Since elementary school, Sophie Keen dreamed of studying abroad.
While listening to her English tutor share stories of attending Yale, Sophie imagined the possibilities for herself. Then, eight years ago, that dream became reality, when Sophie moved to Salem to complete her MBA at Willamette University.
After graduating in 2014, Sophie got married — her husband was also in the program — and started a family, but this didn’t stop her from pursuing her career. She was just considering the next best step.
Sophie wanted a career that offered stability and opportunity, but which she could balance with taking care of her family while staying in Salem. While originally she envisioned working for a global company doing project management, or the like, she was reminded of the inspiration she discovered through her accounting professor at Willamette.
“I enjoy his class,” she said. “I did very well in that class, so that gave me the idea — I want to pursue accounting. I can be good at it.”
Additionally, becoming a Certified Public Accountant was a solid career choice where Sophie could leverage her interest in numbers, problem-solving and helping people.
“I started studying when my daughter was born. I trained her to have a regular schedule — to take two to three -hour naps in the afternoon,” she said. “I trained her so I could study.”
And this training paid off, Sophie completed her CPA exam and was recognized as one of four Oregon winners of the prestigious 2018 Elijah Watt Sells Award. To qualify, a CPA candidate must obtain a cumulative average score above 95.50 across all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination, pass all four sections on their first attempt and have completed testing in 2018.
While being a CPA is a secure career for Sophie, at heart she is driven by her sincere interest in helping her clients.
“I like to help the clients solve their problems when they have tax issues, their books are a mess or they have 10 years of taxes to file — we are able to provide our expertise,” she said. “I like that side of it, being a consultant, an advisor, using my expertise to help people around me.”
And she does not shy away from a challenge, either. Whether a new type of tax return or a new area of business, she’s always open to learn, develop her skills and seek the answers to become an expert in her field.
“I remember when I first started doing nonprofit tax returns. It was not easy,” she said. “The tax forms are long and there are a lot of questions with different rules. It was challenging and took a while. That is why I like this profession. It’s so complicated. I feel like I am learning every day; facing challenges every day.”
Sophie’s professional focus ranges from restaurants and hospitality to construction and real estate, but as one fluent in both English and Mandarin Chinese (Sophie grew up in Taiwan, in Southeast Asia), she also aims to help the Mandarin-speaking community.
And when not crunching numbers, you will probably find Sophie in the kitchen.
“I like to cook,” she said. “I have lots of cookbooks. I like to try all different kinds of recipes.”
She is especially interested in Asian cooking — from Thai curry to Vienenmeas pho, she is always honing her culinary craft, looking for that next great recipe. A recipe is, after all, just another formula waiting to be calculated.