Linda Irrsack, Head of Finance Rolls With The Punches Pt. 2

finance team

What challenges have you overcome in your professional career?  There are always challenges in any professional career. It’s how you handle them that defines who you are.  With any organization I left, I always left on good terms. I did the right thing, even when it was the hard thing to do. Sometimes, your career will have ups and downs and you have to roll with them as best as you can. For example, my role at Fairmont was cut short by 9-11. There was nothing I could have done about in that situation, so I had to be flexible and move on.

How do you measure success for yourself?  For me I look at personal accomplishments over professional ones and I don’t measure myself against other people.  I’m more concerned with how people refer to me. What would people say about me? I want to make sure that I leave good impression and made a positive impact on both the people and the position. I also take pride in developing a strong team and seeing the people I mentor develop and progress.

Have you had any mentors that helped you out?  I haven’t had a formal mentor, but there have been a couple of men and women that have provided great advice or direction, but not functioned as formal mentors. Sometimes even a small comment or constructive criticism can mean a lot; the challenge is to accept and learn from them. I have had enough acquaintances though that have listened to my ideas and provided some solid feedback. I have a great informal support network.

Sometimes even a small comment or constructive criticism can mean a lot; the challenge is to accept and learn from them.

How did each job or experience build your skillset?  From KPMG, I got a lot of technical expertise and also had the time to get my CMA. Given the different roles I was in there, I learned that I had the aptitude to be put into any situation and function successfully.

  • From TransCanada I learned reporting to a corporate group, managerial experience and dealing with auditors and the true corporate environment.
  • From Preussag I learned that I could take risks and deal with ambiguity. I learned that I’ll never have 100% of the information or resources and that you have to assess the situation as best as you can and move forward.
  • At Procter Silex, I learned that I needed to be challenged.
  • From Fairmont, this was setting up business from scratch, so I learned about starting things from the ground up and things don’t necessarily end up how you expected.
  • From the airport, I learned a massive amount on the operations side, purchasing, contracts, business development, security, and large contract management.
  • Falconbridge was a brand new industry for me and I learned to roll up my sleeves and understand everything from the ground up.

What advice would you give new graduates who are looking at accounting and finance as a career?  Many people don’t recognize the importance of getting true hands on experience before moving to senior roles. Lots of people want to go right into managing, but to be truly effective, it’s best to first get a solid understanding of what it is you’re going to be managing. That only comes from getting experience and doing the actual work. Doing the work is a learning experience in and of itself and not something that should be missed.

Many people don’t recognize the importance of getting true hands on experience before moving to senior roles.

Sometimes the economy will shift on you and in those circumstances you have to be flexible. It is always better to be getting some sort of work experience (however different from what you thought your path was going to be) than none at all. Any time you can layer on a new responsibility to your current role, do it!

If you’re unsure of where you want to go, at least start something and it will often lead you where you want to go.

It’s ok if you change your mind.

Linda Irrsack, CMA/MBA has made rolling with the punches into an art form.  She is calm and collected under pressure, accepts that things are not always going to run smoothly and still manages to consistently produce successful results. She engenders trust in those she works with by staying true to herself and she is ok with a path that isn’t always a straight line.  She has learned from each position she has accepted, grown as a person and as a professional and like those she works with, she has my respect.