Accounting grad Kevin McLeod earns spot on national UFE honour roll
The Uniform Evaluation (UFE) is a defining event in the career of any Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA). A daunting three-day examination, anyone pursuing their CPA, CA designation must pass and most spend months in preparation. For Kevin McLeod, an alumnus and proud member of the first accounting cohort, the UFE was one of the proudest moments in his career so far. After being named to the UFE national honour roll and placing in the top 50 out of thousands of candidates nationwide, Kevin says he owes his success to being able to focus on the big picture and knowing how to “play the game.”
Now in his second year working in assurance practice in the financial services sector with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Kevin is looking forward to planning the next steps in his career. In this Q&A, he discusses his student life and how he shaped his time at U of G to best serve his career ambitions.
Why did you choose to pursue your Bachelor of Commerce in accounting at the University of Guelph?
I decided to join Guelph because I knew the accounting program was starting in 2010 and I wanted my university experience to be about something more than going to class. I wanted to be a part of something larger than myself. The commencement of the accounting program gave me the opportunity to get in the "ground floor" and be a part of building the program into the success that it is today.
What would you say was the most valuable part of your experience here?
Probably one of my most valuable experiences was designing a “financial template” for U of G’s Animal Health Laboratory. This template was created to assist provincial veterinary laboratories in managing their business operations in the event of an emergency disease outbreak. This opportunity motivated me to consider working in emergency management/preparedness as a next step in my career. I think it is a growing market given the changes we are seeing with respect to climate change and other challenges the world is facing.
What was the job hunting process like following graduation? Do you have any tips?
One thing that I cannot stress enough to current students who wish to pursue a career in accounting is to get out there and network as soon as possible – don’t wait until it is time for recruitment. I started to network with large accounting firms early on in my U of G career through my position on the Board of Ambassadors of what was then the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario. This opportunity helped tremendously when it came time for recruitment in the beginning of my fourth year. I also had some help from a friend at my current employer who connected me with the right people.
You recently wrote and earned a spot on the honour roll for the UFE. What factors do you think led to your success on this challenging exam?
As much as the UFE is an exercise in the technical knowledge you have acquired through post-secondary education and professional experience, it really is about much more: stress and time management, identifying the critical issues and recognizing what is happening in the big picture. At its core, the UFE is just one big game and the key to being successful is learning how to play the game – and play it well. If I had to generalize one factor that I believe led to my success on the UFE, it is exactly that – throughout the entire process I was focused on learning “how to play the game” and not stressing about the intricate technical details.
How did you feel leading up to the exam?
It is an exam that you can never feel prepared for. In university, you are usually able to anticipate the content/questions that will be on the exam. The UFE is far different, each case is unique and you never see the same thing twice – there are countless possibilities that could show up on the UFE and you need to be able to adapt to each situation. At the end of the day you just have to have confidence that you have put in the time and prepared to a sufficient level that you can adapt to what is given.
What was your reaction when you found out you were on the honour roll?
I got the call from a senior member of my firm’s leadership and quite honestly I thought I was getting fired. When I found out otherwise it was an overwhelming shock – I couldn’t believe that I not only passed the UFE, but placed in the top 50 candidates out of the thousands writing across Canada. It is still a bit shocking, but I am very pleased knowing that I have made my family, the University of Guelph and my firm proud.
What advice do you have for students considering pursuing a CPA designation?
I have two key pieces of advice that I would give students who are considering pursuing the CPA designation:
- I can’t stress enough how critical it is to focus on developing and refining your soft skills (leadership, teamwork, communication, time management, conflict resolution) while you are in university. Once you are out in the business world it is not the technical knowledge you have acquired that will lead to your success, but the soft skills that you bring to the table when interacting with clients and those within your company.
- Get out there and network early. Identify the companies you hope to work for and look for opportunities to interact with them – don’t wait for them to find you. I have always been a fan of the saying, “You make your own luck.” When you get out there and look for opportunities, you make things happen for yourself – that is how I define luck. Sure, you may find several opportunities that don’t work out, but ultimately all you need is one that does!