has the winning edge.

I once shared this question on Facebook, “What are the things you need to forego to get that something you really want?” One of the answers came from a CPA friend and she said, “(I need to give up my) job to have integrity.”

In different occasions, the international corporate world was disturbed by a number of accounting scandals. Lifting from the long list of 10 Worst Corporate Accounting Scandals by accounting-degree.org, there was the Waste Management Scandal of 1998 where they reported $1.7 billion fake earnings; the Enron Scandal of 2001 where they kept huge debts off the balance sheets; Wordlcom Scandal in 2002 where they inflated assets by as much as $11 billion; the Lehman Brothers Scandal of 2008 where they hid over $50 billion in loans disguised as sales; and the Saytam Scandal of 2009 where they falsely boosted revenue by $1.5 billion.

Amidst this sad fact is the good truth that there are still a lot of accountants with integrity that help uncover these fraudulent schemes and work toward preventing them. The business world needs them, and seeks for more of them. And this just makes the sense that having integrity spells a winning edge.

Accountants do not just prepare financial statements; instead, accountants provide information to several users to make a sound financial decision. This makes integrity paramount in the practice of accountancy.

Every profession is built upon a set of values. And one of the foundational values of the accountancy is integrity. If the value that builds this profession is ruined, then the entire profession is ruined. There is no such thing as accounting without integrity.

These three strength rocks should not come individually. They should come together, like the sides of the triangle. One or two without the other would not make the figure. These three combined is the defining factor. The first two strength rocks represent the essential technical and soft skills, and the third one represents the core of attitude. As Denis Waitley said, “The winner’s edge is not in a gifted birth, a high IQ, or in talent. The winner’s edge is all in the attitude, not aptitude. Attitude is the criterion for success.”

Do you want to become a victor in the global game? Build on these three strength rocks that define the Filipino CPA’s winning edge.

Studying For The Uniform CPA Exam

studying for an examNo matter how old you are or how much you’ve achieved in your career, the prospect of sitting for an exam continues to be a nervewracking idea. Can you remember how nervous you used to get every time your teacher would announce a pop quiz, or when you were about to take final exams? How about the times when you took entrance exams for college?

Every test you ever took in your life was a challenge because it signified whether or not you would be able to move on to the next level.

So imagine just how important the CPA exam is. Whether you pass or not determines whether you are a certified accountant and are therefore able to work as one. It also signifies that you have a thorough understanding of the relevant concepts that will allow you to do your job properly.

The CPA exam consists of four sections, namely, FAR (Financial Accounting and Reporting), AUD (Auditing), REG (Regulation), and BEC (Business Environment and Concepts). You can take these sections in any order; the important thing is that you finish all four within 18 months from the time you receive your first passing mark. Make sure to use your time wisely and try some useful tips to help you while studying for the CPA exam.

1. Organize. Get your study materials in order, and establish a sound schedule which you will follow as you study for the CPA exam. You also need to have a separate notebook because you will want to take notes as you review. Keep those notes handy for when you’re elsewhere, say, waiting to meet someone or standing in a long line at a coffee shop, and read them–much better than lugging around countless books to peruse.

2. Prioritize. You need to start reading a certain chapter. But there’s also that cool new movie you’ve been wanting to catch. At this point, the important question is whether watching the movie is more important to you or if acing the CPA exam is your priority.

3. Take practice tests. Practice tests can help you determine your weak points and which topics you still need to focus on.

4. Be flexible. Sometimes you get to stick to your study schedule, sometimes you don’t. If you’re a very busy person with a lot of responsibilities, emergencies might pop up every now and then. Handle those emergencies if no one else can, and then go right back to studying. There will always be important things that could derail your study schedule. Acknowledge that they could happen, and when they do, remember that all you need to do is to get right back in the saddle and continue reviewing.

5. Enjoy a change of scenery. If you’ve been studying in the same place for months, it might feel like it’s torture every time you have to go there. Get fresh air and a new perspective by studying in different places every now and then.

6. Taking time out to rest is important throughout the entire review process. If you give yourself a few hours each day to study, you should also give yourself regular breaks. You won’t be able to retain any information if you’re already exhausted, and you certainly won’t get any studying done if you wear yourself out to the point of getting sick.

Finally, while you’re studying for the CPA exam, don’t focus your mind on the possibility that you will fail. Yes, that possibility may still exist no matter how hard you prepare. But keep in mind that you always have the option to take it again–and do better!

In The Face Of Strong Adversity

Businessman in front of a huge mazeThere are times when we believe we have on hand a good plan to achieve our aspirations in life. Just for the sake of hitting the mark, we prepare ourselves physically and emotionally, willing to do everything humanly possible, and apply every thinkable strategy to mitigate, if not obliterate, the possibility of failure. After all, who would like to fail?

Sometimes, though, what we dread most ends up happening anyway. Defeat stares upon us despite following our master plan with utmost diligence. Things go awry as we execute our plan. We’re left to wonder where we had gone wrong; what we could have done better that could have averted the negative result.

