Spotlight

Q2 2021

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Shezal Lalani
Manager of Reporting, Kira Systems

Shezal is an Accounting professional who works in the finance function at Kira Systems. She supports different facets of the function including financial reporting, planning & budgeting, and finance operations. Shezal also served as the Chairperson of FAPA in 2020.

ONE

Can you please provide us with a background on your education and your professional experience?

I completed the Honours Bachelor of Business Administration Program with Coop at Wilfrid Laurier University in 2015. I also completed the Accounting Graduate Program Diploma at Wilfrid Laurier. This is a 12-week program that upon completion, allows CPA students to bypass all the CPA modules and enter the CPA Program at Capstone 1.

 

In terms of my professional background, I completed all of my Coop terms at KPMG in the Consumer Industrial Markets Audit practice, and then joined Full-Time in 2016. After 3 years at KPMG, I become more interested in the technology startup space and joined Kira Systems’ Finance team, where I’m currently the Manager of Reporting.

TWO

How does working in industry compare to working at a firm?

Before jumping into the comparison, I would like to note that opportunities within Industry itself vary and it depends on the nature of the specific industry and role in discussion.

 

Job Scope & Focus - audit at the firm was project based and very specialized where you work with a variety of different clients but the template of work is similar across the different projects. Your role in your team is also defined so your responsibilities are very clear. In industry, you only have one long-term client, yourself. the focus is on your company’s business overall operations and diving deeper into the day to day financial activities. Specifically, being at a start-up/scale up, there aren’t a lot of templates set up, so you’re likely creating those and setting precedents. In addition, although your role is roughly defined and you have some set day-to-day responsibilities, overall you have to be prepared to take on ad hoc projects out of the finance realm that can come your way. For example, I have been involved in a couple of system implementations and sales operations projects.

 

Team Dynamics - this was something I was worried about when leaving the firm since the camaraderie was one of my favourite aspects of working at KPMG. I’m happy to say that I found the same camaraderie at Kira - the finance team at my company is extremely tight knit. At the firm, I was a part of different audit teams and worked with different people all the time (which I loved), in industry it’s like being part of a permanent audit team (which I’m also loving). Another main difference I noticed in my case is that not everyone comes from the same path and it’s very interesting to learn my co-workers’ different career experiences - I’m the only one with a big 4 firm background.

 

Individual Impact - at the firm, I didn’t feel that my contributions were influencing any key decision making. The experience and training at the firm was of a very high calibre but I felt a void in this area. In my current industry role, I’m able to see a direct result of my contributions and feel that I have a greater individual impact. The work that my team performs results in information that either the executives use to make key business decisions or is imperative in supporting the rest of the company operationally.

 

Career Advancement & Support - The career advancement opportunities, networking and professional support is very strong at the firms. You’re moving up job levels frequently, the CPA process including on-going professional development requirements are covered, and not only are you able to work with different functions in the firm allowing you to carve the way for future career moves within the firm but you also get a lot of exposure to the clients’ executive teams which expands your networks. In my current role, although there are not many external networking opportunities, I have  found similar career advancement opportunities and professional support. While my CPA dues and professional development are covered, further education of any kind is supported through an allowance and professional leadership training is also offered for those in a managerial role. For career advancement opportunities, I’ve found that in industry you have to be very clear about your career goals and highlighting a reasonable timeline. Overall, the opportunities are there in industry as well, but you just have to take more initiative be more proactive in goal setting.

 

Flat Hierarchy - in my current workplace the hierarchy is very flat - there are less steps to an approval process and there is a lot of autonomy in decision making. I’m able to interact and work with the C-suite executives quite often, which I don’t think is common accross industry in general.

 

Overall, the strong work ethic and learning how to thrive in a high pressure, tight deadline, environment at the firm is something I’ve been grateful to have developed since it’s proven to be transferable and extremely beneficial to my current role.

THREE

What are some challenges you experience in your role as a manager at a start-up/scale-up 


 

Some challenges that I experienced in my role not knowing where to start or even how to start something off. There are a variety of projects/tasks that arise in my role and there is a lot of autonomy in how to approach all these different items. Many times there is no precedent or template to follow either. The work also has to accommodate for an extremely dynamic and constantly changing environment, so you need to be prepared to work on something one month, only to have it not be used the next. As daunting as these situations may seem, these challenges keep the job really interesting and engaging - I get a chance to apply myself and I am continuously learning. I manage these challenges by keeping organized, holding myself accountable, and by being resourceful. Being organized helps me take a step back and look at everything that needs to be done - I can then prioritize and even identify areas where I’ll need some extra help/guidance. By holding myself accountable to a timeline and an end result, I  keep myself motivated and reduce any procrastination…which tends to be my natural response to a big workload. Lastly, I try to be as resourceful as possible, this can include consulting my peers who are still at the firm, consulting my peers who are in industry, leveraging my awesome team at Kira,  reaching out to my manager, and even using google!

FOUR

What advice do you have for younger professionals in financial reporting and audit

  1. Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t have to be in a rush to get to a certain checkpoint - take advantage of all the different opportunities that will be coming your way.

  2. Be open to reaching out to people around you to learn about their experiences, whether it’s having a conversation with someone in your current industry or with someone in an industry you’re interested in knowing more about. You’d be surprised as to how much your perspective can change from these conversations and how much clarity you can gain.

  3. If you don’t have an answer to the classic question “where do you see yourself in 5 years?”, don’t worry, you’re not alone…most times I don’t even know! Just focus on exploring and developing skills in the areas that interest you, and start with setting some short term goals.

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