Become an Accountant, See the World!
Over the Xmas period, we did our usual round of social events – eating too much food, catching up with
old friends, and meeting new people at these gatherings. For some reason, this year, I was asked more
often than usual: “How did you, born near Windsor (England), end up in Windsor (Ontario)?”
The short answer is because I chose to be an accountant. Well, that’s not all of it – but it certainly made
And – as sometimes happens over the Xmas period – you fall to reflecting. I’m lucky to have travelled a
great deal within Ontario, within Canada, within Europe and on other continents. So have a bunch of
other professional friends.
So…. if you want to travel, consider becoming an accountant. As I like to tell my students at the
University, ‘Accounting allows you to say “I speak business”’ – and you can have those conversations all
over the world.
This is more of a listicle than a structured article. But it made me realize how much smaller the world
has become. Any of these could take you somewhere interesting.
To cut a long story short…. This is how I came to Canada. When I first qualified as a CPA, I worked for
one of the big firms. They have offices around the world. I transferred to Toronto for what was planned
as a 2-year trip to travel, enjoy myself and meet new people. Bingo, I met Allison – and am happy to be
still here 19 years later!
Moving short-term and deciding to stay is a common result – but I know several CPAs who are “serial
expats”. They move from one 2-yr- posting to another. Often some nice lifestyle locations (tax havens in
the Caribbean, anyone?) while you’re deciding if/where to put down roots.
And you can do anything, anywhere. A good friend from Toronto now works for the UN in Nairobi. His
job’s essentially to make sure that corruption in aid programs is kept down to a tolerably low level. Fun.
Have interesting clients in faraway places
When I first came to Toronto, I ended up working mainly with mining companies – don’t ask me why. It
turned out there aren’t many mines downtown. So I got some interesting travel out of it. In no particular
order, these included:
- Two weeks in Barbados, at the finance office of a global mining corporation
- Two week trips to St. Johns (Nfd) and Lima, Peru – visiting offices in those great cities
- A day-trip to Argentina, to meet new head office team. (Wish could have stayed longer.)
- Lots of gravel airstrips in remote parts of Canada (which is where the mines tend to be).
- January in Sudbury (Ontario) every year, for five years. Until I got promoted somewhere
The alternative is to work in a web-based firm, as we largely do. We have clients across the continent
and in the UK. Well, there’s always Skype… but we feel they appreciate a physical meeting from time to
Work and network within your profession
I’m privileged to do some work on behalf of my professional body, CPA Ontario. This has involved me
travelling around Ontario to many places I would never otherwise have had a chance to visit. I’ve
developed a deep affection for Northern Ontario, and appreciation of the small towns north of the 401.
When I’m travelling to teach courses, I sometimes get to go to the same places several years running –
so I’ve made friends in places like Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and Timmins. It’s beautiful up there (in a
slightly rocky sort of way) and people are very warm and friendly.
In 2017 it took me further afield – to teach courses in New Brunswick for a few days. Hey, if I’m going to
be there, why not spend Thanksgiving with the family in Halifax as well?
And… our firm is also active within a network of other tech-minded CPAs. So Allison and I get to go to
conferences and conventions in some great places in the US. Greenville (SC) and Austin (TX) last year.
San Fransisco later this month.
Move where you want – and take your job with you
This is the other great advantage of working with new technology. Jaclyn (one of our fabulous team
members) relocated to Vancouver last year, with her husband. She’s still a core member of our team –
but just works a couple of hours behind us. She still takes part in all our team meetings, drops in on
Windsor when she’s back in Ontario visiting family, and we video-chat daily.
Other friends have been more extreme and really fit the description of “digital nomad”. The office is
wherever you have an internet connection – anywhere in the world.
And even if you don’t want to work remotely…. the skill set of an accountant means you’re pretty likely
to find a decent job almost anywhere in the world. Including Windsor.
…. You don’t have to do all this. I know many highly respectable accountants (and other businesspeople
and professionals) who don’t venture more than 20 miles away from their home base. And they have
very fulfilling professional lives.
Still… if you like to travel and see new places…. why not find a way to get paid for it?