100K Strong: How One of Our Newest Members Finds Freedom and Fulfillment as a CPA

In 2022, CPA Ontario reached an impressive milestone: welcoming its 100,000 member. Our profession has seen tremendous growth, as CPA Ontario continues to inspire professionals to pursue the CPA designation. Over the years, CPA Ontario has assisted accounting professionals achieve their goals for a range of career trajectories, and we are consistently impressed with how our members make the certification their own.

The CPA certification can provide job security, high earning potential and a number of other practical benefits to any professional profile. But more than that, it offers freedom and fulfillment, something that we know is high on any career checklist, especially for young people.

For Tracy Singh, one of CPA Ontario’s newest members, obtaining a CPA designation meant mastering a new range of technical skills. Those skills would then lead to a certification recognized across Canada, both for its expertise and for maintaining the highest professional standards in the accounting profession. It also introduced a whole new world of opportunities.

We asked Tracy what inspired her to become a CPA, what the certification means to her and what advice she would give other young people who are considering making the designation part of their future.

Tracy Singh sitting at table in coffee shop

Tracy Singh’s CPA journey began early.

“In high school, we had a CPA visit to speak about the designation,” says Singh. “They spoke about building a skill set that sets you up for the future and presents a number of opportunities. There was one thing they said that will always stick with me: ‘Your CPA designation is like a passport.’ I realized that becoming a CPA gave you the ability to go almost anywhere career-wise.”

Tracy’s journey would take her first to the Schulich School of Business at York University, where she earned both a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master’s degree in Accounting. While Tracy studied, she kept in touch with CPA Ontario by participating in networking events, never taking her eye off the prize.

Like countless young people across the country, Tracy found herself pursuing an education in the midst of a global pandemic. Hundreds of students prepare for and write the Common Final Examination (CFE) every year, but for Tracy and her peers, the pandemic made the CFE experience truly unique.

Many of our members can attest that studying for the CFE is a daunting enough challenge without having to navigate the hurdles of a worldwide pandemic. During this difficult time, Tracy found comfort in the Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. It provided some great insight on how to approach and deal with negative thoughts in a biblical way. When the ‘I-can’t-do-this' thoughts inevitably crept in every now and then, Meyer’s advice helped her push through.

It also helped that during a time when most institutions turned online, CPA Ontario’s approach to the pandemic exams made for a relatively smooth process.

Rather than postpone exams or design a virtual alternative, which could compromise the CFE, an innovative solution was provided: writers would conduct the exam in hotel rooms, which allowed them to write a traditional exam in a secured, monitored and, above all, safe environment. “I think CPA Ontario handled this situation very well because they managed to allow the exam to go forward in a way that maintained the integrity of the exam while considering the safety of the writers.”

There is no doubt that obtaining a CPA designation can be challenging, and many members obtain their credentials while juggling work at the same time. While the process can be strenuous (and make for a sleepless night or two), Tracy thinks there are notable benefits to completing such a rigorous education, especially at a young age.

“Becoming a CPA really is a mental marathon. Studying for the CFE was easily the most difficult educational hurdle I’ve encountered, but it was worth it. When you come out on the other side, you realize that you can use all those tools in your professional life moving forward. Now, when I am met with a similar situation in my career – such as juggling multiple problems or deadlines at once – I have the experience from the certification at my disposal. It really helps build resiliency, which I think is one of the most important traits you can have, in both your professional and personal lives.”

Resiliency is a trait that Tracy admires in others.

When asked who the one person she would love to have dinner with is, she chose Melanie Perkins, the CEO of popular design tool Canva. Perkins was initially turned down by multiple venture capitalists when pitching her brand – which is now worth over 26 billion dollars. Tracy would love to pick her brain about pushing through in a difficult situation and ultimately succeeding - especially as a woman.

During the pandemic, professionals from all walks of life were tasked with adjusting their practices in order to continue serving their customers and keeping business afloat. Tracy commented that while it wasn’t always easy, the way that fellow CPAs reacted to the situation was admirable: “Over the last two years, we really had to take a step back and reassess the situation and ask: Does the standards board need to make updates to regulations? We needed to act fast because our clients were being affected. In this industry, we have learned to always expect the unexpected.”

When asked about what traits are necessary to succeed in the CPA profession, Tracy pointed to the importance of continuing education and an enthusiasm for life-long learning. 

“I think that one of the most important qualities for any CPA is the desire to continuously learn. We work in an industry that is prone to consistent change – whether it be regarding updates to regulations and standards, shifts in technology and how it affects the work that we do, or the environment that we are working in, this industry is never the same for very long. In order to provide the most value and most accurate service for your company and to your clients, you need to always be on top of these changes.”

Being adaptable in an ever-changing landscape and continuing to meet the needs of your professional partners is without a doubt critical in this industry. But there is one more quality that Tracy believes is key to success for any CPA.

“I think being fulfilled by the work that you do isn’t talked about enough. If you are fulfilled in your role, you are going to be able to perform to the best of your ability.”

Finding your niche within the world of accounting isn’t likely to happen overnight, but it is important to start exploring the different options early. Tracy believes it is a smart move for young CPAs to start thinking about the long-term sooner rather than later in order to get on the track towards pursuing their calling. There are endless career options within the CPA designation, and it’s vital to take time to figure out what appeals to you the most and to find that all-important professional freedom.

“When I was working with several different clients within a range of industries, it was somewhat of a challenge to find fulfillment, because I wasn’t exactly sure what path I wanted to pursue. But after gaining more experience and finding out exactly what industry I wanted to work in, I was able to find true career fulfillment.” And Tracy has found that fulfillment as Manager of the Chief Accountant’s Department at TD, an impressive achievement for one of our rising stars in the profession. We are excited to see where the CPA designation takes Tracy next!

Ontario’s 100,000 CPAs are: driving business decisions – 5% c-suite, 12% executive, 13% accountant/senior accountant/analyst, 15% management. Shaping industries across the province: 19% professional service firms, 19% finance and insurance, 10% public administration, 6% manufacturing, 6% educational services. CPAs for life: 21 years old youngest members, 94 years old oldest active member, 70 years longest tenure.