CPA – PEP, CFE & PERT

For 2021, I decided to talk about my CPA journey first because passing the Sep 2021 CFE was definitely one of the highlights of the year. Even though my CPA PEP journey technically only started in Sep 2019, it actually began a lot earlier than that.

After I graduated from UBC with a bachelors in Psychology, the only thing I knew for certain was that I did not want to pursue a career in that field. So, I worked a couple of part-time jobs before enrolling into a local college for the CPA pre-requisites. That part of the journey took me two years of part-time school while working full-time. There must have been a quicker way to obtain my designation, but I don’t regret taking the time I needed to find my next step. I believe the time I took contributed greatly to my determination when it came to getting my CPA designation.

This year, I finished my last PEP elective Performance Management in March. Then, I started Capstone 1 in May and did the group presentation in July. Two weeks later, Capstone 2 began and it concluded just before CFE in September. I wrote the 3-day CFE in the middle of September and submitted a PERT via EVR report while I was waiting for my CFE results. A week before my CFE result was released, I got my PERT review back and found out I got all of my technical & enabling levels except for 1 enabling. That was certainly something I hoped for but was unsure I would get (unlike CFE, I was sure I passed for a-month-and-a-half until I lost my mind a little that same week). I am not going to lie and tell you I did not hope for a call telling me I got on Honour Roll, however, I quickly got over that. I was proud of how I tried my best with no regrets at all. My CFE prep was as stress-free as possible (I did experience burn-out not longer before CFE) and I attribute that largely to starting early, planning and adjusting my plan as I went.

As of now, I just need several more months of experience before submitting for my PERT completion review. If all goes well, I will be designated in early 2022. When I started the journey back in 2017, I promised myself I will get designated before I turn 30. I am happy to report that even with the unexpected difficulty with PERT, I am on track!

Career

Two months before CFE, the Revenue Accountant position opened up on my team. Initially, I was hesitant about applying as I wasn’t sure I can handle both CFE prep and a challenging new role. Luckily, my boss asked if I was interested which gave me the push I needed. I had been working with the team for 10 months at that point and had no concerns about the support I will get during the transition. I got the role and training started not long after that. It was a lateral move meaning I did not get a raise with that. However, what I got was the valuable experience that contributed greatly to me getting most of my level 2s for technical competencies for PERT.

The first month-end on my own was tough and finishing the second month-end after the first part of my CFE leave was not a walk in the park either. However, I was proud of myself for making it. I made sure I was as focused and determined as I could be so I did not have to sacrifice either.

Just before the year was over, I had a talk with my manager about my career plan. Early in my career, I wasn’t always clear on what I wanted and vocal about my requests. However, I grew and learned a lot in the last few years. I realized as much as your mentor or managers are willing to help (and not all of them do), they can only help so much if you did not fight for yourself. So, 2021 was a year of being clear about what I wanted and being strategic about how to get there. I need to remind myself constantly that it is important to not wait around and let opportunities pass by.

Financial

2021 was an expensive year for us even though we barely traveled. We upsized due to both of us working from home, started (and Eric almost finished) Invisalign and more. Despite all that, our combined net worth still went up significantly this year thanks to the ever-rising real estate market and a bullish stock market.

Obviously, we are blessed to be in the market at the right time. However, in the long run, I believe spending less than what we make is still the safest way to grow our net worth. The real estate and stock market are out of our control but our spending habits are not. This year, we continued to largely live the way we want to without compromising significantly. But that does not mean we got everything we dreamed of (and I dream big in certain areas). Being as sensitive about numbers as I am, I am always acutely aware of what we can and cannot afford. Getting everything on our wish list or not, at the end of the day, we are happy. Having materialistic possession can be nice but it simply is not the only way to happiness.

Learning & Development

Japanese

I finally started learning Japanese in January after talking about doing it for years. I would tell myself I needed to learn Japanese after every Japan trip and never took action. This year was finally the year.

I learned both Hiragana & Katakana (Japanese alphabets) using an app called Duolingo. After that, I started learning Kanji. For 6 months, I spent about 5 minutes a day learning different vocabularies. However, deep down I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere. I wasn’t looking forward to the short lesson every day even though it took only 5 minutes. My Japanese did not improve even after spending months on it. I knew this because Eric, who took Japanese in high school, still knew more than I did towards the end. I gave up officially sometime in September/October. It was a bummer because I really wanted to know the language as I love Japan. In fact, as soon as the pandemic is behind us, Eric and I are thinking of spending a full month in Japan. I am not giving up on Japanese forever. I simply decided if I was to do it again, I best learn it in a structured setting instead (e.g., in-person or online lesson).

Python

I started learning Python as early as February but I did not get far then. I was experimenting with different free resources online with minimal success. Once CFE prep picked up, I put Python in the back burner. Once CFE was over, I decided to give my full attention to Python again. On jenthinks, I started a Python for Finance section and wrote several posts about my journey so far. The life-changing moment came when I got my first paid Python resource: Angela Yu’s 100 Days of Code Python Bootcamp. It was only $16 but it quickly turned out to be the best $16 I have spent academically. Angela’s course was well-designed and engaging. I already knew it was unlike any other Python resource I tried so far a handful of lessons in. At the time of writing this, I finished the first 15 days (beginners lessons) and moved on to lessons classified as Intermediate-level. As challenging as the lessons are, I find myself looking forward to them most days! Even though each day is meant to be finished in a day, I have been breaking them down into 2 to 3 days if required to allow myself time to absorb the materials and solve the problems without peeking into the solution.

The Python bootcamp has been an amazing and fun journey so far. I look forward to finishing it in 2022!

Relationships

Since I barely went into the office and in-person social events, my social circles mostly consisted of people I have known for years and new friends I made on Instagram (thanks to jenthinks). To my pleasant surprise, some of the people I met virtually actually turned out to be friends in real life. This concept (making friends online) was not new to me but still, it was a gift. As I got older, I have come to realize the importance of having few meaningful relationships over many meaningless relationships. This theme lasted the entire year: I focused my energy and time on people that mattered. As I enter my 30s, I highly doubt this will change.

Jenthinks

In 2020, I published 163 posts. In 2021, I published significantly less at 65 posts including this one. However, most of the 65 posts were CPA-related. After the success I had with my CPA content last year, I decided to focus on what the audience wanted. Also, since CFE was supposed to be a one-time event if all went well, I wanted to make sure I documented my process every step of the way. For months, I shared all the ups and downs. Based on the feedback I received, they did exactly what I wanted by helping many of you feel less alone. On result release day, the messages I received reaffirmed the meaning of doing it.

In terms of stats, jenthinks hit 10,000 monthly page views for the first time in July. Earlier this month, it broke the all-time record for daily page view at 883 views. I also made my first sale for my CFE guides not too long ago. If I am honest, I had hoped for jenthinks to grow more than that it had this year. I am not sure if it would have mattered if I published more posts. However, I recognized that CFE and PERT should have been and were indeed my priorities.

Also, with CPA PEP behind me, I am going to move away from PEP content. Now that I have a lot more spare time, I am hoping to be more strategic about growing jenthinks. The Python for Finance section will continue to grow as that is what I will spend a lot of time on next year. However, I also want to grow my social as I really enjoyed interreacting with the followers there. Right now, I don’t know exactly what my next 100 posts would be. However, I continue to enjoy what I do here and hopefully will continue for many years to come.

Conclusion

Overall, 2021 was an expensive but productive year for me. As my last year in my 20s, I felt that I lived up to the promises I made and expectations I had for myself. For the next 12 months, I hope to focus on my physical and mental health and leveling up as an accountant.

To 2022 and beyond 🥂

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