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I received my letter from CGA-Ontario (Certified General Accountants of Ontario) this past January congratulating me on achieving my long sought after goal – of becoming a designated accountant. It’s kind of funny, I started this whole path back in mid 1996 when I was deciding what to do with my life. I had graduated the year before from university an undergraduate degree in History & Russian Literature – I was well read, but no clear marketable skills. I couldn’t afford to go back for graduate school and under the terms of OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Plan – aka Student Loan) I was ineligible – my parents’ house was worth too much. On a tangent here – OSAP, ridiculously, takes into consideration the market value of the primary residence of the parents; my parents had bought their 3-storey detached victorian in the late 70s when the area was a little depressed – move forward 15 years later and the house was worth a lot of money due to be in a desirable location in the city centre of Toronto and the fact that the house was huge. Didn’t matter that we were a single income family (mom worked under the table as a cleaning lady) but that house clinched it for me, it was worth too much though if you took that house and plopped it into Timmins Ontario that family would qualify for OSAP.

Anywho, I couldn’t go back to school for further education. I started working full-time and by mid-1996 I was a bookstore clerk at DeVry which at the time had a Toronto campus. I was bored, to say the least, and realised that my life would be just full of dead-end no brainer jobs unless I improved my marketability. All through uni I worked at a credit union as a part-time teller, and I was good at it. I decided that I would explore my options and discussed with some of the business instructors some of the different avenues I could explore. Going for a CA designation would require me to go back to university, couldn’t do that. Then it was a toss up between the CGA and CMA programmes of study. I don’t play well with others when my academic success is on the line, and the CMA programme stresses group work for assignments. CGA is very much independent studying, which I could live with. And there I was, enrolling for my first CGA course (Economics) for December 1996.

Flash back a decade later and I had finally finished all my courses. All that lacked was the work experience. To get the designation one has to have a certain level of academic excellence – in this case, passing the courses, which trust me is not easy.. though I didn’t have the highest grades I did pass each course (17 of them) on my first attempt, which is extremely rare…this meant that I was able to assimilate and understand statistical analysis, economics, financial accounting, management accounting, cost accounting, theory, auditing, taxation, business law, and finance. I finally got the required documentation from a former employer and submitted that for consideration by the Board of Governors and viola! I passed!

So while I am a CGA, technically I have not been accepted into the membership until I swear my oath before the Association on November 8th. I take my oath then to uphold the Ethical Standards of the CGA. On October 16th my local chapter – Toronto – is hosting an informal cocktail party to welcome me and others as full-fledged members.

I am usually not thrilled with the idea of cocktail parties and the whole schmoozing thing. But I am looking forward to this. I worked damn hard to get this designation and I am extremely proud of myself. Many of the people I started out with in my first economics tutorial didn’t survive past their first year. It’s a hard programme to stick to, as it is very long and drawn out. A lot of work needs to be put into it – weekly assignments which can take 5-8 hours to complete and 20-30 hours of prep work for the assignments. The assignments only qualify one to write the exams, which are do-or-die. Many a relationship has crumbled due to the stresses of the programme. I have persevered and I am proud.