Finding her Path Towards the CPA Designation

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. 

Everything I've done and where I've ended up has all stemmed from being involved in different groups. This has allowed me to give back to my community, which has always been very important to me.

For CPA candidate Stephanie Kalo, being involved in many different activities was a way to support her community and find herself on the path to becoming a CPA.

“Everything I've done and where I've ended up has all stemmed from being involved in different groups. This has allowed me to give back to my community, which has always been very important to me. Back in high school, my goal was really to use that time to get experience with as many different people as I could to try out as many different fields and test the waters,” explained Kalo.

Those fields included health, science and business.

“In high school, I partnered with Canadian Blood Services and helped them plan many stem cell swabbing events across the city so that we could increase the stem cell registry, which can help treat over 80 diseases and disorders. I also founded the Winnipeg chapter for the Foundation of Students Science and Technology, which is all about empowering youth to get involved with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.),” said Kalo. “Additionally, I got to travel and compete internationally on the Canadian Debate and Public Speaking team.”

At the time, her plan was to pursue a career in medicine after doing so much work in the STEM field, but, one of her high school teachers encouraged her to explore the business field.

“I knew instantly that it was the right fit for me and ever since, I've just been so grateful to that teacher because it's really opened my eyes to all the different opportunities, such as being a CPA, for example,” Kalo said with a smile.

She applied and was accepted at the University of Manitoba but, didn’t know what business program she wanted to major in or even the different options that were available. Kalo figured the best way to find out was to get involved and meet as many people as possible. So, she ran for student council.

“In my first month at university, I ran and then was elected as a First-year Representative for the Commerce Students’ Association. That was great because it allowed me to join the student council and meet a lot of different people from different majors and backgrounds to learn what those opportunities were,” Kalo explained.

In her second year at Asper School of Business, Kalo signed up for a program called Take a Student to Eat (TASTE). The program matches university students with different business professionals to help them find interests and opportunities. It was through TASTE that she was paired with CPAs working at KPMG.

“Honestly, I didn't know much or even anything about accounting or being a CPA. But, partners at KPMG, Rob Kowalchuk, CPA, CA and Scott Sissons, CPA, CA met me through the program and really opened my eyes to what a career as a CPA could look like and all the opportunities that are available,” she said. “Clearly, they were convincing enough, because right after that I decided to try out a summer work term at KPMG and I've returned to KPMG every summer since. That's how I got started on the path to wanting to become a CPA.”

During her time in the Commerce Students’ Association, Kalo has risen from First-year Representative all the way to President in her almost four-year tenure.

“The role of President is always a challenging one because you're representing 1,800 business students in both the local and national business community, but this year it looked very different because of the impact of COVID-19. It began right as my presidency started, so I basically had to reinvent the rules from scratch,” explained Kalo. “As a business student, I think it was probably the most valuable experience I ever could have had, having to navigate the student association through the COVID-19 pandemic. There wasn't really an opportunity for me to think about what could have been, I just had to jump in and make sure we were able to support students more than ever.”

Currently, Kalo is serving the Commerce Students Association as the Manager of Corporate Relations. In this role, she helps connect the Winnipeg business community and the Asper student body.

“The reason I decided to take on this role is because Winnipeg is so special. The Commerce Students’ Association has such a strong connection with the local business community, which is what sets it apart from so many other business student associations. When I was President, I got to meet business students from across the country regularly, and they were always amazed at how strong our relationship with the business community is,” explained Kalo. “It’s a big selling point for Winnipeg.”

One of her biggest and most rewarding projects was the design and implementation of an equity, diversity and inclusion program.

“One thing that's always been very important to me is equity, diversity and inclusion. So, back in high school I organized a series of local human rights conferences that took place all around the city, and I really wanted to continue with that sort of initiative in university. This year during my presidency, one of my priorities was working to make the Asper School of Business and the University of Manitoba as a whole, a more safe, inclusive and equitable place for students,” Kalo stated.

I worked with Asper students and faculty members and we formed an EDI task force to figure out how we could make things more inclusive and more equitable, and then I also introduced initiatives with the help of the Commerce Students’ Association.” “While the majority of my presidency was conducted remotely, this is something that will leave an impact on the Asper school and students for years to come.”

In addition to her Commerce Students’ Association roles, Kalo was also involved with JDC West as a Co-Chair and former Competitor.

JDCW is the largest and most prestigious business competition in Western Canada and brings together over 650 delegates from twelve of the top post-secondary schools in Canada. Over the course of three days, students compete in a series of academic, athletic, debate, and social competitions.

“I was on the debate team for two years, placing third in the competition in my final year. After having such a positive experience as a delegate, I thought it would be cool to put in a bid to host the competition. JDC West has never actually been held anywhere in Manitoba and I wanted to help bring it here for the first time in the competitions 17-year history,” said Kalo. “Obviously, COVID-19 pandemic threw everything into a mix, and we had to shift from bringing it to Winnipeg for the first time, to hosting the first ever virtual JDC West competition. It was a big undertaking, with over 269 zoom calls that weekend alone, but it turned out to be a huge success.”

Although the process wasn’t what we initially envisioned, Kalo has signed on once again as Co-Chair in hopes of bringing JDC West to Winnipeg.

“The competition will start in January 2022 and I look forward to completing the goal I had of showcasing everything our city and Asper school has to offer,” she said with a smile.

“During my two terms as co-chair, I've had the privilege of managing two teams of 40 incredible individual Organizing Committee members, many of whom are CPA's themselves. Through my involvement with extracurriculars like JDC West, all of the people I’ve met who are CPA’s have shown me the calibre of people who obtain this designation and have made me want to be part of that group.”

For someone who just recently found their way on the path to becoming a CPA, Kalo has insightful advice for others looking to pursue the CPA designation.

“Like I said earlier, my original plan was medicine. But the biggest thing I learned is that CPAs can be all types of people. I had the stereotypical image in my head of what a CPA was, someone sitting alone in a room crunching numbers all day, but I was wrong. I consider myself a people person, and I thrive off of social interaction. What I've learned is that a good CPA has the ability to create relationships with clients and team members. This career has endless opportunities and paths and it’s not just one kind of person that can be a CPA. Everyone has something to bring to the profession,” Kalo reflected.