CPAs can be found in every industry, being experts at more than numbers – and they’re great with those, too.
Every month, CPA Manitoba spotlights the diverse and dedicated professionals that prove CPA is more than a designation.
Some of the earliest memories for Erin Sparrow, CPA, are of moving back and forth between Saskatchewan and Manitoba as her father’s career in finance grew. The family eventually settled in Winnipeg when she was seven, but little did she know, as her father went on to receive his accounting designation in 2008, that she would receive hers a decade later.
After graduating from Dakota Collegiate, she attended the University of Manitoba (U of M) with an open mind towards her future career.
“I originally thought I would major in Computer Science, but when I realized the courses I liked were finance and accounting related, I decided to pivot in that direction.” In 2014, she graduated from the Asper School of Business with a Bachelor of Commerce Honours degree, majoring in finance and accounting.
“During my time at Asper, I worked with Acumen Corporate Development as a Financial Analyst through Asper’s Co-operative Education Program. After I graduated, I continued working there to build on the skill set I developed in university.”
In 2015, she accepted a position as Staff Accountant at KPMG to pursue her CPA designation.
“From talking to current CPAs about the designation and all of the doors it can open for someone, I knew that it was what I wanted in my life to help me build the skills I needed to be successful in my career.”
Sparrow needed to complete some pre-requisite requirements before she could be admitted into the CPA PEP. She enrolled in preparatory courses through the CPA Western School of Business (CPAWSB), which is a common first step for many individuals pursuing the designation.
“The preparatory courses gave me a sense of what to anticipate in the CPA PEP. I became familiar with the School’s structure of deadlines and expectations which helped me start the program on the right foot.”
A highlight for Sparrow, as she worked through CPA PEP, was sharpening her skills through the program’s case-based assignments. “I found the module content was engaging because it was up to date and more case-based that I could directly apply the skills I was learning in the program to my position. Not only does the CPA PEP teach you breadth of knowledge that will help in your future career, but it encourages growth by helping you improve before you apply your training to real-life cases.”
Sparrow began preparing for the Common Final Examination (CFE) during the summer of 2018. Fortunately, she was able to study with some of her co-workers at KPMG. “I was very fortunate to have a support system at my workplace because we could constantly bounce ideas off one another, mark each other’s cases and provide emotional support during some stressful times. It created a sense of comradery because we were all going through it together. That summer brought us closer and I’m really thankful for the experience.”
Sparrow wrote the CFE in September 2018 and didn’t have to wait as long as she thought to find out the result.
“I received a call before the CFE marks day release that not only had I passed, but I had been named to the National Honour Roll, which acknowledges the top one percent of successful writers in the country. It was a humbling experience and I was excited to find out later that the rest of my study group had successfully passed the CFE as well.”
In December 2018, Sparrow was admitted to membership as a CPA upon successful completion of practical experience requirements. On February 9, 2019, she walked across the stage at the 2019 CPA Manitoba Convocation as a CPA.
“Being able to celebrate convocation with my husband, family and study group was so much fun and made all the long nights of studying worth it. I was so proud to see all the graduates receive their certificates because I knew how much time, effort and energy they put into getting to this day.”
In her position as Senior Accountant, Sparrow primarily works with her team in providing auditing services to a variety of clients in the public, private and non-profit sectors. She is also the point of reference for coordinating with clients and senior-level management on behalf of her team.
"I received a call before the CFE marks day release that not only had I passed, but I had been named to the National Honour Roll, which acknowledges the top one percent of successful writers in the country."
“My position is the best of both worlds because it enables me to work on high level research, analysis and auditing while still allowing me to communicate with clients and my team. No two days are ever the same and I really enjoy having a job where I’m able to make an impact in so many ways,” says Sparrow.
She advises those considering the designation of the positive experience that awaits them – both as a CPA candidate and a professional accountant.
“Working through the CPA PEP will help you grow in so many ways because the soft skills you learn are going to apply to any path you want to go. It’s far more than just learning technical content, you’ll learn how to ask the right questions, think logically through difficult cases and communicate effectively within any team. The late nights and early mornings working towards becoming a CPA will be worth it."