Step Up: Take a Walk in the Shoes of Three CPAs

Schellman & Co. Senior Manager Danny Manimbo, along with two other young accounting professionals, were interviewed by "New Accountant" magazine on how they found success in their careers by obtaining their CPA credentials. Read the full article below, on the "New Accountant" website, or download the full cover story.


Written by Brandon Osgood, AICPA

Want to launch your accounting career to new heights? Pursue the CPA.

Learn how three young professionals have found success in their careers with the CPA credential.

For over a century, the certified public accountant (CPA) license has been the “gold standard” for the accounting profession. It communicates to the public that CPAs are an elite group of accountants who can get the job done.

The CPA credential distinguishes professionals who have met extensive education and experience requirements and have passed all four parts of the Uniform CPA Examination®. It is no small feat to get a CPA license, which is why those who possess the credential are trusted by businesses, organizations, and the general public.

Whether you are an accounting student or a young professional, you’ve probably wondered if obtaining your CPA is a good idea. To help you, we interviewed three young CPAs, who shared their experiences with the CPA Exam process and how the credential has bolstered their careers.

As a senior manager in fraud, forensic, and litigation services at HORNE LLP in Ridgeland, Mississippi, Lori Liddell finds that every day is unique. Working with a wide variety of clients means she might embrace her inner “Sherlock Holmes” and track down evidence of fraud one day and may assign monetary value to a company the next. Liddell enjoys the diverse challenges, but the most exciting part is testifying as an expert in court.

 

It runs in the family

Growing up, Liddell always enjoyed numbers. During group projects in school, she’d volunteer to tackle financial-oriented tasks.

Liddell’s passion wasn’t unique in her family; her uncle was a successful CPA. His influence prompted Liddell to major in accounting in college and ultimately become a CPA.

 

Pushing through challenges to find success

When Liddell started her first semester of grad school, her uncle was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. This motivated her to pass the CPA Exam as quickly as possible, so she could share the moment with him.

She graduated with her master’s a year and a half later and immediately started studying. Within six months, she passed all four parts of the CPA Exam. One of Liddell’s fondest memories was calling her uncle about the good news.

“He was so proud of me and would talk about it all the time before his passing,” she said.

 

Owning your career

Over the past 13 years as an accountant, Liddell has learned several valuable lessons about being successful. The biggest lesson she learned — and one she often conveys — is to own your career.

“It involves figuring out what you like about accounting and researching job opportunities that combine your job interests with your passions,” she said. 

Angie Fidler, whose 12-year accounting career spans public accounting firms and nonprofit organizations, originally wanted to be a veterinarian.

When she took an accounting fundamentals course to help with her future veterinary clinic, Fidler realized her destiny was joining the accounting profession.

“I moved from the back of the room to the front over the course of the semester and became friends with my accounting professor. I eventually switched my major to accounting altogether,” said Fidler.

As she progressed through her college career, Fidler joined the AICPA as a free student-affiliate member and decided to pursue a CPA credential after graduation.

“One of my professors drilled me on the CPA’s return on investment. Specifically, a CPA makes over $1 million more [over a lifetime] compared to a non-CPA starting from the same point.”

Her decision was also influenced by knowing a CPA license will open doors.

“It’s prestigious. Having your CPA gives you a voice and a lot of credit to your experience and education — and it also says that you hold yourself to a higher ethical standard.”

 

Saving the world through accounting

Fidler joined a public accounting firm after graduating from college. But, after working with nonprofit clients at the firm, she knew she wanted to serve in the nonprofit world.

She eventually joined VillageReach, a nonprofit organization that works with governments to solve health care accessibility problems in low-resource communities around the world.

As controller, she provides financial insights about the successes, opportunities, and challenges VillageReach faces every day.

 

Going the distance

To those unsure of whether to take the CPA Exam, Fidler has a few words of encouragement.

“If you have already gone through school studying accounting, I don’t see any reason to not push yourself just a little bit extra,” she said. “It opens up so many more doors than not having a CPA.”

When Danny Manimbo arrived at college, he was interested in accounting, but never planned to enter the field. He was originally an international finance and marketing major and an accounting minor.

It wasn’t until Manimbo’s cost accounting professor pulled him aside that he made the switch.

“My professor said, ‘I really think you have the ability and skill set to be a CPA, or a ‘rainmaker’ as he referred to it. But he told me the only way to do that was by majoring in accounting, not minoring,” he recalled.

 

The CPA pursuit

After Manimbo graduated, he immediately began his CPA journey. Over the next six months, he passed all four parts of the exam.

His secret to success included time management and committing to a test schedule.

“I’d always have [one part of the] exam scheduled four-to-six weeks out. This motivated me, and I wouldn’t change the dates,” said Manimbo. Although many hours went into studying for the exam, he said he would do it all over again if he had the chance.

“It takes a lot of commitment and discipline, but at the end, it’s certainly worth it.”

 

A ‘Rising Star’

Manimbo’s 10-year career has spanned across public accounting firms of all sizes. He has spent the last six years with Schellman & Company, LLC, in Tampa, Florida, and Denver, Colorado, focusing on data security audit and compliance services.

Each day, he said, brings a different exciting challenge and a chance to learn something new. He spends most of his time working with clients, but also enjoys mentoring junior staff.

Over the years, Manimbo has become recognized for his work in the accounting profession. He was named a 2018 Rising Star by Consulting magazine and, in the same year, participated in AICPA’s prestigious Leadership Academy, an exclusive four-day program dedicated to growing leadership and ethical skills and strategies.

Manimbo’s next career goal is simple: work hard and become partner.

He believes the skills learned while obtaining a CPA license can help accountants in any business role or entrepreneurial opportunity.

“It gives you so many professional options,” he said. “When you have a CPA, you can transition anywhere in the business world. You will even have the skill set to eventually hold a C-level position, if that’s the direction you want your career to go.”

 

Where to start your CPA journey

Getting the CPA certification provides the opportunity for success in the accounting field and beyond. The AICPA is here to help you along your journey. We created ThisWayToCPA.com to provide resources and direction to help you reach your goal. You’ll be able to explore the requirements for licensure, learn how the CPA Exam works, find career path inspiration, and more.

While you’re there, be sure to sign up for AICPA’s free student affiliate membership. When you join, you’ll instantly enter a network of 400,000+ members. Plus, you’ll get access to exclusive scholarship opportunities, AICPA’s mentorship platform, valuable professional news and publications accessible online and special pricing on conferences.

About the Author

Danny Manimbo

Danny Manimbo is a Senior Manager with Schellman. Danny specializes in Service Organization Control (SOC) reports focusing on business process and information technology controls. Danny has worked in governance, risk and compliance (GRC) services, where he specialized in providing internal audit services, conducting Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) consulting, and performing governance and regulatory compliance engagements.

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