Alison Spitzer, CA, Makes Consumers Into World Changers (Pt. 1)

finance team

Many of us admire those who decide to work in organizations that focus on social enterprise.  While we admire them, however, we also think that such a life couldn’t possibly be for us.  “Not fast paced enough,” we think to ourselves. “I won’t have a chance to grow my skills” we insist.  Meet Alison Spitzer, driven, focused, and a former employee of KPMG. She has a very different point of view.  I hazard a guess, she will make you see social enterprise in a whole new way.

Where did you go to school and why did you go there? 
I went to McMaster University in Hamilton for my undergrad. I grew up in small town Alberta and I wanted to venture out. A friend recommended MAC and told me that there was a strong sense of community at the school and I wanted to be part of that.

I grew up in small town Alberta and I wanted to venture out. A friend recommended MAC and told me that there was a strong sense of community…

Which firm did you choose for your practical experience?
I chose KPMG because the people that I had met during the recruiting process were rounded professionals. I identified with KPMG’s core values and the conversations I had with everyone were professional, but they didn’t take themselves too seriously.  They also really believe in being part of the local and international community and that resonated with me. KPMG also offers summer internship programs which I applied for and received in second and third year university and (what I think) is the top UFE program. Through the internship program I was able to explore different practices at KPMG to better understand which industry I preferred to work in.

 I identified with KPMG’s core values and the conversations I had with everyone were professional, but they didn’t take themselves too seriously

How did your time at KPMG help move you toward social enterprise?
KPMG has distinct audit practices and the Enterprise Group (which I was part of) is specializes in  private company, private equity,  and not for profit clients. It was a core focus for KPMG and I wanted to join them and help grow that part of the market.  This worked for me because I had little interest in the public sector,.  the Enterprise Group lined up well with the business sector that I wanted to be part of.. I did dabble in some bigger companies and gained some valuable experience during my summer interships, but it felt like more of a fit to work in the small, private company group in terms of where I wanted to grow my career.  Being exposed to various values and cultures of not for profit organizations spoke to something inside me and the clients were typically the ones that  I enjoyed most. Because of KPMGs specialization in this industry I was able to work alongside managers and partners with incredible backgrounds and experience in not for profit and private companies who provided great mentorship and insight into the industry.

Because of KPMGs specialization in this industry I was able to work alongside managers and partners with incredible backgrounds…

What can you say about your time in KPMG?
I am sincerely grateful for the experience, training, and mentorship I received while at KPMG. It shaped me as professional and provided me the foundation I wanted to start building a career as a CA. Specifically because I worked in auditing where I was exposed to a different client  about every two to three weeks. I had 8+ clients each year, which gave me perspective on different cultures, different business practices and different types of operations and work strategies. Secondly, working with smaller clients allowed me to see more of the file as a junior staff member because I was working in a team of two or three as opposed to a team of twenty or more. Thirdly, I had great opportunities to increase my levels of responsibility, which helped me to learn how to work efficiently under pressure, while at the same time producing high quality work. Lastly, I learned valuable lessons about how to manage a team and difficult clients. All of the things I learned while at KPMG resulted in a solid, transferable skill set. While I was fortunate to work with some incredible people and build strong relationships at all levels from junior staff to partners, it was something that I had to continually work for. I learned that ultimately I was in control of how I wanted to shape my career and capitalize on the mentorship and resources available to me (I asked a lot of questions and always thanked those seniors, managers, and partners that took the time to answer them.)

I learned that ultimately I was in control of how I wanted to shape my career and capitalize on the mentorship and resources available to me…

Why were you drawn to social enterprise?
I was drawn to the industry before working at KPMG because I was always active in my community and volunteered along the way from junior high to university and into my career at KPMG. My family was very supportive of my volunteering work. I also remember feeling, even when I was in high school, that it was important to believe in what you were doing, whether it was at work or school. I found I was happiest when I was working in something that intrinsically gave more to the community.

I also remember feeling, even when I was in high school, that it was important to believe in what you were doing, whether it was at work or school.

Tell me about the company you work for now:
I work for Me to We, which is an innovative social enterprise that offers better choices for a better world. Half the profits of the business are given to its charity partner Free the Children and the other half are re-invested to grow the enterprise. There is a myth that a social enterprise or not for profit wouldn’t challenge me, but that has not been the case.  Me to We is a fast paced, innovative company that walks a fine balance of offering a fun and likeable culture, with a high degree of professionalism.  We have an incredible group of customers who truly believe in making better choices for a better world and they live that philosophy when they choose to travel on our voluntourism trips or when they choose to buy a t-shirt from our socially responsible style line. It extends beyond a business transaction because our customers also share the same philosophy of helping our world and they make lifestyle choices that reflect this.

There is a myth that a social enterprise or not for profit wouldn’t challenge me, but that has not been the case.  Me to We is a fast paced, innovative company that walks a fine balance of offering a fun and likeable culture, with a high degree of professionalism.

 

Come back on Friday to read Part 2 and find out how Alison landed her dream job by leveraging her relationships and accounting skills.