When you consider the professionals that make up an IT department, you’re likely to think of programmers, application developers, coders, and IT support. However, does a professional accountant come to mind? It should.
From the Fall 2017 Issue of Capitalize magazine, CPA Alberta’s publication geared to post-secondary students and others interested in a CPA career
Written by Laura Ly
With the prevalence of technology in organizations and businesses, there is a special niche that only CPAs can fill: helping IT departments develop and manage the finance and treasury components of business systems and programs.
That’s where Michael Tucker CPA, CMA comes in.
Currently working at Nexen Energy ULC in Calgary as a SAP Finance/Treasury Consultant, Michael has built a successful career in IT specializing in SAP (Systems, Applications, and Products), a type of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. “ERP is a core system that pulls together every aspect of a company,” explains Michael. ERPs typically manage and automate functions related to technology, office services, and human resources.
Michael refers to himself as a “functional” consultant, whose role is to ensure that the end user can use the system how they need to use it. “In simple terms, my role is to translate finance requirements into a technical solution,” says Michael. In order to do so, an understanding of how finance works is key. “You need to be able to speak to the finance team and understand what they’re saying and understand the applicable questions. It’s hard to do that without the necessary knowledge.”
While there is no such thing as a “typical” day for Michael, his day-to-day tasks can include creating new legal entities in the system, divesting companies as they’re sold, supporting month-end processes, and creating new bank accounts and processes.
Michael dispels the misconception that IT is simply a technical field, admitting that he can “hardly read code”: “I rely on the programmers to do the programming. They are the technical IT people, but there are also people like me who are there to support the finance team as the system voice.”
Looking back, Michael states that he never considered a career in IT. “I sort of lucked into it,” he recalls. After previously working as an accountant in a mutual fund in Toronto, Michael and his wife moved west to Calgary when his wife got a new career opportunity. Michael then started working for CP Rail creating an access database for revenue reporting—his first foray into IT before moving into a SAP role. “I got the SAP job without ever having seen one screen of SAP,” says Michael. “And I’ve been doing it for 20 years now.”
However, Michael’s CPA designation and training ensured he was well-equipped to take on the challenge of working in a new field that, at first glance, seemed vastly different than traditional accounting. “A CPA means you’re not pigeon-holed into going into a specific line of work,” comments Michael. “CPAs are all over organizations, not necessarily in just the finance function. With a CPA, you can really work anywhere you want, doing whatever you want—the designation provides you with the foundation to do that.”
For Michael, a designation not only enabled him to specialize his career in IT systems, it also allowed him to branch off into consulting. “I’ve been consulting now for eight years. Looking back, I never thought I had the knowledge or the capacity to consult,” says Michael. “But it’s very rewarding. You can speak your mind more, you get to move around more, see different industries, and meet more people. I’ve found the switch to consulting changed my whole mindset about my career.”
There is no doubt that technology has had a monumental impact on the accounting profession, and that we’ve moved a long way from recording budgets manually on paper. “New technology is constantly being rolled out with increased automation, speed, and accessibility. The speed and volume of information is increasing at an unbelievable pace and puts pressure on accountants to interpret that information more quickly and in a way that is useful to their organization,” suggests Michael.
However, the continued development of innovative technology means more opportunities for CPAs to go into IT and other technological fields where their financial acumen and business skills can make a real impact. “Accounting is constantly evolving, systems are constantly evolving, and you need expertise to ensure that they both follow along the same path,” says Michael.
“CPAs are constantly working to improve the quality of reporting and the power of data analytics,” he adds.
This article originally appeared in CPA Alberta’s Capitalize Magazine.