When you graduate from university, it can be difficult to know what career path you want to take for the rest of your life. The thought alone can feel both overwhelming and intimidating.
But being aware of the options that exist beyond this point is incredibly liberating. As is knowing that your educational foundation could enable you to live your passion alongside your job.
While it might come as a surprise, pursuing a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation lets you do exactly that. Upon discovering three BC-based foodies started their careers this way, we wanted to learn more — so we asked them.
Tony Huynh, CPA
A Senior Financial Analyst at BCIT and a well-known foodie in Vancouver, Tony Huynh (@raincouvereatery) tells Daily Hive he’s “a CPA by day and foodie by night.” When he took his first accounting class, he knew it “was his career path,” adding that becoming a CPA “opens more opportunities because CPAs are highly regarded by employers.” Huynh notes that “there is always a demand” for CPAs.
While he describes the CPA program as “quite a tough journey,” balancing full-time work, life, study, and everything in between, “it was worth it.” Going through the program helped him build his technical knowledge and soft skills, which would later help him be successful in the workplace. Since receiving his designation in 2020, he secured his current role at the polytechnic institute he attended.
Huynh’s passion for food is evident as soon as you scroll through his Instagram feed, and he says he was inspired at a very young age by his mom, who is a retired cooking teacher. “I’m from a Vietnamese background, so Vietnamese cuisine has a special place in my heart,” he notes, with Anh and Chi, Banh Mi Saigon, and Pho Tam making it onto his list of favourite restaurants.
“Being a CPA is more than just the numbers,” Huynh says. “When collaborating with local restaurants, I find it easy to understand what my clients want, and how I can highlight their businesses in the best way possible.” The CPA program also taught him how to be adaptable, he says, and this extends to the attention to detail required for snapping food photos in different angles and lighting.
“My advice for anyone who is considering becoming a CPA is to Just Do It!”
Karina Pangilinan, CPA
Alongside working as a Manager at Strategex Group CPA and teaching piano on the weekend, Karina Pangilinan runs her Instagram account (@vantasticfeasts), which began as a way for her to showcase the new foods and restaurants she was trying. “My account has grown into a daily part of my life and has given me opportunities to partner with restaurants and local businesses,” she says.
Pangilinan tells Daily Hive her mom is a huge inspiration to her, “She is a CPA and not only runs her own public practice but also finds the time to volunteer, serve as a director on boards across Vancouver, and spend time with her family.” After taking accounting in high school, Pangilinan went to UBC Sauder School of Business, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting before going on to start the CPA program.
“I saw that by having a CPA designation, there are so many careers and paths you can have across different sectors and industries,” she says. Although Pangilinan “did not know what to expect” before starting the program, and there were “some difficult moments balancing work, studying, and social events,” she was motivated to continue working towards achieving her designation.
“Through the pre-approved experience route, I gained my experience hours within the 30 months I was working as a CPA student,” she says. Since she joined Strategex Group CPA in 2018, she has “enjoyed growing as a manager, developing relationships with clients, and training and mentoring new recruits as they join the CPA program.” Pangilinan’s Instagram account provides a contrast to the work she does at the office. And of course, we needed to know what her favourite restaurants are. “Tequila Cocina, A La Mode Pie Café, and C41 Coffee Shop.”
For anyone considering a career as a CPA, she says, “Don’t stop, never give up, hold your head high, and reach the top!”
Frederick Wong, CPA
A Senior Manager of Indirect Tax at BDO, Frederick Wong (@fsfwong), tells Daily Hive that outside of his day job and volunteer work, he’s “a board game enthusiast, a mechanical keyboard builder, an ice cream maker/mad scientist, an okay cook, and a (very) amateur potter.” He adds, “All that to say, I probably spend a bit too much on my hobbies.”
When Wong was in Grade 10, a career aptitude test for school showed his top results: three different kinds of accountant roles, an actuary, and a funeral director. “Ignoring that last one, I figured the universe was trying to tell me something, so I went to business school at UBC Sauder and started taking accounting courses through the program.” From there, he says the CPA designation was “a no-brainer.”
The most impactful part of the program for Wong, he says, has been the focus of work on the ‘audience’ or the ‘client.’ “You have to tailor your analysis, your communication, your conclusions, and your advice to the unique needs of each ‘client’ you’re advising in your assignments, which has helped me develop a much better grasp of my work in practice.” At BDO, where he started his career, he has progressed up through the ranks in public practice, and at home, he’s running a side business making ice cream.
Hit flavours on Wong’s menu to date? “Raspberry Rose, Hong Kong Milk Tea, Ovaltine Malteser, and Strawberry Balsamic.” He says it’s “been a fun experience applying the principles and frameworks” that he learned through university, the CPA program, and work to his business. To prospective CPAs, he says the designation is a step in the process but not the destination. “The designation will build you up and enable you to get to where you want to go.”
Wong adds, “Remember to have fun with the process, no matter what stage you’re at and how far along you are!”
For more information about becoming a CPA in BC and what it could mean for your future, visit bccpa.ca.