From IT to Accounting to Financial Planning and Analysis

Accounting certificate graduate Sterling Tai adds CPA to his credentials

2016: Completed the Certificate Program in Accounting.

2017: Passed the CPA Exam.

2018: Promoted to Manager of Financial Planning and Analysis at Matthews Asia, an investment-management firm in San Francisco.

To get to his current position, Sterling Tai navigated a winding road.

After working in IT for a number of years, Sterling found that the work wasn’t his cup of tea. He was good at numbers and desired work that was long-term and stable. But to career-switch to a finance-related position required Sterling to look for education that would give him a working knowledge of all things accounting.

“When I decided to make the career switch, I had zero experience in accounting,” Sterling recalls. “I was lucky enough to get an accounting position at the asset-management company I was working for at the time. I learned a lot by working as an accountant, but there were still fundamentals that I lacked. Management suggested that I start taking some classes to get basic accounting knowledge. That was key to understanding what I was doing at work. I chose Extension because I completed my undergrad at Berkeley. That really started my journey.”


Taking online classes (“The instructors were responsive, the instructions were clear and I had a way of reaching my peers.”)


Learning from highly experienced and knowledgeable instructors (“They knew the subject matter, which was really important to me.”)


Sterling gained the necessary real-world education to successfully change careers to accounting.


The coursework also prepared him to sit and pass the CPA Exam. “The CPA Exam requires a certain number of units in accounting, which I never had,” Sterling says. “But the material in the certificate prepared me to take the exam. If you’re looking to sit for the CPA Exam and you haven’t been an economics or accounting major, this certificate will definitely help you.”

And just two years after completing the certificate with distinction, Sterling is happily working in a financial planning and analysis role. While the position is not solely in the accounting sector, Sterling continually taps into his certificate’s teachings.

“A lot of people in the FP&A role and the analyst role don’t necessarily have an accounting background,” Sterling explains. “And I think it’s key to have an accounting background because my role needs to understand the fundamentals of accounting in order to do my work well. It’s important, especially when you speak to the accountant about different issues that you’re seeing in the financial reporting. So I’m thankful that I was an accountant for a couple of years before moving into this position.


Continuing education—no matter what point you are at in your career—is really important.



“I work directly for the CFO doing annual planning for our budgeting cycle,” Sterling continues, “and forecasting our financial numbers throughout the year. I also work on specialized individual projects, such as coming up with a five-year projection with financial details or pricing models for the company.”

Reflecting on his journey from IT to accounting to financial planning and analysis, Sterling is proud of his accomplishments—chief of which is earning the accounting certificate.

“Personally, I take pride in it,” Sterling enthuses. “I have my certificate on my wall, and because I finished with distinction, it proves that I have mastery of the material. Professionally, it showed management that I knew what I was talking about and positively impacted me in my work.

“I continually recommend this certificate. Continuing education—no matter what point you are at in your career—is really important.”