Following in her footsteps

Wednesday, May 4, 2022
Winnie and Aaron holding their diplomas

Ahead of Mother’s Day on May 8, the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) is sharing the story of a mother and son who graduated from the same university and program, 28 years apart. When Winnie Leung graduated from the MAcc program in 1993, the top song on the radio was I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston, and in 2021, when her son Aaron Leung graduated, the top song on Spotify was Drivers License by Olivia Rodrigo. Music, fashion, and technology changed during that time, but the value of a SAF degree remained constant.

Winnie, who is now CFO at Moneris Solutions, and Aaron who is now a senior accountant at KPMG realize what a large part the University of Waterloo has played in their family history. In fact, Winnie met her husband Simon Leung (BMath ’88) during frosh week on campus, and after they graduated, they brought their children to campus often. By the time it was time to apply for university, Aaron and his younger sister Ashley (currently in her third year studying Speech Communication) felt very much at home at Waterloo knowing that their parents made memories before them.

Friends and family of Winnie and Aaron often comment on how similar the mother-son duo is, specifically in how they think and act. It’s highlighted in their shared sense of adventure, open-mindedness, and favourite foods. In addition to studying in the same program, Aaron also followed in his mother’s footsteps by joining the same audit firm and audit group that she was once a part of.

The School caught up with Winnie and Aaron to discuss their family bond, career journey, and how they plan to celebrate Mother’s Day this year.

What do you love the most about your mom/son?

WL: His sensitive nature and his strong ability to relate to people and understand what they need or how they feel. He loves to try new things and I know that I can always count on him to help me try new food recipes!

AL: I love her family-first attitude. She won’t show it, but her affection is something I am grateful for and cherish. She also has a willingness to try new things. At a certain point in life, experiences become important and throughout her life, she has taken risks whether that be professionally or personally (like learning how to ski as an adult).

What makes you most proud of your mom/son?

WL: All his academic achievements including being on the Dean’s Honour List, passing his Common Final Examination (CFE), quickly adapting to being a leader for his clients, and how he has developed into the well-rounded person that he is.

I love that he has followed in my footsteps, starting with enrolling and graduating from the same program that I did to joining the same audit firm and audit group that I was part of.

AL: My mom is one of the most commendable people I know. Her perseverance in life inspires me. As I grew up, I realized how remarkable my mom’s career has been, and having that kind of figure in my life is something that I am fortunate with. I’m very proud to call her my mom and can always lean on her for advice personally, academically, and professionally.

What is a piece of advice you’ve received from your mom that has stuck with you throughout your academic career?

AL: She told me to be myself and be confident in my abilities. She always knew that I had what it takes to “get over the hump” but it’s the confidence factor that I always struggled with. The most important thing is trusting what I know, my abilities, and doing the best that I can. I now strive to complete tasks with a more positive mindset and encourage my colleagues at work to do the best that they can, because, at the end of the day, that is all anyone can ask for.

What traits, interests or habits do you think you’ve adopted from your mom?

AL: Funny question because a lot of people say I think and act like my mom. The most notable traits include being courteous and respectful of others, being open-minded, and being level-headed. We also share a similar taste in food and a sense of adventure! Every time we look for a new recipe or go to a restaurant, we tend to choose the same thing!

What inspired you to enroll in the SAF’s Master of Accounting (MAcc) program?

WL: I heard about the program from a CA who came to talk to us in high school about the vast career opportunities for a CA (now CPA). The MAcc program intrigued me as it allowed me to get invaluable work experience while earning my degree and allowed me to skip the pre-admission exams and the School of Accountancy (which were the requirements at that time) and go directly to write the UFE. I was so excited to go to Waterloo, so much so that I was not deterred when most of my friends decided to stay in Toronto. This allowed me to develop my independence at a very young age. 

AL: I knew I wanted to enter the world of business after taking a few introductory courses in high school and being involved in an after-school program called Junior Achievement. My mom spoke highly of the CPA and the flexibility of having this designation in the business world. My mom advised me that the University of Waterloo could help me achieve that goal the fastest.

My parents had both graduated from Waterloo and we had visited the campus many times before, so I felt very much at home there. The reputation and success former MAcc students had in the program further solidified my decision.

How will you be celebrating your mom on Mother’s Day this year?
AL: My mom and sister plan on participating in the Sporting Life 10K walk and run, so I will cheer them on there in Toronto. I also plan on taking my mom to a nice dinner – we are both foodies, so I plan on taking her to a new restaurant that we both haven’t been to before to see if it’s a restaurant that should be added to our list!

* This interview has been edited for length and clarity.