Meet our guest contributor, Jevonne Shepherd! She started studying for the CPA Exam at age 43, overcoming challenges on a journey that might have caused others to throw in the towel. After passing the CPA Exam, she secured a position as a Senior Consultant within the Strategy & Operations group at Deloitte. We can safely say she has other big things ahead!
See how Jevonne plans to tap into her impressive credentials (CPA, CMA, CIA, plus MBA!) in her quest to become a CFO—and how she is helping others along the way. Take it away, Jevonne…
In September, I received a passing score on Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR), which signified the end of a long journey. FAR was my most difficult section, and I continued studying after I had taken it because, if unsuccessful, my Auditing & Attestation (AUD) and Regulation (REG) scores would have expired. Because of the score hold, I would have had to retake three exams.
Passing the CPA Exam was the actualization of an accomplishment I had long hoped for.
I began my journey to become a CPA at 43 years old. Admittedly, I was late in the game and faced many challenges. I was drawn to accounting as I worked my way through UCLA as the administrator of a nonprofit organization, where I performed payroll and other functions. Later, I took the H&R Block tax preparation course, became a tax professional, and taught income tax courses in the off season for several years.
I have an affinity for numbers and interpreting rules and regulations, and accounting combines these two elements. Though I was taught that accounting is the “language of business,” I refer to accounting as “law with numbers.”
I hoped to become a CPA after college, but thought it was out of my reach. In March 2013, two events propelled me down the path to becoming a CPA. First, I watched Sheryl Sandberg on 60 Minutes and immediately bought her book. Then, one month later, I was downsized from the company from which I thought I would someday retire. I was offered severance tuition reimbursement and “leaned in” by using those funds to enroll in the UCLA Extension Accounting Certificate Program.
I finished the Accounting Certificate in just over a year. I knew that CPA licensure would take longer because of the experience requirement, so I studied for the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential. CMAs focus more on cost, managerial, and non-GAAP accounting to assist in internal decision making, which interests me.
Upon passing that exam, I explored CPA prep courses to begin studying for this rigorous exam. A colleague recommended Gleim to begin my CPA test prep. But my story does not end here. It took three years to pass the CPA Exam.
Many things happened during this time that could have made me quit studying:
I almost gave up. I rationalized that having the CMA and MBA was good enough. But when you are going through a tremendous undertaking, people support you and do not want you to quit. My biggest supporter was my mother.
I was driving to work the day I decided to quit. That night, I was going home to eat a pint of ice cream and binge-watch Game of Thrones. I called my mother to inform her I was giving up. She said, “You’ve never met a test you couldn’t pass,” and asked me if I had done everything I could to pass the CPA Exam before I quit.
I told her I had not and kept studying.
I felt that I had a responsibility to pay back everyone who encouraged me during this journey by not giving up and by passing the CPA Exam. I continually choose to pay forward the encouragement I received by using my experience to inspire others along their CPA journey. I have been fortunate to receive the following scholarships along the way:
When I finally passed the CPA Exam, I excitedly posted a three-sentence entry on LinkedIn that received over 100,000 views. Many people reached out to me with congratulations and so many more inquired, and still inquire, about which test prep I used and what I recommend for passing the exam. I give recommendations based on their needs and share what I learned along the way.
Passing the CPA Exam is more than just practicing on test prep software. It involves speed, accuracy, confidence, endurance and perseverance. I tell people that completing CPA practice exams in a quiet place is entirely different from a real-world testing center, which can sometimes feel like public transit with people sneezing, coughing, sighing, pounding on the keyboard, walking around, and other distractions. Heaven forbid, one schedules an afternoon exam and testing center staff begin cleaning around you with Lysol.
As time went on, I realized there was a gap in my learning that necessitated a retake of FAR. I opened my textbooks and completed homework from my intermediate and advanced accounting classes, starting each from Chapter 1.
I began this journey five and a half years ago, believing that obtaining a CPA would make me a more marketable and qualified candidate in my quest to become a CFO. Concurrently, I obtained an MBA and CMA and CIA certifications. I encourage CPA licensing and CMA certification by introducing women of color to a career in finance and accounting and by mentoring younger women in career navigation.
I demonstrate through my own example that it is imperative to continually improve and to set achievable personal, educational, and career goals. I have impacted others along their respective journeys. I am beyond thrilled to begin a new journey with Deloitte as a Senior Consultant within the Strategy & Operations group. And I will be able to use my experience and education in this role as an experienced hire.
My advice to those studying for the CPA Exam is to never give up, to overlearn the material for each section, to do 100% of the test prep no matter which prep course you use, and to be very kind to yourself during your journey.
Did I mention to never give up?
Jevonne Shepherd, MBA, CMA, CIA, holds a BA from UCLA and professional certificates from UCLA Extension in Accounting, Business and Project Management. She holds an MBA from California State University, Northridge. Jevonne has passed the CPA Exam and satisfied the educational requirements for CPA licensure. She expects to complete the experience requirement sometime during her career with Deloitte. Jevonne has varied industry experience in Financial Analysis, Compliance Consulting, Process Improvement, Regulatory Implementation, and Project Management.