Wilmar Suan

Today (Sept. 8, 2015) is the first day of my children to go to school. Tonight is my last class at Walsh Master of Science in Taxation (MST).

It was fall of 2012 when I started the graduate program of Walsh Master of Science in Taxation. There was so much anxiety and uncertainty over whether I could endure the rigors of the program.

Part of my apprehension was that it had been 22 years since I attended and completed formal education, not counting my two years at UST Law which was abruptly cut when I joined my wife here in the US. Except for few classes I had attended to complete the requirements of my CPA examination, I had no idea how U.S. college education is conducted.

Another thing that bothered me: What would be the effect of my schooling to my new practice, which is 40 miles away from school? I doubted if I could do it without neglecting my obligations to my wife and kids and to my budding tax practice.

I heard that the effort expected is at least twice that of a regular M.B.A due to the nature of the specialized degree. In fact, the passing grade for MST is much lower than that of MBA. But with blind faith and a lot of guts I found myself in the desk of Walsh College counselor, and soon I was officially enrolled in the program.

A year before my enrollment, I was working in private practice as controller, a position I held for more than 15 years. In 2009 the economy went bad, and although I was able to hold onto my job, I witnessed some of my friends and associates struggled to hold onto theirs. Then it dawned on me: What if it was me? What would I do? And what would happen to my family?

That was the turning point: I decided to place my career under my control – no boss, only accountable to myself. In 2010 I started my small tax practice with few people as my clients. However, it was difficult to practice tax while holding a full-time job, and it was unfair to my clients as well.

I recalled what my mentor told me in my early days of multi-level marketing —  sometimes, to move forward we have to burn our bridge. And burning I did when I told the president of our company in the fall of 2011 that I am resigning my post as controller/VP finance. He reacted in disbelief as I was quitting at a time when almost everybody was fighting hard to hold onto their jobs or finding one.

I dived as a full-time tax practitioner (now I call myself as tax advisor). However, I did not want to be a mediocre tax practitioner. I want to be fair to my clients because they deserve the best service. I do not want to limit myself to the routine of filling tax forms; instead I wanted to know the reason behind those tax forms.

I always remind myself of the mantra that “You do not know what you do not know.” This was the reason why I enrolled at Walsh M.S.T to better myself in my new chosen career.

In my first few days of class I had my first big “O shit moment” realization of the complexity of my chosen career and US taxation in general. As my course progressed, my “O shit list” grew.

But I realized it was the best way to learn. During the exit interview, I was asked to sum up my experience in the program. I was frank to tell them of my growing “O shit list.” The program was a wild ride, difficult, lack of sleep and severely diminished happy hours. Weekends and week nights, I kept pounding my computer for legal tax research, cases brief and reading for the weekly exam.

Walsh College instituted a weekly exam to give students a chance to make up for midterm and final examinations which are often difficult to pass, one reason why the failing grades and repeats were higher prior to the weekly examination program.

And through it all, I made it. Yes, I made it. Today (Sept. 8) is my final semester examination, my final exit interview, my final tax research paper requirements and my last day as a student of Walsh MST.

Looking back, I realize that part of my motivation of going for Master of Taxation is to show to my children that there is no substitute for good education, and the possibility that it can be done even in difficult circumstances.

I thank my loving wife for understanding my temper and other transgressions I made during that difficult period. And above all, I thank God for what I am and for what I have.