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Erfan Kazemi was skeptical when his mentors suggested that becoming a chartered accountant could help him achieve his career goals.
At the time, the University of British Columbia math major was not even sure what accountants did.
“Frankly, it just sounded boring,” the Vancouver resident says.
A decade later, Mr. Kazemi credits the work he did as a financial auditor at the start of his career with preparing him for a position as the chief financial officer at Sandstorm Gold Ltd., a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange with a market cap of nearly $900-million.
After completing the accounting program at UBC, Mr. Kazemi landed a job as a financial auditor at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Most accountants start off doing auditing work, he says.
Financial auditors examine an organization’s financial statements to ensure they are accurate and in line with reporting requirements.
The job allowed Mr. Kazemi to interact with executives at companies in a wide range of industries, from forestry to entertainment to technology. He got to hear their stories, learn about their successes and failures and see how certain deals had added value to shareholders.
In short, it helped him gain business acumen.
“There’s actually a lot of creativity involved, a lot of people skills, a lot of problem solving, as opposed to the rudimentary stuff like adding and subtracting,” Mr. Kazemi says.
In 2010, Mr. Kazemi was promoted to senior manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers. The next year, he left to join Sandstorm as a CFO, a role that allows him to work with a team, handle financial transactions, make his own hours and travel as much as he likes.
It can be a demanding job, with a lot of after-hours work required. The exam that chartered accountants need to pass to earn their designation is notoriously difficult. And the regulatory environment is challenging because it is constantly changing.
“Regulatory requirements can become very onerous,” Mr. Kazemi said. “You have to always be on top of things to make sure that the regulatory stuff doesn’t get in the way so the business can continue to grow.”
Mr. Kazemi noted few jobs provide the kind of flexibility, travel opportunities and pay that he has found as a chartered accountant.
And the outlook for future work prospects is good; in B.C., 13,450 financial auditors and accountants will be needed over the next decade, according to government statistics.
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