In this special series of blog posts, CPA couples discuss how they supported each other through their CPA journeys.
Spyros Stathonikos CPA, CMA is a Senior Manager of Real Estate Advisory at PwC Canada, and Kathy Stathonikos CPA, CMA is a Business Partner of Operations and Analytics at CPA Alberta (pictured above). Spyros obtained his designation in 2010 and Kathy achieved hers in 2015.
What inspired you to become designated?
Spyros Stathonikos (SS): When I was in the hospitality industry, a client gave me this advice: “If you want to get into real estate—especially commercial—get your accounting designation.” Kathy and I were newly married when I started the CPA program (known as the Strategic Leadership Program at the time), and she was 100% behind me.
Kathy Stathonikos (KS): I was working at WestJet in an analyst role—supporting business strategy and interpreting business trends—and wondered how I could upgrade that skillset. I witnessed firsthand how the business acumen of the CPA program benefited Spyros’s career. That was a big draw for me.
Spyros, already being a CPA, I’m sure you completely empathized with Kathy when she was in the program.
SS: I did. The kicker was that Kathy was three months pregnant when she started the program.
Wow! That probably added another layer of emotions and stress.
KS: In that timeframe, my mom was also diagnosed with stage four cancer. I was fortunate to have Spyros because he completely understood the challenges as well as the commitment that was required to succeed in the program.
Spyros, what practical support did you provide Kathy?
SS: We would sit down and go over concepts together. At the time, I was an Assistant Controller at a small development company, and there was a lot of pressure to work long hours. But I made sure I left the office everyday at 4:00 pm to help with dinner and other household responsibilities so that Kathy could study. And if I saw a managerial accounting book flying across the room, my immediate response was, “Oh, I better help before the book gets me, haha”!
KS: I’m sure that was due to hormones. But seriously, when I felt frustrated or didn’t quite understand a concept, just talking through it with Spyros calmed me down. It helped me consider a different perspective to arrive at a solution.
You two are hilarious! Kathy, how did you support Spyros during his time in the program?
KS: The biggest thing was reminding him to submit his assignments early. I could feel the stress each time he submitted a few minutes before the deadline. I also encouraged him because I could see he was underutilizing his skillset and potential.
You experienced a few challenges while pursuing the CPA designation, but you pressed on. What drives you?
SS: Education. It is the only investment no one can take from you. That’s why Kathy and I have continuously looked to improve ourselves and get to that next level. Also, Kathy is not only a mother but a role model to Demetra, our daughter. We want Demetra to feel empowered and know that she can accomplish anything, even despite the challenges.
KS: It is important to stay relevant. Sometimes you need more education to move into management roles. Back in the day, career success was mostly based on experience and work ethic. Today it takes experience, work ethic, and education to build a successful career.
What are your words of encouragement to CPA candidates?
SS: Stay hungry. Don’t get comfortable. The market continues to evolve, and if you don’t evolve with it, you will be left behind.
KS: You are investing in yourself and building a skillset that organizations will rely on. The designation will open doors for you, and you will become a trusted advisor to CFOs and CEOs. Keep going.
I love that! You are an inspiration to many, especially those looking to overcome challenges and take their careers to new heights. Thank you for sitting down with us.
Be sure to check out Part 3 of our series on CPA Power Couples and learn how expectations and honest feedback were key to how Adrian Serban and Sarah Larson supported one another through the CPA PEP.