Introducing Women in Accounting: Kiru Kameswaran, a Mentor for All
Kirthika Kameswaran—Kiru for short—wants you to know that her success is a result of failure.
She’ll explain later. But first, who is Kiru?
Graduation, a Pep Talk, and a Change of Heart: Kiru’s Beginnings
Hailing originally from India and making a home for herself and her husband in the Bay Area of California, Kiru graduated with an MBA and started her career as a banking consultant. She mainly worked performing audits for the bank, and eventually went on to start working as an accountant for tech start-ups and other small businesses, fulfilling their reconciliation and running reports.
She was satisfied. “I was thinking, ‘I don’t need anything else after my MBA’,” Kiru laughs over the phone. But, after a casual chat with her boss at the time, she realized that what she was doing might not be enough for her.
“He told me I need to be strong in GAAP, and I thought: he’s making sense,” says Kiru.
Coupled with her admiration for her father, who was also an accountant, and her passion for the profession, she started her journey to join the ranks of other women in finance and become a CPA.
Trouble Along the CPA Roadmap
So, Kiru began studying for the CPA exam towards the end of 2016. But, as we all know, it wasn’t all smooth sailing.
After the significant changes made to the exam in 2017, there was a long stretch of time between when Kiru started her process and when she started taking the sections of the test again—the time was so long, that she had to start from scratch.
“I lost all of my credits!” Kiru exclaims. “I was really struggling and ended up taking breaks in the middle. It wasn’t a linear process for me at all, I couldn’t get a handle on my studies, and the review courses never really helped.”
That is until she started joining CPA Candidate forums on Facebook. It’s here that she met Torie Sutton (yes, our Lady Ambassador Torie!) who became her first mentor.
“She would send me notes, would check in with me about how my studies were going and how I was doing—this really helped me.”
Torie is also the person who introduced her to I-75 CPA Review, a review course that finally seemed to work for her.
When Torie got a little busier, Kiru wasn’t at a loss; she simply turned to Darius Clark, the mastermind behind I-75, for help. Darius would end up becoming another faithful mentor in her process.
“Darius would always check in on me before and after the exam, to remind me of what he wanted me to focus on during the exam and then to see how I felt afterward.”
Without these mentors, she’s not sure if she’d be a CPA today.
“It was a struggle,” Kiru explains. “I kept thinking: ‘am I really this dumb?’ You need someone there to tell you, ‘hey, you’re not alone. It’s no big deal.’ It’s really needed! Otherwise, it could’ve gone in a totally different direction.”
Case in point: the Prometric Center closest to Kiru always had a long wait time whenever she’d go in to take a section of the exam. She’d be waiting two hours at the Center before going in to take the test, and by the time she was sitting down to take the exam, she was exhausted.
She wasn’t passing the exam—until Darius told her to try another center.
“I was understanding everything, but still wasn’t passing. Darius told me that he thought I was losing my focus, so I should try another center.”
Kiru decided to drive 40 miles to another Prometric Center entirely and passed the exam.
“Having a mentor who knows the subject matter so well, it makes all the difference,” Kiru gushes.
Victory Over the CPA Exam
By 2019, Kiru began making more progress and passing the exam. But, she wants to remind you that it’s not quick and easy.
“I took BEC twice and passed the third time. When I had to retake BEC, I passed on my fourth try. For AUD, I took it 9 times and passed the 10th!”
Finally, she passed all four sections in 2020 and was ready to pay it forward.
She began posting about her experience on Facebook and started getting messages back from other women in finance who were experiencing similar struggles.
“People are in my direct messages every day telling me that I motivate them; they say that they were going to give up and then see my posts and get back on track.”
She’s also started coaching a few CPA candidates, currently helping someone with auditing, guiding someone through their preparation for the BEC, and has even had someone reach out for assistance with studying for FAR.
“It’s about giving back”, Kiru says. “You got it when you needed it; now it’s time for me to give something back about what I learned. And I feel happy when they do well. When they say ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m glad I found you,’ I feel like this is what I was looking for when I was going through the process.”
Kiru’s Triumph and Lessons Learned
As a result of her success through the struggles of becoming a CPA, Kiru has gained a skill set that you can’t find in a textbook or certification: confidence.
“This career has made me change not just what I do for a living, but myself. I can understand things more clearly, I feel so much more confident than I used to: this process has made me a better person.”
She goes on to describe how everyone asks her how she found the strength to carry on despite so many trials—from losing her credits and having to start over to the difficulty of the exam in and of itself.
Kiru doesn’t hold any illusions about how she was able to persevere as a woman in finance. Nor does she think that she is someone with a higher IQ than most or more access to opportunities. Instead, what helped her become the professional woman—inside and outside of her career—that she is today is her perspective.
“Failure tells you that you can look forward to something else. That something else made me keep going. You know, failure in the future is not going to affect me. I’ve been through these cycles of success and failure, success and failure. And I’m where I am today because of it.”