Ask a successful CFE writer what contributed to their success in CPA PEP and they’re likely to mention family support and having a study buddy. When that support comes from a spouse or partner who is either a CPA or also in the program, it can be extra special because they can fully empathize. A partner understands the intensity of the program and can be the best person to lean on for support. In the following series of blog posts, CPA couples discuss how they supported each other through their CPA journeys.
Greg Rideout CPA, Senior Finance Advisor at Shell and Leslie Brenner CPA, Business Analyst at Keyera (pictured above. Image credit: Hainsworth Photography)
How did you two meet?
Greg Rideout (GR): Our fourth year accounting professor put us in a group project together. We started dating shortly after and went through all of the CPA PEP modules at the same time. We wrote the CFE in 2016 and became CPAs together. We got married in August 2019.
The CPA designation is a huge part of your relationship! How did you support each other while going through the program?
Leslie Brenner (LB): It was helpful to have someone to talk to throughout the program. If I didn’t have Greg as a sounding board to discuss accounting concepts, I would have had trouble keeping those thoughts all in my head.
GR: We never had to mark our own cases. We wrote our cases independently and marked each other’s. Leslie is a maverick—her unique perspective on my work was an advantage. When I was in a different section of the same module, I benefitted from seeing feedback from Leslie’s instructor in addition to my own.
LB: Greg and I learn in different ways. I like to understand how the details build up to the big picture, while he likes to understand how the big picture leads to the details. Explaining something to someone who thinks differently from you challenges your understanding of a concept.
GR: Also, Leslie forced me to study, even when I didn’t want to, and vice-versa. We kept each other accountable.
That support was clearly invaluable because you were both successful on your first attempt at each module and the CFE. You must have been under a lot of pressure. What was that like?
LB: You definitely feel the weight of the other person’s success—sometimes more than your own. Results day was always extra stressful; we feared that one of us would pass and the other would fail. That would have been worse than both of us failing.
GR: The camaraderie was crucial. I think the pressure would have felt the same with a friend or close study buddy. The end goal—passing the CFE and becoming a CPA—kept us motivated.
You were living together during this time as well. How did you balance your home life, relationship, working, and studying?
GR: A lot of takeout! We tried to keep our weekends study-free. We were lucky to still be living in Calgary near family so we could visit my parents for Sunday dinner.
LB: My mom still lives in Banff, and we visited her on weekends. While going through CPA PEP, I was also teaching Greg how to ski. That was also very stressful!
GR: Both of our employers gave us unpaid time off for the module exams and the CFE. The support from our companies made it easier to balance everything, because we could use weekdays to study and still unwind on the weekend.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today! We’re sure this will inspire CPA candidates to find a study buddy to help them succeed in the program and find ways to support their peers and loved ones.
Be sure to check out Part 2 of our series on CPA Power Couples and learn how Spyros and Kathy Stathonikos overcame challenges together on the journey to earning their designations.