Defying the odds while working in finance

A photo of Falak standing and smiling outside.Falak Ismaili, a third-year Accounting and Financial Management (AFM) student, shares her co-op experience working in the financial sector and how she conquers the hurdles that come along with it!

Ismaili completed her first co-op term at St. Mary’s General Hospital, as a junior finance associate and her second one at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as a tax associate.

When she joined St. Mary’s for her first co-op, the hospital was transitioning from paper-based to online. Through this process, some of the systems had to be organized, which was a project Ismaili took on. “There would be account names and in each system some of the account names would be different,” says Ismaili.

“So, I basically downloaded all the names of the cells [...] and I had to compare all five systems.”

“I also had to do a lot of reconciliation of bank statements. So same thing, they were moving from paper-based to online. So, some of their bank accounts were incorrect and I had to check the paper copies against the online copies and reconcile any amounts that we didn't know where they came from. So those were the two projects.”

During her second co-op term, she has been mainly working on doing tax returns. “I just mostly do tax returns. I do corporate tax returns, so T2’s. Tax returns for trusts, which are T3’s, and investment [tax returns], which are T5’s.”

What sort of challenges did you have to face and how did you overcome them?

“One challenge I faced during my last co-op term was that my supervisor was always busy. So, a lot of the time it was figuring out what to do on my own and I didn't really have anyone to ask questions to. There was the senior analyst but I didn't want to bother her too much. So that was a big challenge that I had to face, figuring out what to do by myself and it was my first co-op term as well, so I was very confused all around.”

“I overcame this challenge by making a list of important questions I'd ask her just so I don't bother her too much, and instead of asking her again and again, I just asked her the questions all at once.”

“Then I'd ask her to show me an example of one statement that would need to be reconciled, so then I could do all the rest on my own. I just did those little things to overcome those challenges.”

“This term, the only challenge really is working from home and staying focused. So, to overcome this challenge, I take regular breaks because they tell us to take 15-minute breaks, so I can stay focused. I have been for the past two weeks and it's actually helped a lot.”

A photo of Falak smiling.


What was your technique to stay organized during your work terms?

“For this work term, it's [work] from home and there's no one to show me around. So I made a list of all the major websites and software that PwC uses. It's a big firm too, so they have many. I made a list of all the useful things that I would use and the things I would need every day and I bookmark important documents.”

“In terms of my work and prioritizing, I usually prioritize by deadlines. So I make a list every week of the tasks that I have missed from last week because you can't finish a tax return in a day. I make a list if I do have any missing from last week and in my planner I write down all my meetings. Basically just writing things down and making sure I'm not missing deadlines is how I stay organized.”

A photo of Falak smiling in front of a wall.

What's next for you?

“In terms of goals, I do want to stay at this firm, hopefully. The Big Four usually do hire people back for future co-op terms and then eventually full-time.”

“So, I want to do my CPA after I graduate, after doing my master’s. It's an easy path to do it with one of the Big Four firms.”

“My goals are just to kind of stay at this firm and just do my master’s.”