An Irish Chartered Accountant’s Story of Working in Canada

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The desire to work in another country for the life experience is something many of us contemplate doing when we are younger. For others, working in another country may be a way of doing a trial run to see if they want to move to that country. For many Irish Chartered Accuntants, Canada offers an opportunity to gain valuable work experience, explore a new country and perhaps test the waters for a future move. This post explores Catherine Cormican’s(an Irish CA) experience of working in Canada and explains how she researched her move, the steps she took to make it happen and the overall value that it brought to her career. The post is also useful to those hiring agents who are thinking of bringing an Irish Chartered Accountant on board as it examines the mindset these potential candidates might be bringing with them into the marketplace.

1.Why did you choose Canada as a destination?
My husband and I wanted to live in a different country so we could experience other cultures, traditions and working environments. It was important to us that we selected a country where our qualifications were recognized so we could further our careers. I am a CA and Paul is an IT Consultant. We were attracted to Toronto specifically because it is known for being a diverse, multinational, cosmopolitan city, which we felt would satisfy our requirement for experiencing new environments while still having excellent career developing opportunities.

It was important to us that we selected a country where our qualifications were recognized so we could further our careers.

2. Was it a stop along the way and if so where else did you go?
We spent a few months travelling either side of our year in Canada before we returned to Ireland. We spent 4 months in South America and 2 months in China, but this was vacation time, and we were not working in any of these locations.

3. Were your skills and qualifications viewed as equivalent?
My qualification as a Chartered Accountant was recognized. Chartered Accountants Ireland has Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) with other countries including Canada. Also I trained with KPMG in Ireland, which gave me great exposure to many companies including US and Canadian MNC. My exposure to Sarbanes Oxley while working in a US company in Ireland, enabled me to quickly secure employment in Toronto within a week or so of arriving in the country.

Chartered Accountants Ireland has Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) with other countries including Canada. Also I trained with KPMG in Ireland…

4. What research did you do before you arrived?
In terms of research before I arrived, I had spoken with my partner in KPMG so I had permission to work out of their Toronto office if I needed, but I wanted to try an industry role first, which I did secure. I researched recruitment agencies online before arriving. I contacted the agency called SWAP, which stands for the Student Work Abroad Program. It’s geared towards students and professionals under 35. I got a visa which provided information on how to find a job. Really, the most valuable research was the research I did for myself on-line.

I contacted the agency called SWAP, which stands for the Student Work Abroad Program. It’s geared towards students and professionals under 35.

5. Who did you work for in Canada?
I approached 3 recruiting agencies. One of them was particularly helpful and helped me get a contract quickly in a mining company. I thought it was very easy to secure the role and even when the contract ended, I quickly went to work for TD Bank. I was in a new apartment and had my first job within about 10 days after arriving in the country. I was only off a week or so between the mining company and TD. It was a buoyant market then, with Sarbanes Oxley consultants in demand, but I do not know how easy it is now.

I approached 3 recruiting agencies. One of them was particularly helpful and helped me get a contract quickly in a mining company.

6. Did you find that the working culture was different in Canada?
I did notice differences within the working culture. I found that the companies I worked with while in Canada were very team focused, and there was a lot of time given to team building exercises both work related and otherwise which I understand is to promote a happier, more united team. Certainly I would have had more exposure to longer working hours in Ireland, which is expected at the more senior levels. There were significantly more meetings in Canada, both formal/informal in terms of planning and strategic approaches to work. Again I would relate this back to working environment. A lot of time is put into the planning of how the completion of the task impacts the work environment, rather than a focus being on the completion of these tasks. What I realized though, was that team morale was important in terms of achieving higher performance and maintaining motivation – a critical lesson for me.

I did notice differences within the working culture. I found that the companies I worked with while in Canada were very team focused…

7. What were the best things about your work experience here?
The project work I completed on my first role in Canada broadened my technical knowledge of Sarbanes Oxley and gave me a greater appreciation for the control environment. I met some great people who taught me a lot of about managing people and the importance of developing relationships at work. While I may have been slightly impatient and intolerant before, I learned by example that there were better ways to achieve the results I wanted in a more appeasing manner. I definitely took some positives aspects of the team focus in the working environment back with me to my current roles.

I met some great people who taught me a lot of about managing people and the importance of developing relationships at work.

8. What were the 3 most surprising things about working here?
Firstly, it was interesting to see that, much like Ireland, the same issues arise in all companies, and that even though we are very different countries with very different people, when it comes down to it, we are very similar. Therefore, the skills I attained in Ireland were very transferable to my roles in Canada. Secondly, I was pleasantly surprised to see just how transferable and recognized my qualifications were. I had envisaged that while Chartered Accountants Institutes worldwide would have understanding of equivalent qualifications between different countries, I thought companies might not be as accepting of a non-Canadian qualifications. Thirdly, I would say that the focus on team building and management initially surprised me, although I quickly came to see the value of it. It was definitely a more relaxed working environment than we were used to in Ireland.

I was pleasantly surprised to see just how transferable and recognized my qualifications were.

9. Was your Canadian experience helpful when you returned home?
Yes. My work on two Sarbanes Oxley projects in Canada, as mentioned above, gave me a greater understanding of the control environment and in creating, documenting, evaluating and improving processes which I definitely brought to my current role. Also the people management skills which I was exposed to were of great benefit in trying to understand, and interact with my teams and co-workers.

…the people management skills which I was exposed to were of great benefit in trying to understand, and interact with my teams and co-workers.

While there are cultural differences between Canada and Ireland, what is similar is that companies value individuals who drive results. Irish CA’s who come with a strong work ethic and an openness to different ways of doing things have a unique opportunity to gain relevant, valuable industry experience, while exploring a different culture. Many Irish Chartered Accountant’s are surprised to learn that their skills and qualifications are transferable and that their willingness to work hard and adapt are highly prized in the Canadian marketplace. Fundamentally, working in Canada offers them a chance to broaden their horizons as well as their finance career.

Thinking of coming to Canada from Ireland to work? Check out the following resources:
Irish Canadian Immigration Center: 
www.irishcdn.org

Phone: 1.877.603.9549

This organization will answer questions on job opportunities, accommodation and VISA Residency Issues.

The Ireland Canada Chamber of Commerce in Toronto:
www.ircccto.com 

Provide information about what support services and opportunities exist for Irish Candidates.