Today's blog feature is our first installment of "CPA Candidate Stories." Over the summer months, we will be focusing on several different CPA Candidates (or future candidates) from diverse backgrounds and at different stages in their accounting careers. We hope you enjoy reading about their individual journeys to the CPA Exam. 

student-standing-next-to-buildingJames Nguyen

For a lot of people, deciding to pursue their CPA license is a pretty big deal. A lot of people think that it’s mainly because of the Exam, which in truth, is a large part of it—but a large part about it is also all the responsibility that goes into it. As Ben Parker would say, with great power comes great responsibility. I know that a lot of perks come with this career choice, but I also want to talk about how my decision to become a CPA extends beyond just the money and prestige. But before I dive into all that, I guess a good place to start would be to tell you a little bit about myself.

As a kid, I was always good with numbers. My mom tells me that my first words were numbers, and that I learned how to count from 1-10 before I learned my ABCs. Which may be the case for most 1 ½ year olds, but I guess she likes to place emphasis on how I inherited her genes since she’s pretty good with numbers herself.

Growing up, I was the oldest of 3 kids. As the biggest brother to Jeremy and Josephine (yeah, we had one of those parents that thought it would be cute to name their kids with alliteration…let’s skip over the aunts and uncles getting our names mixed up during every family get together ever). I always felt like there was a lot of pressure placed on me to be a good role model to my siblings and received the brunt of my parents’ expectations. I was always the first to reach milestones in life, and they looked up to me to see what they should be doing to follow in my footsteps. Don’t get me wrong—it’s not that I wanted to go out and do horrifically adolescent things (although, let’s be realistic—I did them unconsciously as most 15 and 17 year olds do). It’s just that when I made some bad judgment calls, I wasn’t the only one who learned from them.

We were a middle class family—still are. My parents both emigrated from Vietnam during the war, my mom by airplane and my dad by boat. They met at a refugee camp in San Diego. Amidst the tents filled with scared, confused, and weary Vietnamese refugees, my dad found a guitar and began to sing Vietnamese folk songs from tent to tent to ease the tension. Upon arriving at my mom’s tent, he said it was love at first sight. And, well, the rest is history.

From elementary school throughout high school, my aptitude for numbers was always my strength. I took all the higher level math classes and did well, which affected my high performance in my science classes too. I also enjoyed doing more practical things rather than just finishing assigned homework pages. I helped out my younger siblings all the time whenever they were struggling with any of their own math homework. I was essentially their tutor…minus the pay and respect!

But when I wasn’t busy doing school stuff, I was into what every other teenager was into. I had a fixie bike, owned an X-Box, waited in line for the latest Call of Duty release, hung out with friends, hosted house parties when my parents were out of town (hopefully mom and dad aren’t reading this…hah!), finding ways to get the new iPhone, filtering all my photos on Instagram, and occasionally thought about the future. That is, until senior year in high school rolled around and I realized I needed to decide what I wanted to major in and what colleges I should be applying to. Not to mention that added pressure from family and friends all asking what the next move was going to be.

And, for a lot of you out there who are my age, or even those who remember what it’s like to be my age, the answer isn’t always cut and dry. There were many parts of me pulling me into different directions regarding majors, schools, states, and cities that I wanted to live in and experience. Is snow in the East Coast really portrayed accurately in “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York City”? What are business economic majors like? Who’s going to do my laundry? (Just kidding on that last one. Kind of.) I knew I wanted to use my aptitude for numbers to my advantage, but there were a lot of majors that could play into this scenario. Although I was excited for the future, I was also pretty nervous the sooner it approached. What was the next move going to be? 

Find out what I decided to do in next Friday’s blog post!