Meet Owen Kot, CPA, 2023 Exemplary New Professional Award Winner

Apr 24, 2024
Photo credit: Rammy Sohal Photography

CPAWSB recently presented the Exemplary New Professional (ENP) award to Owen Kot, CPA, a recent graduate, who demonstrated the qualities of a Chartered Professional Accountant during his time as a candidate and during the year following successful completion of the Common Final Exam. The award is made possible through the generosity of Kouri Berezan Heinrichs of Edmonton in their gift to the CPA Education Foundation of Alberta.

Below is a detailed transcript of the conversation between Samantha Taylor and Owen Kot. Samantha Taylor, PME, CPA, CA, is an educator and lead policy advisor for CPAWSB, as well as a Senior Instructor of accounting at Dalhousie University.

In this interview, Owen shares his insights into his CPA journey, from his early days taking accounting courses at the University of Regina to his current role as a manager at MNP. He talks about his time as a CPAWSB candidate, emphasizing the importance of balancing work, life, and being a CPA candidate, and the significance of making time for activities that recharge oneself.

Samantha Taylor: Let's begin by discussing your nomination for and subsequent winning of the award. When did you find out, and what was your initial reaction?

Owen Kot
: In October, I received the exciting news that I was going to be nominated for the Exemplary New Professional Award. I owe a big thank you to my employer, MNP, for the nomination – it’s an honour that I truly appreciate. At that point, I knew there was an application in progress, but I wasn't exactly sure when I would find out more. One day while chatting with my sister on the phone, I saw an email notification pop up. Initially, I thought it might be a news release, but to my surprise, it was the announcement that I had won the award. It was a wonderful moment to share with my sister, and I was eager to share the news with others who had supported me along the way.

Sam: You mentioned MNP. Were they your employer during your CPA candidacy? It sounds like they still are now. Can you walk me through how your journey began and where you are now?

Owen: Yes, I did my first co-op term with MNP in the summer of 2018. They've been my sole accounting employer and a consistent support throughout my journey. Technically, I began my CPAWSB journey during that co-op term, applying the experience to the practical component.

My journey in accounting started at university, where I initially considered finance. However, after taking a few accounting courses, I realized the vast opportunities available in accounting. The University of Regina provided an exceptional support system through its accounting faculty. While I don't mean to compare it to other programs, I found the accounting program at the U of R to be very strong. I quickly connected with MNP, and it's been a fantastic experience.

I completed two co-op terms, graduated, pursued the MPAcc program at the University of Saskatchewan, and then completed the CFE. And now, here I am.
Sam: You know, a common concern for candidates both considering entering the program and those already enrolled is how to effectively balance work-life and being a CPA candidate. Could you share a bit about your experience in managing these aspects?

Owen: Yeah, I think it's definitely no small task. Anyone who's gone through the program knows there are way too many things going on. Probably more than you'd expect at a public accounting firm, in industry, or anywhere else. Work is demanding enough, and then adding extracurriculars along with education on top of that, there's no shortage of things to do.

I found one thing that really helped me was still making time or carving out time to do things that I really enjoyed, liked, and recharged myself. Even though going to play golf on a Saturday afternoon when I had a bunch of other stuff to do might not have been the easiest thing to commit to. I found that I was more energized and able to be my best self after taking that time to spend some time with friends or family or engaging in a recreational activity.

So, even though your schedule seems way too full, do things that you like. Enjoy yourself because that'll suit you best in the long run.
Sam: I really appreciate how you mentioned taking the time to refuel and refresh, which undoubtedly strengthens you in education and your job. It’s great advice. So, that's something you managed well—juggling work, life, and being a CPA candidate. Looking back, is there anything you would tell yourself during your CPA journey?

