In Part I of our chat with Brian Trnkus, CPA, CA, Trnkus explained how he found his path to success. In Part II, he describes how he sought challenges and experiences that forced him to grow as a professional.
Accounting and finance suited Trnkus’ professional temperament and rhythm of work. “I like challenges and having things fast-paced,” Trnkus says. While others crumble when the clock is ticking, Trnkus believes that the pressure of an approaching deadline can be invaluable for your growth as a working professional. As he puts it, “hard deadlines can offer you some important learning experiences,” in regards to time management, productivity, and coping with stress. Tension builds not only muscle, but character, too.
Indeed, Trnkus suggests that every accounting and finance professional should establish a set of internal deadlines for their career and professional growth, to force themselves to move on and ahead when the time is right. “Create your own timeline,” he says. “Three months, six months, a year, two years — ask yourself, what do I want to have done by each of these milestones? In what ways do I want to have improved my role? How will I leave it better for the next person?”
Forcing yourself to grow
Trnkus regards his time with Nortel in a uniformly positive light. “I held close to twenty different positions while I was working at Nortel,” he explains. Trnkus started out in the plant environment, before switching to the cost side of the business, in accounting and financial planning, and then to business modeling in supporting product line management; he eventually moved up to corporate, and then to a customer-facing positions in regional roles. Each role served as a stepping-stone to the next, providing Trnkus with critical “building-blocks” that he took with him into his subsequent position. “I made sure that I always moved forward in terms of new challenges and bandwidth of knowledge….What I was able to add to my toolkit was tremendous.”
“…hard deadlines can offer you some important learning experiences.”
His time at Nortel taught him the importance of recognizing when to pursue a new challenge or opportunity, after you’ve mastered your current position and left it better than when you started. As Trnkus puts it, you want to “contribute to your role, leave a legacy of improvements, and then move on to the next challenge.”
Of course, that’s often easier said than done; people can quite naturally grow complacent in their career development, when they become comfortable with their position. “To move outside of your comfort zone is the hardest,” he allows. “But you have to want to challenge yourself. It’s funny to say, but you have to move on to move on. Force yourself to grow.”
The advantages of working abroad
For Trnkus, forcing himself to grow included being open to the possibility of working abroad, which he did with Nortel. “Taking the international assignment with Nortel was an eye-opener,” Trnkus says. Working in a foreign country, for a company with global reach and ambitions, and with people from different parts of the world themselves, exposed Trnkus to different perspectives and outlooks on business and life — all of which helped him grow personally and professionally. “You’d have England, France, and Germany all in the same meeting,” he recalls, “and you’d have to figure out how to make all those different cultures and viewpoints work well with one another.”
“But you have to want to challenge yourself. It’s funny to say, but you have to move on to move on. Force yourself to grow.”
Accepting an assignment abroad was hardly an easy decision for a father of four kids. But Trnkus says that the family looked at the move as an adventure. Ultimately, it proved to be a learning experience for everyone in the Trnkus household. Living and working abroad also added another “tool” to his ever-expanding repertoire. “Having the ability to speak a second language is a huge advantage,” he says. “Having that second language helped me to get positions, and it will certainly will help anyone with international aspirations.”
Brian Trnkus realized fairly early on that he would have to be proactive in pursuing his professional development, in order to achieve the kind of success he knew was waiting for him. He’s refused to take his eye off the prize since — and we would do well to follow his example. Trnkus teaches us the importance of challenging yourself to develop as a professional and embracing, indeed, seeking change as an opportunity to grow.
Let us know what you think! At Clarity Recruitment, we’re always interested in hearing from accounting and finance professionals like yourselves, who are ready for new, exciting opportunities that can take their careers to the next level. And be sure to follow us on Twitter (@clarityrecruits) and connect with us on Facebook for more great tips and advice!