Meet past students who have made their way into the professional accounting world, and see if you can follow in their footsteps.

Why Ivey?

If you ask my family about what I was like when I was little, they would tell you that I was always trying to find a way to make a buck.  From lemonade stands, to charging my parents ‘interest’ when they borrowed my allowance money, to selling various craft projects – I guess you can say that I’ve been a business woman since a very young age.  As a result, I took every business and accounting course that my high school had to offer, and focused my university applications on business and accounting programs.

After much reflection, I decided that the strictly CA-focused program I had applied to wasn’t for me, as I wanted to have a variety of career options to choose from.  Being a London-native, coupled with Ivey’s stellar reputation and program structure made it a no-brainer for me to set my sights on earning acceptance.  Ivey allowed me to build a solid business foundation and I will tell anyone that asks, pursuing my HBA there was one of the best decisions I’ve made to date.

 

Why accounting?

When I was in high school, I thought that I wanted to be a lawyer, but I decided that this wasn’t the career for me after learning more about the profession through a co-op program.  By the time I reached fourth year of university, I was convinced that I wanted to earn my accounting designation but I needed to make a choice as to which designation to pursue, as this was prior to the merger.  After speaking with several people in the profession (both academic and non), I realized that management accounting was my calling as it would enable me to marry my passion for analytics with my interest in the consumer packaged goods industry.  It was a difficult decision at the time since most of my Ivey peers were pursuing their CA designation, but I knew that CMA was the right one for me.  The CPA, CMA designation has opened many doors, and my training as an accountant has enabled me to continue to add value while playing a key role in the decision making process.

 

How Ivey prepared me for CPA

While in the HBA program, I knew I was learning a lot but I don’t think I realized how relevant the case methodology was until I entered the real world.  Completing approximately 600 cases not only taught us about a variety of industries, but it also taught us how to approach different business problems.  Additionally, the myriad of group projects were an invaluable way to build the much-needed soft skills that are required in the workforce. 

A lesson that the professors always stressed was to ‘make an assumption and move on’.  As a student, this was simply a tactic to ensure that you were able to complete the assignment or test within the allotted time.  In the workforce, there is no such thing as perfect information so there are many opportunities to apply this valuable lesson when building financial models or other analysis to support decision making.  After all, a deadline is a deadline!

Why Ivey?

Like many students, I chose Ivey because of the 2+2 program structure. Coming out of high school, I knew I wanted to attend Ivey for the superior business foundation it offers. That being said, I also wanted to embrace the university experience and engage with subjects I might not otherwise be exposed to in a fixed, four-year commerce curriculum. Being a part of the main campus programming in my first two years allowed me to pursue a variety of faculties and extracurricular activities. Academically, I focused on areas of interest to me – psychology (specifically, psychotic disorders and drugs and behavior), creative writing and film studies. Outside of the classroom, I committed myself to mental health awareness as an executive with Active Minds and flexed my passion for sports as a sideline commentator for Western’s hockey and basketball games. I am confident that this diverse background has given me a unique perspective and skill-set as a young professional.

Why accounting?

Throughout high school and my first two years at Western, I consistently performed well in my accounting courses. It wasn’t until I started at Ivey that I began to consider accounting as a profession. The CPA designation is not dissimilar from an HBA education – both are focused on achieving excellence while demonstrating a breadth of “soft skills” that will foster success in the business world. Specific to my training in public accounting, I have gained experience leading teams in a professional context at an earlier stage than most. The foundation I have built through both paths will prove invaluable as I progress in my career, and are easily transferrable to any field.

How Ivey prepared me for CPA

I would strongly credit Ivey’s case study method for preparing me for the CPA exam process. The practice of analyzing cases on a daily basis allowed for a smooth transition in approaching the UFE and CFE cases we would write in the accounting program at Ivey, and later while studying for the CFE. Ivey also has an amazing team of instructors with years of collective experience in a variety of accounting roles.  Although Ivey allows you to specialize in accounting in HBA 2, the well-rounded business education gained over the two year program has been instrumental in launching my career and demonstrating value to my teams and clients.

(Ivey note: Emmy was on the CPA Ontario Honor Roll in 2016!)

Andrea Down1. Why did you decide to come to Ivey?

I chose Ivey because of its 2+2 program structure and its use of the case method. The 2+2 program structure encourages you to take courses in a wide range of disciplines. By infusing breadth into the program, Ivey allows you to gain a better understanding of your skills and interests. As a result, you are able to make more informed career decisions. Ivey’s case method fosters a realistic and rigorous learning environment. It places you in the context of real business problems and promotes learning through active class participation. This engaging approach supports the development of technical expertise and a broad skillset that can be applied in any career path.

2. How did you know accounting was right for you?

I have always been an analytical “numbers” person, so a career in accounting was a natural choice. In particular, public accounting exposes you to many different businesses at a very early stage in your career. This type of variety suits me because I am always in pursuit of a new challenge or learning opportunity. There is also a lot of flexibility in this field – an accounting background will open many doors in the business world.   

3. How did Ivey prepare you for a career as a CPA?

Ivey allows you to specialize in accounting, without comprising your general management education. The HBA program equips you with the technical accounting knowledge that you need to excel as an entry-level CPA student. In addition, you are also required to take other non-accounting business electives, which will help you as a CPA career. To account for a particular transaction properly, you need to understand the underlying business context. The comprehensive training that you receive while you are at Ivey ensures that you are able to step and see the big picture. As such, Ivey graduates are well-rounded accounting professionals – they possess pervasive qualities and technical knowledge.   

