When one thinks of accounting, there are often generalizations that come along with the career path.
But accountants actually work in all kinds of roles — operating as a businesses’ most intrinsic function.
Kamana Bikadi — an accomplished Indigenous woman from the Lil’wat Nation who is passionate about Indigenous education — says that the skills you learn as a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) are far-reaching.
“You will learn to become adaptable, to see the bigger picture, while also managing intricate operational accounting functions. As everyone says, it’s not just sitting in the back office crunching numbers, you will support and influence decisions impacting the community, [you will work on] long-term and short-term strategies, and drive a lot of positive change, not only in terms of the dollars and cents but as a whole.”
For Bikadi, completing her CPA designation is ultimately what led her to the career of her dreams. From growing up in the Lil’wat Nation to becoming a trust officer with the First Nations Bank (FNBC) and executive director of the Chief Joe Mathias BC Aboriginal Scholarship fund, she has had a non-stop journey to professional success.
Bikadi left her home of Mount Currie in 2012 to pursue post-secondary education. She knew she had always had an interest in business organizations and what went into making them successful.
With this awareness, she enrolled in a one-year business certificate program at Capilano University, which provided a breadth of different courses. “That’s when I discovered that I did enjoy accounting,” Bikadi tells Daily Hive. She ran with it and expanded her studies into a four-year degree.
All the while, Bikadi was also completing multiple internships with Deloitte Vancouver, prior to knowing she would eventually pursue a CPA designation.
“What inspired me was working with all those wonderful people in the network of CPAs that I got to be involved with, and observing and admiring the impact each one of them had on their communities and their clients,” says Bikadi. “I knew that my long-term interests aligned, and so I enrolled in the CPA program in 2017.”
But it wasn’t easy for Bikadi. Not only as a woman but as an Indigenous person as well, she has had to conquer systemic hurdles and adversities that are paved deeply within the road to success.
“In addition to that, there aren’t a lot of Indigenous CPAs from my community, which may be a consequence of residential schools and day schools that all of our families were subjected to,” she explains to Daily Hive. “So having made it through the program and becoming designated seems to surprise people.”
As an Indigenous woman, Bikadi approaches her work in a way that is unique to her experiences. Her driving force? Contributing to Indigenous prosperity.
“The hurdles and challenges definitely gave me quite a perspective, and I think it strengthened my journey and approach because I am passionate about seeing my community and all Indigenous communities thrive,” she says. “By being present [and] resourceful towards the path of that prosperity, not only for myself and my nation but all communities across the country, we work together to overcome [the] adversity that’s been subjected on Indigenous people.”
Bikadi’s determination led her through university and her CPA program to a full-time position at Deloitte. Then in October of 2020, it led to her current position as a trust officer with First Nations Bank of Canada’s wholly owned trust company, FNB Trust.
First Nations Bank of Canada (FNBC) is a Schedule 1 Chartered Bank that is widely held by over 83 Indigenous government and organization shareholders. The trust company has 100% Indigenous employees and provides trust administration services to only Indigenous clients. FNBC and FNB Trust focus on helping Indigenous people have a brighter future and better quality of life by overcoming financial barriers.
She credits her CPA designation to providing her with a breadth of knowledge, preparing her for the demanding role.
As a trust officer, Bikadi works with a team of like-minded, passionate people who work closely with Indigenous leadership across the country. She works on setting up the community trusts arising from various claims, settlements, or economic developments — and grows funds through projects that benefit the community as a whole.
“We work closely with the leadership to ensure that the long-term goals of the nations are met towards the path of autonomy and self-governance, and everything that is equally fulfilling,” says Bikadi. “So it’s all kinds of different tasks on a daily basis from setting it up to compliance with their agreements to working with many different specialists. It’s challenging but deeply fulfilling.”
She also holds the title of the executive director of the Chief Joe Mathias BC Aboriginal Scholarship fund, the same organization that helped her through school. The fund, which is the legacy of late Squamish Nation leader Chief Joe Mathias entails overseeing what Bikadi refers to as a “full cycle of operations.”
The hands-on program offers well-rounded support for students that goes beyond monetary aid. The board of directors oversees everything from administration to preparing the financials and annual brochures to supporting the students on a personal level by helping them complete their applications.
“It’s important to me because I was supported by the scholarship fund when I was going through university as well as several other things, which I’m grateful for — and the resources that they provided me at the time made a huge impact on my success because I had moved away from my community,” says Bikadi.
“Now, being on the other side and knowing firsthand the influence that scholarships can have on somebody who’s had to move away as I did, especially [to a] city, can be overwhelming,” she says.
Completing her CPA designation was a major stepping stone on Bikadi’s path to a position where she now gives back to her community. On a day-to-day basis, she is doing work she loves while contributing to a bigger picture that she is passionate about.
To learn more about getting your CPA designation, visit the CPABC website.
Originally posted by Daily Hive.