Segue from the CPA Pathway

Ong, Andrea ElaineCertified Management Accountant – three words which I never thought would become a part of me.

When I was applying for college during my senior year of high school, I literally had no idea about what course I should take. I excelled in and enjoyed Mathematics, English and Music; that’s all I knew. But I didn’t know what I wanted to become. While others dreamed of becoming lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc., I was clueless about what I wanted to do with my life. I only imagined a future of earning and providing for my future family, but the question of how I would do that remained unanswered. So, I asked my parents about it and they reckoned, “You’re good in Math. Take the Accountancy Program and become a CPA.” Initially, my thoughts were, “Be an accountant? What do accountants exactly do anyway?” The only idea I had of them was that they handle a lot of money. Trusting their judgment, I still went with the idea. Fortunately, I passed my college entrance examinations and went on to fulfill my “dream.”

My first day in college wasn’t so eventful. I don’t even remember much about it. It was just a day filled with anxiety. In fact, the first few weeks felt like that and I think it wasn’t until the first month that I established substantial rapports with my classmates and gained a set of friends. Becoming a CPA was obviously a frequent topic. Our freshmen batch consisted of 24 sections, each with approximately 50 students and we all had the same “dream.”

During our sophomore year, we were finally taking our first two accounting courses. I was 18 back then and let’s just say that my youthful exuberance peaked that year. Being too reckless and spontaneous, I barely passed the first accounting course in the first semester and failed the second one in the next. It cost me my chance to even try for the qualifying exam to remain in the BS Accountancy program for the next school year. I, along with 8 sections worth of students, shifted to the BS Management Accounting program (which only accepted students/shifters during our sophomore year). Professors tried to fill our hearts with hope and optimism through pep talks and seminars which lasted our whole junior year; told us that we still had fair chances for the CPA dream, only we had to take the longer route (that is, taking additional courses in some other college to acquire the BSA degree for three semesters). Some of us were still hopeful but some of us weren’t.  I formed part of the latter. At that point, many of us questioned our choices – “Is this what I really want?” and ultimately, we questioned ourselves –“Am I still capable of pursuing the CPA title?”; “Do I still have a future in this industry?”; “Am I even good enough for anything?” Tragic and dramatic, indeed it was. To simply put it, Nakakawalang-gana na after the turn of events.

For me, one thing turned to another. I failed a few more accounting courses after that. I aridly drudged into every class, every single day. Nothing could make me move forward. I was lucky to just even get retained in the program and not get debarred. I got delayed from graduating because of this stubborn behavior. So, instead of graduating in May 2014, I had to take another year to fulfill my academic requirements.

Of course, the self-pity had to end at some point. In June 2014, I started reading self-help materials, from books to articles to mere excerpts and thought about what I was really passionate about. I recalled how I’ve always loved the idea of cooking. I’m an avid fan of the Food Network, its shows and its featured chefs. I assumed the idea of taking this career path since I felt impassioned about it. I thought, “Maybe this is my calling. Mag-shift kaya ako? Mas sayang kung ‘di ko pa sisimulan. Hindi na ako masaya sa accounting e.” Upon realizing this, I told my dad right away. He did not dismiss the idea but he did not fully accept it either. He said, “Kung ‘yan talaga ang gusto mo, I’ll support you for whatever you need. “ He continued, “Pero ‘di ba last year mo na? Tapusin mo na muna. Sayang naman, nandyan ka na e. Kung ‘di ka na talaga masaya, at least aim for passing and graduating. Let that be your goal for now. Don’t think about work yet.” I heeded his advice and for the next weeks, contemplated about what we discussed.

With my dad’s suggestion of shifting my goals, I found myself performing and feeling better. I still had not embraced accounting but at least I didn’t hate it and I was happy. Shortly after that, our class president announced that a CMA (Certified Management Accountant) seminar was going to be held at the university soon. I had heard of it before but I never looked it up. My friends and I agreed on attending the seminar just to familiarize ourselves with the certification and maybe give it a chance.