Adam Jean1. Why did you decide to come to Ivey?

I was originally in the science program at Western, prior to my introduction to what was then called Business 257. It was my dad who encouraged me to try a business course. As a dentist who ran his own practice, he was always interested and took Business 257 as a night course later in his 40’s. The course was my first real introduction to accounting, the case teaching method and to business decision-making in general, and I was immediately drawn to it. I did not know what I wanted to do “when I grew up” and I knew that having a business background would provide me with flexibility and the foundation needed to open doors to opportunities. Once I decided to go on this route, I knew where I wanted to go. Ivey’s reputation was top notch; the case method of learning provided the real life experience and problem solving opportunities I was looking for. The networking opportunities would extend well beyond the classroom throughout my career. Having already been at Western for my undergraduate program, I considered myself fortunate to have Ivey at my doorstep.

2. How did you know accounting was right for you?

I didn’t at first.  In fact, I performed terribly on my first Business 257 exam, which focused on financial accounting. I had never taken an accounting or business course and had been spending my study efforts on my science and math courses. However, I quickly realized that accounting was the language of business and that if I wanted to excel in business, I better learn the language. I put more focus on Business 257 after the initial exam scare and in that process realized that I was drawn to the structure and logic of a “T account” and that there was something comforting about a balance sheet that balanced and where debits equaled credits. Most importantly, it was when I started to learn how the numbers told a story about a company without otherwise knowing the history that I really began to enjoy accounting. I did a summer internship at Ernst & Young in London between my third and fourth year at Ivey. I had exposure to a variety of clients and engagement types through the summer internship and further realized that there were no limits to my career path with a solid accounting background.

3. How did Ivey prepare you for a career as a CPA?

Ivey gave me a well-rounded skillset for tackling a variety of business issues. The CPA, CA designation added the business language to my tool belt to help me take what I had learned at Ivey to another level and to be able to communicate to a broader audience. What attracted me to Ivey also attracted me to the CPA. Both opened more doors and opportunities for my career path and closed none. Ivey prepared me for obtaining a CPA designation with its case-teaching approach, a focus on analytical thinking and problem solving, and equally important, building the “soft-skills” required to effectively communicate ideas and decisions throughout an organization. The Ivey-CPA combination is one that I will take with me and use wherever I take my career. During my time at Ernst & Young, I had valuable exposure to a variety of industries and client-service engagements including manufacturing, health care, biotechnology, retail, construction and government enterprises. Today, I find myself as the VP Finance and Chief Financial Officer of a publicly-traded mining company with Fortune Minerals Limited, something I would have never thought of as a career path during university. The Ivey background and CPA designation armed me with the basic technical, analytical and communications skills that have allowed me to pursue various opportunities I would not have otherwise had the confidence to take on.

John B Simcoe1. Why did you decide to come to Ivey?

Ivey had the best reputation among business schools when I was coming out of high school and I knew it would be difficult to get in.  Given the challenge that presented, I set out to make my first two years at Western count in all aspects - studies, extra-curricular activities, including volunteerism, community and politics and work experiences. The bottom line was that in order to get into Ivey I needed to be well rounded in my life and be able to demonstrate that. This carried on throughout my career and I continue to focus on business life, including social, family, volunteerism, politics and community activities. 

2. How did you know accounting was right for you?

I didn't actually. When I went to Ivey it wasn't a major area of focus. There were probably eight or nine people out of the 150 in my HBA year who went into accounting. I actually didn't know what I was going to do so I went to Ottawa to work as a political aide to a cabinet minister as I had been involved in politics. After doing that for a year, I started looking for a job to start on my business career. I sought help from a number of people I knew, including those in my Ivey network, to help me connect with people in various areas of business. One of the roles I explored was investment banking and in my final interview the managing director indicated that I would join the bank for a couple of years and then they would expect me to do an MBA. I told him that I wasn't thinking of doing the MBA as I had just finished the HBA and asked if he was an MBA. He explained that he did post-graduate education in the form of qualifying as a CA instead and then joined the bank. I then met with some people from two CA firms, including a legacy firm of PwC, and decided that I would complete the CA designation and then go into investment banking. I completely enjoyed my new found career and never looked back.

3. How did Ivey prepare you for a career as a CPA?

There are a number of ways Ivey has helped prepare me well for my career as a CPA.  

Firstly, a good foundational understanding of business, how businesses work, and the skills developed within Ivey, particularly using the case method in learning how to analyze and determine key drivers of a business, are instrumental for this career. There are many reasons for this: 

  • In the context of an audit, or any type of assurance role, knowledge of the business is a critical starting point and one which the best clients demand and expect of professionals working with them.
  • In analyzing any complex accounting problem or issue the accounting literature and applicable guidance is only one part of what is needed. You also need to have a good understanding of the underlying business transactions and business reasons for the transactions before you can really deal with the accounting effectively.  

In addition, as an advisor working with clients, the foundational business training I had at Ivey has also enabled me to go far beyond the fundamentals of accounting, reporting and assurance and work with clients in a variety of different ways such that I can ensure our firm is adding value across their businesses.