I had to think pretty long and hard about how I would introduce Tracy to everyone on the blog. I first met her in 2010 working in my first internal audit position. Since then I have more stories and advice she has shared with me then I could ever type into probably 1000 blog posts. Our conversations range from fangirling over Game of Thrones, to talking about her dress obsession (34 at one point), and to her helping me choose between jobs.
This special lady, or as I call her, my work Mom, has always been open and honest (and sometimes brutally straight-forward) when I go to her for career advice. But really, that’s what we all need sometimes right?! So without further ado, here is Tracy in her own words to share her career path (so far) with you.
- University of Western Ontario (Western University), 1988
- Bachelor of Arts, Administrative & Commercial Studies, Finance and Economics Specialization
- Certified Management Accountant, 1992
- Certified Internal Auditor, 2001
I recently had a blip in my career path that caused me to question some of my choices, however briefly, because I have not always followed a traditional path of vertical movement up the organization.
Born in 1967, I am at the front end of Generation X. That means more to some people than others, but for me one of the biggest impacts on my career was arriving at the tail end of the baby boom. Literally since I started working in 1988 I have heard of the impending mass retirement of the boomers and the subsequent availability of countless advancement opportunities. 29 years later I am still waiting for this to come to pass.
I was a bit of a keener where education was concerned. I decided on business/accounting in high school and chose my university accordingly. I went to the University of Western Ontario (Western University) and was the only person from my small town Manitoba high school to go there. I realized when I was older that this was a pretty big and brave move. I got my CMA designation a few years after graduating University. The date on my designation is actually 1 day before my 25th birthday (yes, I am proud of that). Eleven years later I earned by Certified Internal Auditor designation as well.
I progressed through jobs rapidly early in my career, always leaving because I had outgrown the position not due to performance or personnel issues. I also made sure to always leave the role in a better state than I found it.
At 24 years old I was in the 5th and final level of the CMA program but I only had 3 years of work experience. The positions that matched my experience were hesitant to hire me because I was unlikely to stay long given my progress towards my designation. The positions that suited my education level wanted much more than 3 years of work experience.
The next logical step for me was to go somewhere that wanted my educational qualifications and would accept my limited years of experience. So, in November 1991, I moved to Arviat, Nunavut (formerly part of the Northwest Territories or NWT) and assumed the role of District Comptroller. I moved to Yellowknife for a head office position with the same organization about 18 months into my time in the NWT, staying with that organization and in the territory for 4 years total.
My next geographical move was to Edmonton, where I still am today. I held contract positions for a few years before re-entering the world of permanent employment with the provincial government. I stayed with the government, though with 4 roles in 3 ministries, for another 8 years.
I left government to return to the not for profit world where I began. I was 38 and landed the role of CFO at a large faith based social services organization. It was a perfect fit. I thought I was finally home, and for a time I was. I was responsible for Accounting, Payroll and IT when I began. While I was there, purchasing and administrative support were also added to my responsibilities. After three years, I sadly tendered my resignation to allow me to spend quality time with my daughter while she was still a child. It was the right decision but I did come to question it some years later.
I left the NPO in an economic boom time. I signed up with a placement agency to do some management level temping. My second temping assignment was with an oil and gas company to do some internal audit work. That 3 month contract was extended twice and then I was offered a full time senior auditor position. I loved my boss and I accepted the job. I spent 8 years as an employee of that company until I was laid off due to the elimination of the department I was in.
Courtney: Dress old – similar here and here | Long Blazer here | Boots here | Cocktail Ring old – similar here (less than $20)
I am not linking Tracy’s outfit except for her purse for the best reason. Her and I would prefer that you check out Peace Handicrafts, and consider making a purchase. Peace Handicrafts is a social-support business established in 2002 to provide training and employment opportunities to landmine victims, disabled persons and the deaf in Cambodia.
I was given a nice parting package, so I was not in immediate financial distress. That did not lessen the unavoidable aspects of being laid off 28 years into a career. A career that somewhat significantly defined you as a person, at least in your mind. I felt I was fine. I knew that it was not performance based – I was appraised as a high performer my entire time with the company. But I was at a loss as to where to go, what to do. And, I soon discovered, my career pathing was not consistent.
Was I a controller? Not based on the job postings I saw. My experience was too much. Was I a CFO? I was away from it for almost 8 years. What about internal audit – was I a manager, senior auditor, did I even want to do that? I got interviews. I got good feedback. I got “over-qualified”. I did not get offers. For 6 months. After 4 months I was seriously questioning leaving my CFO role, even though I knew it was right for my personal life and wellbeing. What had I done?
I decided to quit waiting for a paid position. I signed up with Accounting for International Development and accepted a two month volunteer assignment with and NGO in Cambodia. I thought, if nobody will pay me to do what I do then I will do it for free! Actually, since I paid my way, I paid them to work for them. It was well worth it. Even before I left things started to shift.
Three days before I was flying out to Cambodia I received a phone call to set up an interview for the next week. This was the perfect position based on my background. A director role in a faith based, government funded organization with responsibility for accounting operations, financial reporting, compliance and even a charitable foundation. It was like I had pathed my career specifically for it.
Then I got the offer. And now I am in the job. It is early on but I believe this is the place I am meant to be. I turned 50 this year, have 29 years invested in my career and it seems to be working out.
Why did I feel the need to write this? Because, despite conventional wisdom up until my generation, I followed my gut for 29 years. I moved jobs when I felt it was time, no matter how short my tenure. I moved laterally, several times. I changed focus from financial reporting to internal audit and back more than once. I attained a C-suite job at an organization with more than 1000 employees and then I left it!
The millennials coming up behind me are better at not following conventional paths and I applaud that. I also want my example out there to show that job-hopping the right way, following your gut and doing what you need to for you, is okay. You can still get where you want to be.