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She made general manager at 29 with a CPA

Many young professionals begin to eye managerial posts as they approach their 30s – but Shanny Lee (CPA, Aust.) went one step further by making the leap to general manager at just 29.

With the backing of several partners, the savvy accounting professional established skills training firm Hustle Singapore in 2022, and ran it so successfully, the team expanded to 20-strong in a year.

“Many in finance are looking to take on senior roles in MNCs and eventually become CFO,” she says. “My path is different. With my experience, I wanted to try something on my own. I wanted an adventure.”

The experience she speaks of comes courtesy of a business degree, stints at a Big Four firm, an accounting consultancy, and a media group – and most recently, a CPA Australia designation that cements the depth, breadth and quality of her finance expertise.

While some CPA members hold more traditional posts such as accounting risk analyst, international accounting specialist, and partner at an accounting firm, others like Lee have embarked on more diverse careers, becoming startup founders, strategic procurement managers, counter-terrorism financial investigators, and even CEOs of sports organisations.

“In today’s finance industry, it's almost an unspoken necessity to have a professional qualification to excel. It's always about striving to gain a competitive advantage. The CPA designation gives instant credibility,” she says. 

“It shows you can collaborate across corporate functions, evaluate the performance of each, measure productivity, and understand how everything fits –– all of which are crucial in managing a business and overseeing diverse operations.” 

More than audit and tax

Lest some think the designation is only suited for accounting professionals, Lee is quick to point out that the commercial awareness, project management and strategic thinking she picked up from the CPA Program are keystones to her thriving business.

Beyond more technical accounting and financial reporting skills, programme modules span global strategy and leadership, ethics and governance, contemporary business issues and digital finance.

These are all aimed at providing candidates a deep grasp of the real-life challenges organisations face daily, and the skills to achieve the next level in leadership, strategy and business.

“I decided on CPA Australia as it doesn't only focus on accountancy or memorising formulas,” says Lee, who initially completed a semester of another professional qualification before dropping it in favour of the CPA designation.

“The Program goes beyond memorisation to assess our understanding and application of knowledge in work scenarios, and trains individuals to be global business leaders. This was much more aligned with my career goals.”

CPA Australia’s flexible and inclusive programme, which supports online self-learning, enabled Lee to juggle classes and a full-time role as a business consultant. She achieved the designation in three years, simultaneously accruing the required professional experience. 

And as she applied her newfound knowledge at work, her superiors quickly took note.

“Upon getting my credentials, I was given more managerial responsibilities and cross-functional collaborations,” Lee says, of assignments where she analysed financial information to obtain a holistic perspective of business performance and workflows, before proposing strategies to close gaps, such as flagging sales or shrinking competitive advantage.

“The program teaches biz school insights that might otherwise take years of experience to learn in a corporate environment,” she says. “It gave me a good foundation to understand industry issues, form effective decisions, and know what to look out for – both now and next.”

True business acumen

More change followed. After Lee updated her qualifications on LinkedIn, recruiters quickly began reaching out. 

“My profile got much more exposure. I was offered interviews across several industries,” she recalls. 

CPA Australia has over 25,000 members working in senior leadership positions around the world, and the organisation maintains strong relationships with high-profile employer companies globally.

But Lee had her heart set on having her own firm. “I didn't want to be limited to finance. I wanted to make decisions,” she explains, pointing to how the CPA Australia Program trains candidates to become business leaders.

Today, the knowledge gained from the Program helps her drive her company’s growth and leverage business insights to determine everything from which courses to offer to overall business strategy – such as when she pivoted Hustle from a marketplace to a service model after evaluating the evolving industry landscape.

“Our advantage is being able to frequently assess financial data and implement a strategy to see change immediately, whether that’s to address a low performing department, or stay ahead of the market,” Lee says. 

And her credentials keep on giving: potential partners, particularly those in the financial sector, often recognise the designation as a significant achievement: “It’s a door opener,” she says.

Little wonder then, that Lee’s advice to aspiring candidates is to take the CPA designation as a stepping stone to further their careers across the business sphere. 

“In today's context, a CPA doesn't limit you to accounting,” she says. “Accounting allows you to pull out information and apply equations, but the CPA Program from CPA Australia tests you on your understanding of business overall and your ability to figure out the cause of issues. That is true business acumen.”

To find out more about how the CPA Program can prepare you for future challenges, join us at our Become a CPA webinar in Singapore. If you would prefer a 1-on-1 consultation, please contact us at 

AUTHORCPA Australia CPA Australia

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