Career Paths – Not Always Straight Forward

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My finance accounting career started by accident.  What does that mean?  My wife applied to an entry level accounting job in manufacturing on my behalf when I was working as a Personal Banker selling mortgages, lines of credit and investments.  My background is in Computer Science and sure enough I ended up in finance.

I had talked about working in finance accounting, really, how difference could accounting be, I’m looking at personal income statements all the time.  I couldn’t be more wrong.

Needless to say, I receive a call one day and get asked to come down for an interview.  I received the first job because of my ability to communicate and build relationships.  Even in the interviews I was able to build small relationships that pushed me ahead of others who had studied accounting and were working towards their CPA.

What do you do when you get a job that you are most likely under qualified for?  You put your head down and you work.  I worked hard to figure out the business, the pain points for my customers, and communicate with them.  I delivered good news and bad news the same way, with understanding of how it impacted them and the reasons behind the news.

After gaining my experience I moved into the Internal Audit department in the same company.  How?  Hard work and business understanding.  When you work in audit, you need to be able to understand the business, what you’re reviewing and how everything ties together.

Less than two years into this role, I moved into Internal Audit of a multibillion dollar international real estate company and reported to the VP of Audit and Compliance.  I still had no accounting designation, but I put my head down and did the work. 

I think getting a CPA is fantastic and well worth it, yet if you can’t build the relationships in business and communicate, all that hard work will never materialize into its full value.

Unfortunately they decided to move my department from Toronto, Canada to New York City and I was out of a job.  I decided at this time to move backwards in my career due to having kids.  I went back to a Financial Analyst job so I could be home at night.

This job was fantastic because I could do the job with ease but more due to the fact it had tremendous leaders that I could learn from.  I was able to learn about the business in a larger context than what I was used too.  I was able to build better relationships with the business and truly partner with them.  I earned a seat at the table of everything and my opinion was respected because I understood the business not just finance. 

Now I’ve moved back up and I am a Controller.  I’m working on building the next set of leaders and I want these men and women to surpass me.  I realize that I don’t want to be a CFO, therefore I’m not going to grind out everything I need to be a CFO but that’s good.  That’s my path.

Realize that you may not always have a career directory straight up the ladder, sometimes you will stall, sometimes you may move back down, but at the end of the day you will succeed.  Remember that your path is individual to you, the timeframe is individual to you, have patience, grind it out and you will finish at the top of the game.