Early in their careers, these CPAs are impacting diverse areas

By Leah Giesbrecht
Mar 12, 2024
Early in their careers, these CPAs are impacting diverse areas
Photo credit: oatawa/iStock/Getty Images

CPABC is proud to celebrate its 2023 Early Achievement award recipients, Shailene Caparas, Aaron Cheung, Linda Christie, Bryce Davis, Amy Duncan, Zahra Kolia, Jason Lum, and Brent Wolfe! These CPAs have demonstrated an exciting variety of professional achievements and different leadership styles, and made important contributions to the visibility of the profession and via their community volunteerism.

We caught up with four of them to learn a bit more about what drives them and where they choose to focus their skills and energy.

Leading in non-traditional areas like ESG

“CPAs have so many skills to offer to non-traditional roles, particularly when it comes to ESG,” says Zahra Kolia, CPA, CA (SA), vice-president of finance at Copperleaf Technologies Inc, an enterprise decision analytics software provider located in Vancouver.

As chair of Copperleaf’s ESG Steering Committee, Zahra played a key role in aligning the company with ESG-related business practices including the publishing of its inaugural ESG report.

“CPAs can help companies produce reliable and transparent reports that reflect their ESG journey,” she continues. “But I think CPAs can do a whole lot more than that. At its core, ESG is about running a business in a sustainable way by making decisions that consider the long-term success of all stakeholders, not just shareholders. CPAs have skills on that front; we make good decisions, we have strong business acumen, and we have ethical judgment.”

She notes that “thinking about ESG and taking ESG action is fundamental to being a good business leader. CPAs are very well positioned to take that action, to accelerate that action, and to help their organizations work on their ESG initiatives.”

Providing the skills to navigate complexity

A partner at Deloitte’s Vancouver office, Jason Lum, CPA, is known for providing excellent client service, including as an auditor and advisor for large and complex clients with the firm.

Key to achieving this has been a dedication to expanding his expertise and taking a big-picture view. “Working for large and complex clients, we develop a type of skillset,” he notes. “We need to understand information. We need to understand technology. We need to understand data. When we work with clients like this, we need to understand how to navigate that complexity and the challenges of working with teams or clients that might work in silos.”

He continues, “As CPAs, we have to come in and use our skillset to apply a broader lens and be able to help clients navigate through their processes, help them identify risks, and find solutions to make them a better business.”

Giving back locally and internationally

The director of finance for the Anglican Church of Canada’s Diocese of New Westminster, Shailene Caparas, CPA, CGA, makes a point of giving back with several local charities.

She notes, “CPAs bring in financial expertise and strategic thinking around the various aspects of a charity's operations. I think it's important for us to give back to the community because we have the skills that are needed for these organizations to maintain their charitable status, run effectively, and manage their operations.”

She is also the founder, director, and main fundraiser for SeedCare International Ministries, a charity that supports marginalized communities globally. “SeedCare works in rural communities in the Philippines to provide basic needs like rice, shelter, and clothing, as well as education,” she explains. “Over the years, SeedCare has supported not only people in the Philippines, but also volunteer workers in Thailand, Mongolia, Laos, Nepal, Uganda, Malawi, and an orphanage in Honduras.”

Sharing the value in a CPA career path

A partner at MNP in Vancouver, Brent Wolfe, CPA, is the firm’s national director of public companies, developing and leading a team of 325-plus members. He also serves as a local people leader, which includes participating in campus recruitment to promote MNP’s brand and the CPA profession.

“We spend a lot of time talking to students about how dynamic the role of a CPA is and how it’s changed,” he says. “We like to share the different things that you can do with the designation and how valuable that foundation and public practice can be.”

When asked about a piece of advice he would give to aspiring CPAs, Brent emphasizes the importance of pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. “People assume that I’m naturally a public speaker or very outgoing,” he notes. “But I grew up a very shy kid, so in my career, I made a very concerted effort to do things outside of my comfort zone when it came to public speaking and networking. Eventually, believe it or not, you learn how to do these things and how to really enjoy them.”

Do you know a fellow CPA who deserves to be nominated for an Early Achievement Award? Check out the award criteria and submit your nomination today.

All photos in this article courtesy of Ken Kallberg.

Leah Giesbrecht is a communications specialist at CPABC.

In Other News