Szu Yin (Sophie) Chen Keen
Staff accountant, Doty Pruett Wilson PC, Salem
Hometown: Taichung, Taiwan
Degrees: BA in Management Science from National Chiao-Tung University, Hsinchu, Taiwan; MBA from Willamette University, Salem
OSCPA member since: 2019
New OSCPA member Sophie Chen Keen is one of four Oregon winners of the presitigous 2018 Elijah Watt Sells Award. To qualify for the award, CPA candidates must obtain a cumulative average score above 95.50 across all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination, pass all four sections on their first attempt and have completed testing in 2018. (A condensed version of this interview appeared in the June/July 2019 issue of The Accountant magazine.)
Where did you grow up? Tell us a little about your background and the people who have influenced you along the way.
I grew up in Taiwan, located in Southeast Asia. In our culture, we put a lot of emphasis on quantitative skills. Since I was a second grader, math has been my strongest subject. During high school, my English tutor shared stories of studying at Yale and told us not to limit ourselves to a small island. That’s when I decided to travel or pursue a degree in the United States one day.
In 2012, I came to Salem in pursuit of my MBA degree at Willamette University. Right after graduation, I didn’t pursue my career right away. Instead, I chose to stay home with my newborn baby. My husband and I talked a lot about different career paths. Because of his support and encouragement, I decided to tackle the CPA exams and become a CPA.
Obviously you did very well on the Uniform CPA Examination. What strategies did you use to study and prepare for the exam? What advice do you have for new CPA candidates as they are preparing?
Plan and prepare for your CPA exams. There are four sections of the exams. Take the one you think is easiest first, and that will give you confidence to prepare for the rest of exams. The sequence of the exams is also important. I would recommend taking AUD right after FAR since these two exams are highly related, and you cannot understand auditing procedures without fully grasping GAAP.
Learn the big picture and don’t get lost in the details. Our brain processes information in a systematic way; if you build a structure in the beginning, all the details will make more sense and the memory will last longer.
Stay driven, and focus on your goals. The whole process of the CPA exam is like running a marathon. No matter how long the process could be, we need to find that motivation and stay driven in order to get to the finish line.
Keep consistent study habits and stick to them. I usually studied when my baby napped. I would take her out in the morning, wear her out at the park, music classes, or gymnastic classes. Then, she’d take a long three-hour nap in the afternoon, and that’s when I got my studying done. Routine hours of study help our brain to stay focused during certain periods of time and that’s when we can most efficiently process and retain information.
Create your own handwritten notes and use mind-mapping techniques to link all the related information. Handwritten notes take more effort, and that help us to memorize the key formulas and rules. I usually used letter-size blank papers, and I created notes after watching videos. I would try to memorize and write information down without looking at my textbooks.
What were your first thoughts when you found out you qualified for the prestigious Elijah Watt Sells award? How do you think earning this award will impact you in the future, personally and professionally?
I was very encouraged and felt confident in starting my career in the accounting field. After five years of being a full-time stay-at-home mom, I was not sure that any employer would want to hire me and give me a chance. Winning this award certainly helped with that and helped me to land my first accounting job at Doty Pruett and Wilson PC. As a staff accountant, I am responsible for business tax return and individual tax return preparation, compilation of financial statements, and bookkeeping. This award demonstrates that I can solve complicated tax and accounting matters, and it’s a real boost of confidence — I’ve very happy I scored so well on the exams and look forward to new challenges.