Date posted: 9/12/2020 5 min read

CA ANZ celebrates its new CA Difference Makers

The CA Program’s class of 2020 has been through a year like no other. Now, they’re ready to make their mark. Brought to you by CA ANZ

“It’s the best feeling,” says Katrina Pansacola CA, who a few months ago qualified as a chartered accountant after three years of study and work experience. “You’re done. And you don’t have to study again for a while!”

Her progress wasn’t all smooth sailing. When she started out she thought the workload would be like doing her Master’s degree, but she soon discovered the CA Program was more in-depth and information-heavy than anything she’d done before. Juggling work with study was a challenge, too.

At one stage, having failed two exams, she wondered whether she was cut out to be a CA. “I did some reflection and thought maybe I wasn’t suited to being an accountant,” she says.

But her mentor, Kevin Duda CA, had seen it all before. “He didn’t judge me, he just said, ‘so what? Study again and you’ll pass’,” Pansacola recalls.

Duda, a private advisory director at Grant Thornton in Perth, has mentored aspiring CAs for a decade. Pansacola worked as an associate at Grant Thornton until recently.

“People do come in for a bit of a shock,” says Duda. “For some it’s the first time they’ve ever failed an exam.”

How technology changed the CA Program

Technology has been the biggest driver of change in the CA Program and the way people study, says Duda, who qualified 15 years ago.

He recalls how he was handed a folder full of paper, had to attend tutorials every fortnight for three hours in the evening, and be ready to deliver a presentation at any time.

“If we had to work on a group project, we met physically at someone’s workplace – now it’s via video conferencing,” he says.

He sat for his final exams in the ballroom of a Perth hotel. After an hour there was a power cut, and candidates had to sit in the dark in silence for almost two hours. The power came back on 15 minutes before the exam was due to be completed, so the invigilators gave everyone another two hours to finish the paper.

Now, candidates take exams on laptops at home, with remote proctoring software that uses a device’s webcam to detect any signs of cheating.

Feeling that sense of accomplishment

On Fridays when her results were due, Pansacola would work from home. “It would take me hours to get the courage to just click the button to check the results.”

Before the final results she felt anxious for a week, although everyone around her was so supportive. And then, after passing the Capstone module – where candidates integrate all their technical knowledge with ethics, corporate governance, strategy and communications – she felt a huge sense of accomplishment.

When Duda was studying for a group assignment, he and his fellow students had to approach a not-for-profit, identify a problem and come up with a way to solve it. His group ended up presenting a plan to the board of a charity to streamline accounting workflows.

“I’ll always remember how happy they were – they jumped at the opportunity,” he says. “It gave me an insight into the value people attach to the CA brand.”

Kevin Duda CA  and Katrina Pansacola CAPicture: Kevin Duda CA and Katrina Pansacola CA.

“It gave me an insight into the value people attach to the CA brand.”
Kevin Duda CA

‘You’ve got to earn it’

Pansacola says Duda provided her with a lot of support, with regular catch-ups over coffee and bubble tea outside the office to review progress.

“Apart from the technical side, just learning how he handled his workflow – he’s so hard-working, dedicated and focused – was really inspiring,” says Pansacola.

Duda says every generation of CAs tends to think it was more difficult to qualify in their time, but both mentee and mentor agree on the value of the CA Program.

“It’s so worth it,” says Pansacola. “I feel like we carry something really important.”

Katrina Pansacola CAPicture: Katrina Pansacola CA.

“It’s so worth it,” says Pansacola. “I feel like we carry something really important.”
Katrina Pansacola CA

And if gaining the CA designation was easy, adds Duda, everyone would have one. “You’ve got to earn it.”

Read more:

Congratulations to the class of 2020

See how the Difference Makers Class of 2020 celebrated their new designation.

See more