Things You Should Know about Working in the Tech Industry

The high tech industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. If you’re an accounting and finance professional  in Toronto looking to work in the industry, here are some things you should keep in mind.

The secret’s out — high technology is one of the fastest growing industries in the modern global economy.

Okay, so that’s hardly a secret. Everyone today knows that tech remains a high growth industry, reporting aggregate gains in revenue and employment, in spite of a sharp economic downturn that has decimated many other sectors.

In KPMG’s annual Technology Industry Business Outlook, 57 percent of the technology executives who participated in the survey expected their companies’ workforces to grow in 2012 (compared to 47 percent who said their headcounts would increase in 2011). Likewise, a 2011 Jones Lang Lasalle report described the high-tech industry in the U.S. as “a bright spot in an otherwise gray economic picture.”

Locally, the scene is a very positive one. Home to more than 11,000 firms that employ over 160,000 people altogether, Toronto is the third largest hub of technology companies in North America, behind only Silicon Valley and New York. No wonder that, for all the volatility that the tech industry has experienced over the past decade, most analysts and commentators remain bullish about its long-term prospects.

The tech industry offers some great career possibilities for anyone looking for an accounting or finance job in Toronto. As the industry continues to expand, and small, fledgling start-ups mature into medium- and large-sized enterprises, the demand for effective finance teams that can help them achieve operational efficiency, impose cost discipline, maximize resources, and attract investment will grow accordingly. As accounting and finance recruiters in Toronto with more than a decade of experience, we here at Clarity Recruitment have seen the number of opportunities in this sector for accounting and finance jobseekers rapidly multiply over the years.

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But what do you, as an accounting and finance professional in Toronto, need to know about getting into the tech industry? Who better to ask for advice than Greg Twinney, CFO/COO of Kobo Inc., makers of the massively popular Kobo e-book reader? Greg had an established accounting and finance career before joining the Toronto-based tech upstart, as it undertook a meteoric rise to the top of Canada’s mobile device market. Greg had some words of advice for accountants who are considering a move into the tech industry.

1. Remember that technology firms are businesses…

The tech industry is unique in many ways – for example, in the importance of research and development for growth. Depending on their specific fields, many firms will be staffed with as many engineers and programmers as marketing and salespeople, which can make for an interesting work culture.

But at the end of the day, a tech company is a business like any other, and it will need to operate as such in order to be successful. You need to be able to sell your ability to assess business models, and to convert great ideas into money makers that positively impact the company’s profit and loss statement. You’re going to be evaluated for your financial acumen, not your tech savviness – don’t ever lose sight of that.

2. …But also that finance and accounting are enablers, and not engines, of the business

At the risk of contradicting the previous point, you should always bear in mind that while finance and accounting assist the business, they don’t drive it. That’s the case in most industries, but it’s especially true in the high-tech world. Tech people want you to be there to help make their enterprise profitable, but not to get in their way.

And know your audience. The CEO doesn’t want to hear about GAAP or revenue recognition. In fact, tech people in general don’t need to know all of the gory details of the financial data you’re responsible for consolidating (no more than you need to know all about the intricate design principles and technical specifications of the different programs or gadgets they’re creating).

They only need information that will help them make intelligent and informed business decisions, in an industry that’s more intensely competitive than almost any other. And they need that information to be accessible and comprehensible to them – non-finance people. That’s your job.

3. Target specific sectors

“Tech” is a broad umbrella category that gets tossed around casually. Mobile applications, cloud computing services, information security, medical technologies and biotechnologies – technically speaking, these are all part of the tech industry. Do some research in order to figure out which type of business best suits your interests and passions.

4. Prepare to be flexible

Check any sense of entitlement or any preconceptions about your role at the door. Don’t expect that, as an accountant, you will only have to do “x,” as described in your official job description. Any position in a high-growth industry is bound to evolve and change rapidly; the only thing you can depend on is that twelve months down the road, you won’t be doing exactly the same thing.

When you work at a tech firm, you should expect to be a jack-of-all-trades – doing a little of everything at one point or another. For example, don’t be surprised if you find yourself dealing with operational issues, since these are often closely related to the finance function. In high-growth companies and industries, there are no shortages of problems – only shortages of talent.

The tech sector is one of the most dynamic segments of the economy. With its prospects for continued expansion, it holds out a lot of promise for those pursuing accounting and financial careers in Toronto. Keep in mind these pointers, and you’re bound to enjoy success in this exciting, fast-growing industry.