For the past 12 years, Erik Bridy has held numerous financial consultant positions at Cushman & Wakefield to support various commercial real estate clients. His current role sees him primarily supporting tenant-representation brokers and the internal teams that service large corporate occupiers: the Microsofts and Sonys of the world, insurance companies, banks, etc. As such, Erik works with the brokerage professionals so that he can effectively analyze lease and sales transactions, development and everything in between. His overarching goal is to define the impact that all of these data points have on a client’s financial statement.
“When I produce an analysis,” Erik explains, “it is typically tailored to the CFO at a particular company and their Finance department. That’s where being a CPA comes into play: Being a CPA will give me instant credibility and I will be able talk their ‘accounting language.’”
And that’s the educational journey Erik is currently traversing: taking the four-part CPA Exam one section at a time. But, as Erik says, he wouldn’t be at this stage without our Certificate Program in Accounting.
“I’ve always thought about pursuing my CPA designation,” Erik recalls, “but in order to get the prerequisites to sit for the exam, I would have to get the equivalent—in terms of college units—of a graduate degree, which I don’t have. So I did some research and came across this certificate. It feels like it was specifically tailored to what I needed: the credits to sit for the exam and being 100-percent online because I’m a full-time employee.”
You completed your undergrad business degree at University of Southern California and are used to in-person classes. What was your experience like taking your courses online?
I didn’t know what to expect, but it blew me away as to how organized it was. It works for people who are organized because it falls on your shoulders compared to a classroom setting. When you’re at home after work, you can make a million excuses before you crack open a textbook or go online and start watching videos or reading lectures.
For me, it is absolutely ideal because I can go online at any hour of the day and do the work. If I need to go on a business trip or I’m going on vacation, I can still study, participate in the discussions and watch the lectures. The flexibility and the accessibility were great for me.
How did you manage to balance your time at work with studying?
I made it a part of my day: I get in the office early—like 5:30 am—and do an hour of studying. And then after work I have a certain amount of hours dedicated to studying. It became routine and so I was able to stay on top of the work. Time management is everything.
What’s great about these courses is that they apply to so many different areas of accounting.
You really combined work with study!
Absolutely. I’m running numbers at work and when I learn of a financial concept from the textbook, it gives context to what I’m doing all day. Learning the language from an accounting perspective and being able to speak that language and incorporate those key terms into my day-to-day business was key.
We’re doing lease transactions and acquisitions on our client’s behalf, and when you get into really complex or technical leases or transactions, there are implications to the client that may or may not be acceptable to their auditors. So in the Auditing and Attestation class, understanding where the auditors are coming from and what boxes they need to check to do their job was pretty eye-opening. Here’s why they’re trying to do their job: They need justification, they need support, they need their due diligence.
What’s great about these courses is that they apply to so many different areas of accounting. I just happen to be in a niche area of lease accounting. It was extremely valuable to see accounting from a higher level and how it’s applied to different industries.
You finished the certificate in 2016 with Distinction. What does earning the certificate mean to you?
It means a lot. Professionally and personally, it was the equivalent of getting a master’s in accounting: It takes a lot of time and effort. The application of the study material into my day-to-day business was a huge pay-off. My managers and colleagues look at me very highly because I have this certificate. To be honest, I wish I had known about it sooner.
The certificate gave me the fundamentals and foundation to understand the CPA Exam.
And now you’re halfway to receiving your CPA designation.
Yes, and the certificate gave me the fundamentals and foundation to understand the CPA Exam. If I didn’t take the certificate, I would have been completely lost.
For instance, one of the sections for the CPA Exam is auditing, so I took the Auditing course. I took Financial Statement Analysis, and Intermediate Accounting I and II, and those are all directly related to the CPA Exam FAR section. I took the tax course and that directly relates to the Regulation section. The courses you take are specifically tailored to the CPA exam, which is great. The classes give you a flavor and a broad brushstroke of what you’re going to see on the exam.
In addition to having the CPA designation, what are your future plans?
I’ll continue in the commercial real estate industry. I have always enjoyed the financial consulting side so I’ll always be doing some sort of financial consulting. There are many different avenues I can take. That’s the beauty of being a CPA: The designation is transferable to any industry. The designation also opens a lot of doors within Cushman & Wakefield to pursue different service lines.
UC Berkeley is exactly what I got. I highly recommend this certificate.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about taking an accounting course or the full certificate?
If you’re dedicated and are willing to put in the time and effort, it’s an enjoyable experience. You can get tremendous value out of the program—even if you’re not planning on sitting for the CPA exam. If you want to broaden your skills and expertise in the accounting profession, or if you want to make a career transition to accounting, the certificate offers a tremendous education. UC Berkeley is exactly what I got. I highly recommend it.