The ideal career is one that’s malleable and allows you to carve your own path as you continue to learn, grow, and evolve. But walking the line of being specialized and still having the freedom to redefine yourself can be a tricky balancing act.
For CFO, author, and financial literacy volunteer Nelson Soh, becoming a CPA was a defining moment that allowed him to shift from working in private practice to being a free agent.
Growing up, Nelson’s interest in business and proficiency in math sparked his imagination about how he might combine the two someday. Post studies, he began his career working in public practice with an accounting firm while undertaking his CPA designation.
A big part of Nelson’s success today is attributed to his CPA designation. By providing a foundation of business, accounting, and finance knowledge — a skill set Nelson was able to apply directly to his own businesses — he was able to have an understanding “more than just the numbers, but how the numbers are driving and impacting the results and the goals the businesses are trying to achieve.”
While he’s a chartered professional accountant, Nelson is a multi-hyphenate professional. From co-founding his own consulting agency, FSQ Consulting, to signing a book deal and becoming a professionally published author, Nelson is breaking the stereotypes people have about CPAs.
Most recently, Nelson even starred in a Mercedez Benz commercial just to shake things up and try new things. “I hope that my story will inspire other CPAs to really break out of that box accountants are put in,” he tells us.
He cites analysis and critical thinking as core skills he gained from the CPA program. More surprisingly, Nelson emphasizes how the program helped him deepen his capacity for empathy.
“If we are able to flex our empathy muscles and use it, we can really connect with our clients and impact their business because we understand and share their feelings,” he says.
“We don’t just see balance sheets, income statements, and financial statements. We see the people that are doing the work, understand the struggles and the pain points that they’re going through. We do whatever it takes to help them find realistic and viable solutions that work.”
Empathy is a muscle Nelson flexes every day. He helps businesses understand their key performance indicators and manage their finances efficiently to level up their financial literacy.
“I am also a personal finance coach,” he adds. Nelson helps people break money myths and self-limiting beliefs. He does this by helping people figure out their personal finances and showing them how to reach their goals — whatever they may be — by creating personalized financial plans.
According to Nelson, “Financial literacy is not something that we’re formally taught in the education system, but it’s something that we all need in our day-to-day lives.” Helping others fill this common knowledge gap is something he finds hugely rewarding.
Financial literacy is explained in his new book, Life Literacy, which focuses on helping the current and next generation create success personally, professionally, and financially.
When we press him for a universal piece of financial advice everyone could use, he points to early investing. “The earlier you start, the greater the impact is going to be in the future when you’re ready to retire and you might even be able to retire earlier.”
Above all, Nelson’s advice for all is to be open to trying new things.
“Don’t be scared to get uncomfortable because sometimes the most incredible things come from the most unexpected places,” says Nelson. “A lot of people think the path is linear, but there are so many different paths and opportunities out there. There is so much learning and growth that you can have outside of just the conventional path. You were meant for more.”
To explore the many career pathways you could take as a CPA, head to bccpa.ca.