Allana Cato had an unusual career choice to make.

This is the first of three articles profiling CPA Australia members and their career journeys to date.

Allana Cato has achieved quite a lot in her 25 years: graduating from university, buying a house in Auckland's desirable Northcote Point and charting an impressive course for the rest of her career.

Cato is an auditor with KPMG's Financial Services and her (unfinished) story is a window into the challenges involved in making your way in today's demanding business world.

Next year will be her last in studying the CPA Program – at the end of which she will be a fully qualified Certified Practising Accountant (CPA), prepared for the next stage of her career.

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Only the above doesn't reveal the full story. Cato graduated from the University of Auckland with a BCom in Accounting and a BSc in Biology – not the typical complementary qualification (though Cato begs to differ).

Once she'd decided to pursue financial services, she set her mind on becoming a CPA, undertaking the three-year CPA program.

So far, then, her life has been largely about qualifying – and still is.

That's still only part of the story. While studying, Cato squeezed in a month-long holiday to India and a stint at Edinburgh University, arranged during her University of Auckland study. Next year will be her third at KPMG and she is thinking about the possibility of an international secondment sometime in the future with one of its member firms.

"I kind of fell into it," says Cato of her professional path. "I wasn't totally sure to begin with which path to follow; I hadn't really heard of the Big Four until quite late in my degree."

A mentorship course arranged by the university changed that; from it she gained an internship and then was offered a graduate role at KPMG – the first step towards a future in financial services laced with possibilities.

Allana Cato. Photo / Supplied
Allana Cato. Photo / Supplied

"I think my science degree has been pretty useful," she says. "Obviously the two subjects aren't really connected but I feel the biology degree has given me some of the inquisitiveness that science breeds. It's like you strive to understand more about what you are focusing on and do more research."

A big part of her development has also been the CPA Program, in which she is considered a high achiever. Two of her four exams thus far have earned distinction (the subject: Ethics and Governance) and high distinction (Strategic Management Accounting) and she has just finished another exam on Contemporary Business Issues which tackles topics like blockchain and its impact on accounting.

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Next year will see two more exams before she can attain her CPA – and Cato says it was easy to choose CPA Australia as the industry body to guide her future: "I think reputation is important and that came home to me. I spoke to a lot of people in the field and CPA Australia was often mentioned as the one to go to.

"I also found that the foundation papers and the exams were all online – I just felt it was far more modern and set up for my needs."

Cato says, long-term, she would like to start her own business "though I don't really have a firm idea what that would look like yet.

"I think it is really great that I am getting the experience I am at KPMG," she says. "I am being exposed to all sorts of business issues and seeing where my interests really lie."

CPA Australia graduates are also known for their international employability and, while Cato likes the idea, she feels her stints in India and Edinburgh have satisfied her wanderlust for now.

"Plus I have just bought a house in the last few weeks and that is tending to keep me here."

As we said, she's achieved quite a lot in 25 years.

To find out more about becoming a CPA, visit cpaaustralia.com.au/now