• Thu. May 23rd, 2024

VIU’s accounting program adds up to career success | Vancouver Island University

With student-oriented, approachable, professional and passionate faculty, the Bachelor of Business Administration, Major in Accounting program at Vancouver Island University provides students with a solid foundation to pursue and find success in a variety of careers in the field.

For these four alumni, taking the Accounting program has equalled a strong return on investment, with all four thriving in their chosen careers.

Daniel Gardiner – Vice President, KPMG Corporate Finance Inc.  

Daniel Gardiner is a Vice President at KPMG Corporate Finance Inc., the middle-market investment banking division of the international accounting firm KPMG LLP. Daniel describes his day-to-day work as dynamic.

“I usually have multiple live deals in the market that are all at different phases in the transaction process. My favourite part about my job is that things are changing constantly and it is quite a dynamic working environment.”

 Before moving into corporate finance, Daniel began his career in the assurance practice at KPMG. He was originally drawn to a career in accounting due to the flexibility and different career options that are available in the field. In his career search, Daniel says that he was looking for a “big firm” experience for the “opportunity to work with the largest and most complex clients, learn from smart and motivated people, and connect with a broad global alumni network.”

After graduating from VIU in 2016 with a Bachelor of Business Administration, Major in Accounting, Daniel pursued the Chartered Professional Accountant designation and scored in the top one per cent of the more than 3,000 Canadians who wrote the three-day Common Final Exam in 2018. Most recently, he was the 2023 recipient of the Rising Star Award from the Association for Corporate Growth in British Columbia.

Daniel chose VIU largely because of the approachable nature of the VIU faculty.

“I am a big proponent of pursuing an undergraduate degree at a teaching-focused institution versus a research-focused university,” he says. “I loved the smaller class sizes at VIU. I felt that I was able to build a personal connection with many professors.”

One of Daniel’s fondest memories of his time at VIU “is the system for collaboration that we learned at VIU. Our study group was called the ‘Maple Room squad’ after the room in the library where we could frequently be found. Learning how to study in a team environment during our undergraduate degree set us all up for success in the workforce where true teamwork is required.”

Daniel also gives back to VIU through a scholarship he sponsors. The Daniel Gardiner Business Excellence Scholarship is awarded to a top academic student who is currently enrolled in the second year of the BBA program and who will be continuing into their third year with a major in Accounting or Finance.

Steven Sun – Tax Partner at Dougan Irwin & Associates Chartered Professional Accountants

Steven Sun began his career with Dougan Irwin & Associates as an articling student in 2013 and joined the partnership in 2020. 

“My area of specialization lies in Canadian income tax, particularly in tax planning strategies for individuals and owner-managed corporations,” he says. “My expertise also encompasses advising private companies on reorganization and succession planning and assisting families with estate and trust planning. A substantial aspect of my work involves providing tax compliance services.”

Two accounting courses focusing on taxation sparked Steven’s passion for a career in this field. He finds the constantly evolving nature of tax laws and regulations particularly engaging, as he enjoys the challenge of staying up-to-date on new developments.

Steven chose VIU for his degree after attending a study abroad education fair in Beijing, where he first learned about the university. 

“VIU’s in-person introduction at the fair was truly engaging, showcasing the beautiful campus and the welcoming atmosphere of Vancouver Island,” he says. “The presentations by the VIU international student department and its alumni were particularly impressive. I’ve established my career and family here. An integral part of my initial years in Canada was the support from my host family, the Petrie family. Their guidance was invaluable, and I am deeply appreciative of our continued connection.”

He graduated in 2012 and says there were several key experiences that shaped his time here.

“The academic environment was stimulating, with instructors and professors who were knowledgeable in their areas and dedicated to supporting students’ career development. Additionally, being a part of the Bean Counters, the former accounting students’ association, provided opportunities to delve into my career and professional interests beyond the classroom.”

Leanne Souchuck – Partner, MPS Chartered Professional Accountants

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Leanne Souchuck is a partner at MPS Chartered Professional Accountants (previously McGorman MacLean) in Parksville. The firm offers accounting and tax services to individuals, small businesses, non-profits and public sector entities.

