Halfway through high school, Sheena Murphy, Director, CPA Examination Review Board, found a new love: accounting. Once she made the decision that this was her chosen career path, she never veered from it, despite hitting a few roadblocks during her journey to becoming a CPA. For Murphy, the CPA title was an important goal to accomplish, no matter what was thrown her way, because it would show her proficiency in the field and help open many other doors. We recently interviewed Murphy to learn more about how she got to where she is today, how she conquered the CPA Exam, why this title is important to her, what she is doing now, and much more.

When did you first become interested in accounting?

In 11th grade, I took an introduction to accounting course where we received a case study packet that contained mock materials of items you would have if you were an accountant, such as voided checks, green bar ledgers, etc. I thought it was the neatest thing! I completed the case study, and ended up loving the course. So much so, it had me thinking about accounting as an option for a career. During high school, I was considering two paths for my career, teaching or accounting. So, I started to test out both of those paths. During my senior year, I worked at a bank and an elementary school, and unfortunately, the 1st graders were awful in the class I was helping with, so I knew at that point accounting was for me.

Why did you take the CPA Exam? Why was this important to you?

Once I made the decision in high school to study accounting, I never veered from that path. I majored in business and did my concentration in accounting. My professors were CPAs, and the college I chose to attend provided an automatic path to complete the required courses necessary for taking the CPA Exam. Since freshman year, I knew taking the CPA Exam was the path I wanted to take, and my school made it easy to make that happen.

Having the CPA title is important to me because “if you want to be the elite or the best in this profession, this is the title you need. It shows your proficiency in the field.”

Did you ever run into any roadblocks while embarking on the journey to become a CPA? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?

I ran into a few roadblocks during my journey to becoming a CPA. The first was my grandmother passed away during my senior year of college. My grandmother was like my mother, and it was a very big blow for me, so I stepped away from my original goal as far as a timeline for completing the CPA Exam. While many of my fellow classmates were interviewing with firms, I didn’t do any of that because I was still grieving. My focus was only on graduating college, and figuring it out from there.

Another roadblock I faced was receiving a few 74 scores on the CPA Exam, which was so discouraging when you think you are doing everything you need to do and you fail. To overcome this (and pass the Exam), I refused to allow myself to give up. I couldn’t just let it be. I lived and breathed the CPA Exam for 18 months, and it consumed everything. My advice for anyone in this situation is, “Whatever you are doing, do more. It’s a matter of are you putting everything in? If not, then why bother? Don’t let anyone stand in the way of achieving your goal.”

What would you say to those who are hesitant about becoming a CPA?

Most importantly, your available job options as a CPA. The title allows you to differentiate yourself from others in the job market. Also, your earning potential goes up exponentially with the CPA designation behind your name.

Looking back at the whole process of becoming a CPA, is there anything you would do differently now that you are licensed?

If I would do anything differently, I would have gotten my MBA and studied for the CPA Exam at the same time.

What is it like being a CPA and working at NASBA? What are your daily activities like/what are some upcoming projects you are working on?

In my current role, it is different than anything else I have ever done. Prior to receiving my CPA license, my first job working at NASBA was in the Finance Department, in a traditional accounting role. Now working at NASBA in the Examination Review Board role, I am responsible for reviewing the processes and procedures of AICPA, NASBA and Prometric that are related to the CPA Exam. Most of my role focuses on fostering relationships and building confidence around the CPA Examination processes.

Right now, we are focused on the 2017 review, and we are reviewing processes and strategies for NASBA, AICPA and Prometric on the CPA Exam. We look at the processes and report back with suggestions and/or issues that we found, and our final report is shared with the state boards to let them know they can rely on the CPA Exam.

Why are CPAs necessary in today’s world?

CPAs are necessary because we are problem solvers. Our training gives us a perspective that is different than most others. “Most people think CPAs are bean counters, but more than likely CPAs spend more time trying to fix processes and looking at why something went wrong than completing calculations.” So, our different view gives us value in the market and that’s why others should value us.

To connect with Sheena Murphy, find her on LinkedIn.

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