In order to better understanding obstacles of becoming a CPA, we interviewed Ewa Ulanowska, CPA and she shared her perspective on her CPA journey.
First, she attended a business program offered at the Lublin University of Technology, an engineering university. The five-year program in the school’s management faculty led to a dual master’s degree in engineering and management. The program was designed to prepare students for a management role in technical fields where it would be essential to understand processes to effectively make executive decisions. Aside from engineering classes, the business program had an extensive accounting curriculum, and she found herself drawn to those classes. She was fascinated with the way numbers can tell a story about a company, helping management make crucial decisions. In addition, the financial statements were like a puzzle to solve. Unfortunately, when finals came around, the accounting material turned out to be more difficult than she anticipated. She struggled with testing, and though she persevered and passed all her classes, her fascination with accounting was dissipating. By the end of her studies, she was convinced an accounting career was not in her future, and she chose a different path.
After college, she moved to the United States, where she pursued a career in finance. She obtained securities licenses (Series 7 and 66) and an insurance license, and began working in the financial services industry. She felt she was making a difference in people’s lives by helping clients make smart decisions with their money. In 2011, she joined UHY Advisors NY in a consulting role. She worked directly with Mike Zovistoski in a wealth management practice. They worked together to service the firm’s investment clients and build up the practice. (Aside from being an accomplished CPA and audit partner in the firm, Mike is also a former NYSSCPA president.) Over the years, she was privileged to learn great business skills from him. He became a true mentor, and she is very grateful for all the guidance he provided along the way.
During her initial interview at UHY, she expressed an interest in exploring the public accounting profession at some point to become a more versatile and well-rounded employee. Mike listened and truly took her words to heart. One day, he came over to her desk and told her, “If you want to learn, I have an opportunity for you.” That’s how she wound up helping out in the tax department during busy season.
Over the years, Mike presented her with many more opportunities that were outside of the scope of her job description, but gave her a chance to explore various areas of CPA practice and get an introduction to what public accounting is all about. These experiences shaped her path to becoming a CPA. The light came on in her head: “I can do it.” She decided to pursue a CPA license.
The process of becoming a licensed CPA teaches resilience and that failure is an opportunity to learn and do better next time. It is not easy by any means, but she has learned that great things in life never come without leaving your comfort zone. She said, there is a tremendous sense of accomplishment when you actually become a CPA.
While she was working to obtain her CPA license, she transitioned from advisory services into an accounting role. She gravitated toward the tax department because she liked research and the ability to work independently on projects. Also, the role seemed to be the best complement for her previous experience as a financial services consultant. Today, her job gives her opportunities for growth and to constantly learn new things alongside a team of amazing people who are tremendously supportive of her career growth.
Becoming a CPA gives you respect and admiration from your peers, clients, and the general public. It’s a very rewarding feeling to become a trusted advisor to the public. CPAs are viewed as elite professionals who go through rigorous academic and technical training, and their ethics and character are further tested with on-job training. Earning a CPA license demonstrates commitment to the profession and highlights the individual’s potential for management and leadership positions.