Owen: I think people tend to look at the overarching goal, which is getting the CPA designation, and start to feel overwhelmed when they think about the work that needs to be done to get there. So, I would advise taking it one step at a time by narrowing your focus on short-term goals to help keep things manageable. This way, you are truly in control by seeing what’s immediately in front of you. That being said, you can't forget about the bigger picture; however, a one-step-at-a-time mentality will put the bigger picture in a more manageable perspective.
Sam: Could you tell me a bit about what life looks like now that you are a CPA? Please share about your current role as well as your life both inside and outside of work.

Owen: Certainly. My professional role is as a manager at MNP in Regina. I work on our specialty tax team, focusing mainly on tax planning, corporate reorganization planning, estate planning, sale planning, succession planning, and more. I really like it because, while some might find it surprising, this area allows for creativity, especially in tax. I like the forward-looking planning aspect of it.

I often tell people who may not be familiar with this field that you could present a scenario to 20 different professionals, and if it's complex enough, they might come up with 20 different answers for that scenario. I find it enjoyable and it keeps me on my toes in terms of what we're doing.

Outside of work at MNP, I volunteer on a couple of boards: the Alzheimer's Society of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Young Professionals Entrepreneurs in Regina. These are areas I have a personal connection to, and I can apply my professional skill set outside of work.

Additionally, I enjoy traveling, spending time with family, and attending concerts. Over the last few years, I've had the opportunity to attend a number of concerts.
Sam: Now that you have your professional designation and are immersed in this role, what emerging developments in the field of accounting do you think CPAs should be aware of?

Owen: I believe one significant emerging development is AI (Artificial Intelligence), which is touching upon numerous areas globally. There are definitely applications in accounting, which can have both positive and negative impacts. Understanding and harnessing this knowledge will be super useful and continue to be so as the world progresses. While no one knows exactly where it's headed, it's certain that it will become more advanced and developed.

Additionally, the area of data management and data systems is substantial, providing accountants with a competitive advantage and allowing them to deliver significant value. If we think about it, accounting, in a basic sense, especially financial reporting and assurance, involves taking data and illustrating it. So, does that have to be limited to financial statements, or could it be applied beyond, to things like environmental and sustainability reporting, and other types of reporting? I see huge opportunities there. The CPA profession in Canada is already focused on this. I think students coming in should see this as an opportunity to do things beyond what is typically associated with accounting.
Sam: I teach undergraduate students, and often in the first or second year, they'll say, "I like what I'm learning in class, but I don't want to sit in an office or a cubicle and do debits and credits for the next 30 years." We do so much more than debits and credits. But you might not necessarily realize that. So, are you able to perhaps share some cool jobs that you have seen for accountants? Ones that undergraduates or new candidates may not be aware of.

Owen: I'd say my job is quite enjoyable. I didn't even realize or understand it was a career path when I started accounting and students entering the accounting field might not fully understand that. Another such area that students may not know about is environmental and sustainability reporting. While it shares similarities with financial reporting, you're reporting on things beyond a company's profit and loss. You're reporting on how they're impacting the world around them in their environment.

Moreover, CPAs, are equipped to handle a variety of job roles. Pursuing a CPA doesn’t necessarily limit you to being a partner at a public accounting firm or CFO at a company. You could work in any field and do anything. The skill set we acquire is very transferable, involving analytical thinking and strategy, among other attributes. So, it’s not far-fetched to think that you could be the director of a not-for-profit, the CEO of a company, or be well-prepared to start your own business. With a CPA designation, the possibilities are endless, and it sets you up for numerous opportunities.

Please click here to watch a complete video of this interview on YouTube. Check out our 2022 ENP award winner Calvin Loi, CPA. and learn about his journey to becoming a CPA.

Do you have feedback on this post or a question you’d like answered by an experienced CPAWSB educator? Please contact your facilitator or send a question to the General Topic in the Candidate Discussion forum. 

Samantha Taylor, PME, CPA, CA

Samantha Taylor, PME, CPA, CA, is an educator and lead policy advisor for CPAWSB and a Senior Instructor of accounting at Dalhousie University. She is on a mission to understand and enable learner efficacy while eliminating doldrums occasionally associated with accounting education. Read more of Sam’s posts at the CPAWSB blog.