Colleen believes that the key to success in one’s career is perseverance and hard work. She says that you can do anything by “knowing what you want and going for it”. This requires focus, determination and confidence, attributes that Colleen possesses and has used to steer her career to where it is today.
During university, Colleen set a goal to become a researcher and university professor in psychology. She then attended Wilfrid Laurier University and achieved an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, enjoying statistics, researching and analyzing data, which would suit her well as a psychology researcher. Being focused on achieving her goals, Colleen enrolled in a Masters/PhD of Psychology program at Queens University. However, being so far away from her home and her family made Colleen re-consider continuing her Masters degree; this led to a change in her career path.
Colleen became a daycare co-ordinator for the Hamilton-Burlington YMCA. Due to her confidence and focus that she uses to excel at anything she attempts, Colleen was managing 17 before and after school-aged daycare programs for the YMCA and was an Early Childhood Educator (ECE) before starting her family. After having three children, Colleen was ready for her next challenge, which brought her into the field of accounting.
Colleen began her accounting career as a self-taught bookkeeper for a family business. With the knowledge that she gained through this family business, she used the introduction of computerized bookkeeping software, like Simply Accounting, to her advantage and started her own business. This business focused on converting clients’ paper bookkeeping records to Simply Accounting. Colleen then trained the clients on Simply Accounting so they could continue to use the easier and more efficient computerized bookkeeping software. Knowing she wanted a higher level of education to open more opportunities in accounting and reach her full potential, Colleen obtained an accounting technician job at a local Chartered Accounting firm in Waterloo in conjunction with returning to Wilfrid Laurier University part-time to obtain the required courses and ultimately get her CA designation. She did this all while being a mom of three young children.
While continuing her schooling part-time, Colleen moved from the accounting firm to the Office of Research at the University of Waterloo. There she administered the financial reporting of 400 to 450 research projects being undertaken by some of the University’s Engineering Faculty. Colleen then continued to expand her financial reporting experience at Manulife Financial.
With her focus on gaining her CA designation, Colleen decided to return to university full-time for a year in order to achieve the remaining accounting credits on a full-time basis. After that year, Colleen started working at a local accounting firm in Guelph where she worked, raised her three children on her own and successfully passed all three of the exams to get her CA designation in 2005. Shortly after, Colleen had the opportunity to jointly consult on a mutual client with Dave McEllistrum, RLB LLP’s Managing Partner at the time. This led to Colleen joining RLB LLP in January 2006.
At RLB LLP, Colleen has continued to use her focus and determination to shape her career and become a well-respected member of the firm. Colleen is a Principal at RLB LLP; her practice focuses primarily on the not-for-profit and charitable sector. Colleen has been involved in providing assurance services to not-for-profit organizations for many years. She is an executive member of RLB’s Not-For-Profit Team and writes ‘Ask the Expert’ articles. Colleen has developed a strong understanding of the challenges and opportunities not-for-profit and charitable organizations face. She has performed the controller function for a not-for-profit organization for many years. In this capacity, she has dealt with zero-dollar budgets, cash flow constraints and funding cut-backs, to name a few.
Colleen is also active in the community. Colleen serves as the Secretary Treasurer of a charitable not-for-profit member association in Kitchener and is the Treasurer and Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee of the United Way of Kitchener-Waterloo & Area. She understands the audit perspective from the Board of Director’s point of view.
Colleen has a passion for public speaking, whether it’s presenting at a client’s Annual General Meeting, facilitating at internal staff and external professional development, or leading a session at RLB’s very own NPO Risk Management Seminar. The content has been related to fraud, tax issues facing not-for-profits and charities, understanding new standards, and financial statement presentation, to name a few.
A large part of her role is devoted to ensuring that RLB LLP is compliant with quality control standards as dictated by CPA Canada. This focus has set Colleen apart as the champion of new standards and direction at the firm as well as an executive member of the Assurance Committee, which allows Colleen to help the firm improve standards and efficiency to benefit both the firm and our clients.
Her work as the champion of new standards and direction and her attention to detail made Colleen a good fit to become the firm’s lead quality reviewer. In this role, she is responsible for the independent file quality review of the firm’s audit and review engagements. Colleen was asked by CPA Canada to join the “Small to Medium Entity Audit Task Force”. The goal of this task force is to develop a tool which will allow auditors of small to medium entities to perform efficient and effective audits while complying with the standards.
Around the same time as Colleen began working in the quality control function at RLB LLP, she became a part-time Practice Inspector for CPA Ontario. As the accounting profession is self-regulated, CPA Ontario performs quality reviews of firms throughout each year. Basically, she will “audit” other accounting firms for compliance with the rules as regulated by CPA Canada. This allows CPA Ontario to protect the public interest and maintain the reputation of the profession by ensuring that all CPAs are meeting professional standards. This helps protect the public’s interest by ensuring that every CPA or CPA firm is qualified to provide accounting and assurance services and advice.
With all of her experiences and her continued success in her accounting career, it is no surprise that Colleen enjoys her work. Colleen likes taking on tasks that allow her to learn new things and provide a challenge. She enjoys working in public accounting, because “every job is something different.” She also takes pleasure in helping people and organizations solve their problems by providing good advice. Colleen is able to help people every day at RLB LLP, whether it be helping a client meet their objectives through good financial reporting and financial management or helping to develop our staff. Colleen is able to do the research that she enjoys and pass on her new knowledge to RLB LLP’s professional staff through formalized training sessions that she teaches. Colleen takes a keen interest in developing the more junior staff at the firm through acting as a mentor to up to three students or senior accountants, providing on-the-job technical training and building unofficial mentoring relationships. As one of Colleen’s unofficial mentees, I know first-hand how beneficial Colleen’s advice and knowledge sharing can be to one’s career.
Colleen is a committed member of RLB LLP and when asked why she thinks potential clients and professionals should choose RLB LLP, she said “We excel at whatever we do because we care about our clients and their success.” All of the work that Colleen does at RLB LLP, from client service to developing staff and performing quality control, is done to ensure just that…that RLB LLP excels and remains a trusted firm in our community.
In the future, Colleen hopes to be able to combine more travel with her career. Currently, she is a mom to19 year-old daughter, Tegan, 24 year-old daughter, Laurel, 25 year-old son, Steven, and has a dog, Cooper. She enjoys reading, camping, travelling and spending time with her family. With all of her work for RLB LLP, the CPA Ontario and raising her family, she likes to use her free time as downtime or to take on new challenges. Colleen’s perseverance and commitment to continuous learning and growth has helped her achieve her past goals and will ensure she continues to have a fulfilling and successful career.
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