A Millennial’s Journey to Professional Certification

Insights from: Andrew Buwalda, CHAE

Millennials, and young professionals in general, are often challenged in the job market — by roles that require x years of experience. Professional certifications are a great way to build up one’s professional skills and resume while continuing to acquire that industry experience that employers are looking for.

Certifications are important to professional development, both from a personal and professional perspective. Personally, it is gratifying to put hard work into studying and preparing for the examination, and to subsequently be granted the certification. Professionally, it sends a clear message to employers that you are an active and engaged member of your industry.

I believe it says a great deal about a person that they would choose to pursue something optional like this, and put in all of the hard work and effort — even if the designation is beyond the scope of their current role. It is building a path for future success.

My decision to select an HFTP certification was an easy one. Having been involved in HFTP for many years, I was familiar with the organization and its commitment to continuing education and producing quality and relevant educational experiences.

When I decided that I wanted to complete a professional certification, it was therefore a foregone conclusion that I would choose HFTP and the Certified Hospitality Accountant Executive (CHAE®) designation.

The CHAE is the only professional certification available that is exclusive to hospitality finance professionals. HFTP also offers the Certified Hospitality Technology Professional (CHTP®) for hospitality technology professionals.

My certification journey began while I was still a student at Niagara College, and Dr. Paul Willie, DBA, MBA, CHAE+,CHTP, CMA (professor, mentor, long-time HFTP member and former HFTP Ontario Chapter president) suggested I consider pursuing the CHAE designation. Dr. Willie is also the reason I initially joined HFTP as a student member. He is very active within HFTP and currently serves as the chair of the CHTP Advisory Council.

I did not approach the certification process right away. Instead, I first worked in the industry for several years, and then decided it was time to take up the challenge. But, Dr. Willie had planted the seed that kept me thinking about it right up until I took the test and achieved my CHAE.

The Path to HFTP Certification

Obtaining the CHAE designation has provided me with confidence and has demonstrated my commitment to continuing education and to my involvement in a professional organization like HFTP. Since earning my CHAE, I have taken a position on the HFTP Global Board of Directors. I also serve as the president of the HFTP Ontario Chapter and am part of the HFTP Young Professional’s Advisory Council. In these positions, it is important to create opportunities for my colleagues to pursue their designations, as well.

For other millennial and young professionals who are looking to start a certification program like the CHAE, my advice would be this: Practice, practice, practice. Much of the study material is theoretical, so do not forget to practice the application of the theoretical knowledge. You will need it to be successful in the exam.

I would also suggest thinking about how these theories relate to your current business and work. Ask those in your organization, like the director of finance or controller, for advice or assistance. It certainly won’t hurt for them to know that you are working towards your certification, either.


The impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic has been significant to the hospitality industry. To assist its members professionally, HFTP is discounting the CHAE and CHTP between May 1-October 31.
Members-only Special: $475 USD (typically $675)
The review and exam must be completed by October 31, 2020.

Email certification@hftp.org for more information.

Andrew Buwalda, CHAE is a director on the HFTP Global Board of Directors. He is currently the regional director of finance and analysis at SKYLINE INVESTMENTS, INC.

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