Some are born with the ability to solve accounting ratios in their head without even blinking, while others who are given an equation simply hand it right back with a puzzled look on their face. Working with numbers is not for everyone. However, for Ann Patterson, it is her knack for numbers that has provided her with a career for the past three decades. When she first began searching for which field she would pursue a profession in, accounting jumped to the forefront as her father was already a successful chartered accountant. Although most career women were expected to fill the shoes of nurses and teachers, Ms. Patterson held no interest in those fields. She was a numbers girl and always would be.
In 1979, Ms. Patterson earned a Bachelor of Arts in Commerce and Economics from the University of Toronto Scarborough, graduating with honors. She now serves as a certified general accountant, and names the highlight of her career to be receiving an accounting designation. Working for an accounting company, Ms. Patterson has gained knowledge in examining financial records and transactions. She is charged with the oversight of financial reporting mechanisms, policies and processes, in addition to the planning, setup and administration of accounting systems. She is highly skilled in developing and maintaining cost findings, reporting on internal control procedures and analyzing financial documents and reports. She ensures accuracy and compliance to accounting standards, procedures and internal control, and sees to it that employees adhere to industry standards, corporate rules and regulatory requirements.
Ms. Patterson is a member of the Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs, Canadian Federation of University Women and Financial Executives International Canada. Ms. Patterson also serves on the board of directors for the Times Change Women’s Employment Service, a nonprofit community agency that has been helping women reach their employment goals since 1974.
Conversation with Ann Patterson, CGA
Worldwide Publishing: On what topic(s) do you consider yourself to be an expert?
Ann Patterson: Accounting and finance.
What characteristics help to separate you from your competitors?
I am analytical, dependable, and hardworking, and enjoy a good challenge. I do my best to complete financial reports accurately, efficiently and within budget timeframes. I take pride in my work and the efforts of the other members of the accounting and finance team in my organization.
What motivates you?
I am motivated by wanting to do my very best in every endeavor I undertake, both personally and professionally. I am willing to go “the extra mile” to make sure that reports are finished on time and under budget if at all possible.
What short-term and long-term career goals are you currently pursuing?
At the present time, I am in transition and seeking a new employment opportunity. Therefore, my short-term career goal is to find employment that is challenging, enriching and motivating. My long-term career goal is to continue employment as long as possible to build up a good investment base for retirement. I would like to travel the world during my retirement years and visit parts of the globe that I haven’t had the opportunity to visit during my years of employment.
What is the most difficult obstacle or challenge you have faced in pursuit of your goals?
The most difficult obstacle or challenge I have faced in pursuit of my goals is returning to school around the age of 40 to obtain my accounting designation. At that time, I was keenly aware that despite my many years of employment experience, my future would be very bleak without a designation after my name. I now know that all the hard work was worth it in the end, and I am proud to be a certified general accountant.
How did you end up working in your current field?
My father is a chartered accountant so I grew up with accounting and finance. I always had a knack for numbers as well, and enjoyed mathematics in school.
What is the most significant issue facing your profession today?
I believe that there are two significant issues facing my profession today: the use of emerging technology, and government regulations and standards imposed on our profession. Computers and the Internet have become a part of everyday personal and professional life, and accountants have needed to embrace technology in order to produce meaningful financial data for management and stakeholders of organizations. Secondly, government regulations and standards have increased significantly over the last decade in the wake of business financial irregularities. This has led to ever-increasing codes of conduct imposed on our profession by regulatory bodies.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your profession?
I find that the most rewarding aspect of my profession is the fact that accountants have a good name and reputation with the public. Accounting bodies worldwide have set very stringent standards for their membership, and the public knows that accountants have a duty of care to uphold professional standards.
What is your favorite or least favorite work-related task to do and why?
My favorite work-related task is the assembly and preparation of financial data that is accurate, timely and appropriate to the needs of management and stakeholders.
What advice can you offer fellow members or others aspiring to work in your industry?
The advice I would like to offer fellow members or others aspiring to work in accounting and finance is that I strongly believe that there will always be a need for accountants in our society. It is a profession that is constantly changing and evolving, which can be challenging, invigorating and scary all at the same time.
Who have been your mentors or people who have greatly influenced you?
A number of mentors have greatly influenced my personal and professional life. My parents and two sisters have always been great supporters, encouraging me to do my best in every endeavor I undertake. Teachers at all levels have challenged me to “think outside the box” and expand my knowledge base. Personal and professional friends have supported me throughout my life.
What changes have you observed in your industry/field since you started?
There have been a number of changes in my field over the length of my career. The advances in technology have substantially increased data output, while the public has demanded accurate and timely financial information. There is a well-known quote that says, “The only constant in life is change,” and this is definitely true in the accounting field. Pen and paper have almost been eliminated by computer spreadsheets and computer software programs.
How do you see these changes affecting the future of your industry?
Technology and the Internet will greatly affect the future of my industry. The use of computer software has greatly reduced the time needed to assemble and prepare financial data for management and stakeholders. This has led to increased analysis of financial statements for both large and small organizations. However, there is a caveat here. We must be mindful to take a closer look at the information provided to ensure that it is meaningful to the readers of the statements, so that they can make informed decisions about the organization as a whole.
What lessons have you learned as a professional in your field?
I have learned many lessons as an accounting and finance professional. I have learned that it is imperative that accountants work as a team with all levels of management in an organization to ensure that the organization is financially viable. I have also learned that it is important for the accounting and finance team to work well together in order to accomplish their goals and be a functioning unit within the firm. Lastly, I have learned that it is important to enjoy your job and the culture within the organization.