So, at the day of the seminar, we came in a bit late yet still early enough to hear the opening remarks. I remember it all too well. Unlike the other seminars that I had been in, I listened quite intently to the speakers. Obviously, they caught my attention as the certification focused on the accounting sector which I somehow managed to excel in: Managerial Services. A lot of things were going through my mind at that time and my heart was pounding really loudly. In that moment of enlightenment, I prayed, “Lord, is this what I am destined for? Please give me a sign. I need to know.”

A quiz bee was conducted after the talks. There were prizes for 6 winners: 3 free IMA memberships and 3 Php500 worth of Starbucks Gift Checks. All the students in the auditorium were participants. Around 5 sections were present in the venue. I continued praying, “Lord, if I become one of those 6 winners, that’s enough of a sign for me.” The prizes didn’t matter to me. I just really wanted to know if I should take this chance because I didn’t want to waste any more time trying to figure out what was for me.

Since you’re reading this right now, indeed I was one of the six winners. It was glorifying. It was glorifying not because I won, but because I felt like I finally knew my purpose. I was completely transformed. My academic performance significantly improved after that. I even topped one my accounting classes in our last semester. I never knew that I had it in me all along.

CMA Review started two weeks before our graduation ceremony, around mid-May of 2015. Roughly 40 students from my batch availed of Insights’ review services. The next couple of months were tedious. We naturally wanted some sort of break after fulfilling all of our academic requirements for graduation. We were deprived of this so I guess, it somehow influenced our poor marks in the first few mock exams.

The Insights team was very accommodating and hospitable. Queries and requests were always welcomed well. Their instructors guided us well throughout our journey. We were due to take the exams in the September/October testing window. We all did our fair share of studying and reviewing which reflected in our next mock exams. As the dates neared, we took more time in our days to study. In all the weekdays of August and September, I studied in the UST Library.

September 24, 2015, it was the day of my CMA Part 1 exam. I and two of my colleagues were the first ones to take it. We went to the Ateneo Professional Schools and presented our test permits and passports to the guard. We then headed to the Prometric Testing Center where we underwent strict identification procedures before taking the exam. Time went by fast after that. The four hours felt like one. It was completely exhausting. Now, we had six weeks to wait for the results.

My next exam date was October 27. We went through the same process, only with a little less apprehension. The Part 2 exam was more difficult for me. I mentally blocked out at some point of the exam. I had doubts right away but it was done. All I could do then was pray and hope that what I did was enough.

When Part 1 results went out, naturally, I was ecstatic. My hands were shaking when I read in my e-mail, “Congratulations…” I rejoiced for the next few minutes but went back to my worrisome state when thoughts about the Part 2 results set in. We went out to celebrate my success but I wasn’t utterly in the celebratory mood.

Part 2 results were scheduled to come out on the evening of December 11th or the morning after. I was in Davao when I woke up that morning, on the 11th of December. I checked my social media and saw my friend’s post about passing the Part 2 exam. My heart throbbed in that instant and the first thing that popped into my head was, “E-MAIL.” A whirlwind of negative thoughts followed. I immediately opened my e-mail and my thoughts stopped when I saw that I received an e-mail from the IMA. I rushed downstairs to share the news to my relatives. They embraced me and then that’s when I cried. A stream of positivity gushed over me. I was absolutely overwhelmed.

So now you may ask, what’s next for me? Currently, I’m still studying for another exam which I’m scheduled to take this February. In addition, my Work Experience requirement to wholly acquire the CMA title is still pending. Hopefully by March, it will be underway. Undertakings after that are beyond my comprehension but I’m simply hoping for the best.

One thing that I can assure you and remind you of is that, Life never leaves us stranded. As long as you’re alive, Life will always give you what is due to you. Just always do your best in all your expositions and trust the universe. What’s for you will always find its way. It may not be what you wanted from the very beginning, but it will be something you never knew you needed. For me, it was the CMA dream.


About the Author: Andrea Elaine Ong is a BSMA graduate at the University of Santo Tomas in 2015. She passed the 2-Part CMA examination with under 6 months exam preparation. Currently, she is reviewing for another professional certification exam.

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