She’s worked there since 2006, when she began as an articling student after graduating from VIU that same year. She decided to pursue a career in the field after taking an accounting class in high school and realizing that she enjoyed it.

Leanne chose to pursue her degree at VIU because of its size, location and smaller class sizes. “Turns out it was the best decision I could have made as I feel like the education I got was superior to what I would have gotten in a bigger university,” she says.

She also credits VIU’s Accounting Students Association “for all they are doing” for VIU’s accounting program. “The opportunities for networking that they provide to accounting students and potential employers is great. I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to a number of their events and I am always impressed.”

Looking back on her experience at VIU, Leanne has “lots of great memories” from her time as a student.

“By far the most memorable is the friendships I made, lots of which have carried over to my professional career,” she adds. “The program is great for the education and skillset you will take with you into your career. Our firm hires articling students from various institutions and backgrounds, and we have always been impressed with the calibre of accounting students that come out of VIU.”

Brodie Virtanen – Manager, Crowe MacKay LLP

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Brodie Virtanen is a manager at Sechelt-based Crowe MacKay LLP, a role he’s held since 2021. His duties include working with partners of the firm to manage deadlines and deliverables for many personal and corporate clients. It also involves training and mentoring junior staff. Brodie works remotely out of his Nanaimo home, with Sechelt just a 20-minute seaplane ride away. This arrangement, he says, “has been tremendous for my young family.”

Raised in Nanaimo since the age of 12, Brodie chose VIU after attending high school just down the road from the campus.

“My wife was starting the Registered Nursing program when I was considering applying to the BBA program, so it felt right for us and our life at the time,” he says. “The variety of on-campus activities and the smaller class sizes made my education seem much more grounded and personal. I graduated in January of 2017, surrounded by friends that I had made at university and who I am still friends with today.”

When he first signed up, Brodie hadn’t picked a major. However, two main factors drew him to the accounting program: “First, I had Chris Burnley as a professor for Accounting 100. He is a world-class professor, and up to that time, no teacher or professor had pushed me in such a way. It was his passionate and challenging introductory accounting class that planted the seed to my professional career and I am forever grateful,” he says. “The second item that drew me to accounting was a CPA information session I attended. They provided detail on the many doors that would open once I obtained my CPA. A decade later, I can confidently say they were right.”

One highlight of his time at VIU was being involved in the Peer Supported Learning program.

“It was there that I found my passion for training and mentoring. Lastly, I can’t talk about highlights without mentioning the Maple Room. Our study group spent more hours than I can count here, some of it studying, some of it messing around, but all of it growing and getting better, in one way or another.”

Advice for present and future Accounting majors:

Daniel: Stay open-minded about how your career may develop and take ownership over your future. A career in finance/accounting can take you in many different directions and you have agency to go after the opportunities that most excite you. Work hard to find balance in your professional and personal lives as careers are like marathons and you need to find balance to be able to stay in the game for the long-term.

Steven: Engaging in class activities and discussions, and asking questions are essential for a well-rounded educational experience, especially in accounting. This active participation deepened my understanding of complex concepts, enhanced critical thinking and communication skills, and built confidence.

Leanne: When thinking about your first job after university, don’t worry about what your friends are doing or where they are going. Make the best choice you can for yourself. Also, keep in mind that your first job doesn’t have to be your last job and if you get in and realize you should have gone a different direction, you’ve got lots of time in your career to do so. Once you have that accounting designation there are endless possibilities for careers and eventually you will find the one that suits you best.

Brodie: Join the Accounting Students’ Association. Get yourself out there and network. There are so many different places you can work in accounting, so find an area that interests you (whether that be audit, tax, industry, etc.). I would also recommend pursuing your CPA. There are so many doors that open up once you have your designation. It is a flexible career, but also can be demanding. Speak with a few accountants that are in the profession, or try and get an office job to see if it is a fit for you.

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