Indeed, earning the prestigious CPA title means confronting a worthy adversary. But if, in the face of strong adversity, we decide to surrender our position, feel daunted at the fear of failing once again, if we continue to focus our mind at the fear of receiving another failing score, years from now we will find ourselves being more disappointed by the things that we didn’t do than by the ones we did.

Setbacks happen every now and then in our personal lives, even in our quest for professional and career development. It’s part of every human’s very existence. Not being able to achieve our goals can tend to bring us down and lead us to think that everything we did was just a colossal waste of time.

If you’ve reached this point, there are but two ways your life could go, and it all depends on your attitude and how you accept this “hump”. You could view it as a total failure or as a sign that you shouldn’t have pursued your dream to become a CPA in the first place, which then make you give up on your goal altogether and train your sight somewhere else.

Otherwise, you could view it as an opportunity to learn and do better. As daunting as it may sound, the latter requires uncommon valor, and makes you summon every ounce of courage from inside of you. After all, it’s never easy to pick yourself up, and give it one more again.

Most people will just choose to withdraw, brood about their mistakes, and then stop trying again. Well, it’s the easy way out anyway. But if you’re truly set on achieving your goal, come strong wind and high waters, you will push forth, sail on, ‘til you cross the finish line.

Being able to handle temporary defeat is the key to becoming triumphant in this journey. Many candidates tend to feel utterly discouraged when they encounter setbacks, and allow a failed exam to consume all their energy and will to go forward. Of course, when we don’t achieve our goals, we tend to be plagued with self-doubt, thinking that we’re not good enough, that maybe we should stop our obsession to earn the CPA title.

Rather than seeing it as a failure or as something that puts an end to your hopes and dreams, look at it for what it truly is:  A mere temporary setback that should not hinder you from reaching for your goal. Run a self-check and do the following:

1. Recap what you did. This is a good way for you to see where you went wrong and what you should do better next time.

2. Accept that things didn’t go as expected, and move on. You could dwell on your problems and your mistakes, but that won’t change your situation or bring you any step closer to your goal.

3. Prepare better. This is an offshoot of #1. Once you know where you went wrong, you will be able to take appropriate measures to prevent foreseeable problems in the future.

4. Give yourself time to recover. You don’t have to go for your goals right away. You need time to gather your wits together, as you plan your next move.

Make no mistake. The CPA title is something not to be missed. When things don’t go according to plan, always remember that missed goals are not missed opportunities. Instead, they are opportunities to do things better on your next try.

Allow me to leave you with this inspiring quote:

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” – Vince Lombardi

Life After Conquest

LifeAgainStudying for the CPA examinations is kind of addictive. You may find yourself crawling in the first two weeks in to exam preparation, but as soon as you get your groove going you soon feel something’s lacking each time you do not open your FAR book in a rest day, or knock off a few Wiley exercises on AUD, or listen to your Ninja Audio on REG.

It’s been almost a month since I learned I passed REG, the final leg of my CPA journey. I want to share with you how more meaningful life has become after winning it back.

I had gone for a short stop to Manila in March 2013 to celebrate my victory with my mom, siblings, friends, and employees of our small public transport business, Pamana Transport Services. The feeling is just so consuming when you look back and think about how you had successfully overcome a worthy adversary. Every ounce of sacrifice that I have invested in this journey is truly gratified, with hefty dividend paid in full.

One of my immediate plans is to start writing a book on Financial and Management Accounting and, hopefully, to release it toward the middle of next year. Indeed, life’s opportunities just become too manifest after a professional’s conquest of the CPA title. I have earned my Philippine CPA license more than two decades ago, but having the U.S. CPA title tucked under my belt just takes everything to a whole new level.

From the time I first joined Another71.com as a Ninja candidate way back in 2011 I have seen several Ninja posts shouting at the top of their lungs how jubilant they were upon completing their own CPA journeys, yet oddly asking how they’d now spend loads of their spare time previously allotted to studying. To be honest, my first impression was that these Ninjas were just being plain “arrogant”. Surely, they could always go back to doing what they used to be doing previously was what I thought was just pure logic. They could go back to being the loving, caring dad that they used to, or the wife or mom who consistently takes good care of her husband and kids on a full time scale.

If you’re not among the extraordinary CPA candidates who breezed past the CPA journey in just less than 6 months, chances are you will be able to relate to what I’ll be talking about.

CPA candidates on the average take about 12-24 months to complete the CPA journey. Yes, the often rocky road to success requires you to focus your whole being to studying that long to be able to reach your destination. Deviate from this even for a little and you expose yourself to receiving some heart-breaking 74s and discouraging 60s. And so, all for the sake of conquering this monster we learn how to say no when our kids ask us to play chess or badminton with them.

For a long while I thought I had fallen in love once again, not to a woman thank goodness, but to something known in this community as “CPA”. I knew I was “in the groove” when all I thought about then was studying for my next exam; when nothing else mattered anymore but passing.

When even in deep slumber you could hear Ninja Audios reverberating like a cool sound of morning dew, you are definitely on your way to your CPA.

Then, come the day of emancipation. Freedom. Sheer radiance at the end of the tunnel. Just as any CPA candidate had always looked forward to. Yet you suddenly find yourself disconcerted, confused with mixed feelings.

So, what is life after conquest? Without sounding negative, things will never be the same again. The things that you do and had grown living during your journey will linger on. Whatever it is that you continue doing afterwards is a matter of preference. I chose to continue listening to my REG audio because I didn’t want to lose this precious knowledge about federal taxation that I have already acquired. I still try to knock off about 20 MCQs twice a week for, honestly, how many of you REG passers do still remember the intricate rules on “basis of partner’s interest”?

On the personal aspect of things I am so thankful because my CPA journey has taught me how to reflect on the real value of spending time with the true VIPs of my life: My wife and my children. I missed a lot of quality play time with my kids for almost two years, but now can enjoy life to the fullest by redirecting all my spared energy to the very same people who supported and inspired me in each battle.

After CPA, life is truly no longer the same, because this journey do not only teach us become better accountants but, more importantly, make us become better persons.

Conquering the U.S. CPA Examinations

conqueringUSCPAWe all have our own taste of being obsessed with something. “Obsession”, as defined in the dictionary, is the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, desire, etc.

It is “an unwelcome, uncontrollable, and persistent idea, thought, image, or emotion that a person cannot help thinking even though it creates significant distress or anxiety”. I liked this last one better, and you’ll soon find out why.

My obsession to earn the illustrious U.S. CPA title started when my elder sister migrated after she earned her Philippine CPA title and got married to a fellow Filipino who grew up in the U.S.  She now lives happily in LA (the City of Angels), where she works as a Finance Controller.

My first attempt at realizing this dream dates back to 1996 when I worked in Jeddah as a Financial Accountant. My preparation then for the paper-and-pencil all-4-part exams seemed panning out according to plan, but due to unreasonably stringent visa procedures I was not able to fly to the U.S. to take the exams. It seemed that the battle is already lost even as war has not even begun.

After several long years, news broke out in early 2011 that the Uniform CPA examinations would be offered internationally in selected countries, including the UAE where I previously worked up until late 2011. Where there is life there is, indeed, hope.

There are several issues and requirements that an international CPA candidate like me need to contend with before being able to secure one’s Notice to Schedule, or examination permit in layman’s term, from State selection to foreign education credentials evaluation, from selecting CPA review course material to choosing which of the four exam parts to take first.

Loads of thanks go to Ms. Leslie-Ann Rogers of CPAexcel who helped a lot in ridding my mind of the worries of complying with exam registration formalities, and allowed me to concentrate on my exam preparation.

Candidates are given free hand on how they want to tackle the Uniform CPA exams. They can take all parts simultaneously, one part at a time, or in any combination they so desire.

Of the four parts, I chose to sit for Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) simultaneous with Business Environment and Concepts. The FAR part earned the alias “The Beast” among CPA candidates around the world because it is the most difficult of the four parts, and covers the broadest in terms of diversity of the body of knowledge included in the syllabus. To my mind, I thought I should start my journey by tackling the subject(s) I felt more confident of passing on my first take.

Though I considered my preparation to be rigid and thorough, I soon realized that there was absolutely no other way of doing it if you intend to pass each part on your first take.

I took Auditing afterwards, and Regulation last 19 Feb to cap my rough roller-coaster ride toward completing all four parts of the Uniform CPA Exams.

As I ran my course, the emancipating thought of giving up has constantly visited my mind. But it just does not seem right to raise the white flag simply because we experience rough sail. After all, it might surprise you that beyond these walls of adversity lie either a better situation or a better you.

After getting a taste of all four, I can now say that Regulation (consisting of Ethics, Business Law, and U.S. Taxation) was the toughest of all. The federal tax system had given me heaps of worries which made me decide to reschedule my Regulation exam three times in three testing windows. It just didn’t “click” despite investing precious time into trying to understand the dynamics of the U.S. tax rules.

What is even worse is that candidates are required to know the frequent changes in the tax law. This means that some of what you have previously studied in 2012 may no longer be applicable when you take your exam in 2013.

If you don’t want to be discouraged in pursuing your dream to become a U.S. CPA stay away from Regulation ‘til it’s the last part that you have to take.

Never underestimate your resilience and your willpower when your back is against the wall. Faced with losing my FAR and Business Environment and Concepts credits if I didn’t finally take (and pass) Regulation, it surprised me how much material I was able to cover at the homestretch.

For a non-US candidate who had no previous formal studies in Federal Taxation, immeasurable amount of credit goes to CPAexcel’s tax mentor, Dr. Gregory Carnes, for making me understand the extremely intricate U.S. tax system. Though my Regulation exam was tough I believe that CPAexcel prepared me well enough to pass the exam.

Also, the NINJA Audio was very effective; it turned those idle moments spent commuting two hours from home to my workplace in Muscat into valuable study time! It was a wonderful supplement to my CPAexcel and Wiley testbank.

After more than 15 years of nurturing my obsession of becoming a U.S. Certified Public Accountant, the light at the end of the tunnel has finally revealed its awesome radiance. I have now reached “home”, and achieved the pinnacle of my professional qualification as an accountant. With God’s abiding provision, the title “U.S. CPA” has ultimately become mine.