Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Terry dejong "My career has been very linear in terms of working as a Chartered Accountant doing various forms of audit," admits Terrance (Terry) DeJong (BMath '85), "but it's been much more fortuitous in terms of geography. I've had some amazing opportunities to do interesting work and see the world at the same time." Since 2011 he has served as an Assistant Auditor General for the Government of Canada. 

After graduating from Waterloo and passing the CA exams, Terry served with a private accounting firm in Bermuda. In 1988 he came back to Canada, tied the knot with Doreen Higginbotham, and started a family. After some years with the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, he had a chance to work at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. "The plan was to go for a few years, but we ended up staying for 11 years because we enjoyed it so much!" In 2006 they returned home, and he resumed his career with the Auditor General's Office.

Positive and lasting effects

Terry's NATO auditing portfolio regularly took him away from Brussels. "I was out of the country on business trips roughly 40 percent of the time for 10 consecutive years," he explains, and this was during a world-shaking period marked by 9-11, military interventions in the Balkans and Afghanistan, and new members entering NATO and the European Union.

"It was also the 'young children' phase of my life," he reports. "It was rarely easy to balance extensive travel with responsibilities on the home front, and I couldn't have done it without Doreen's support." He left the too-far-ranging assignments -- Paris, London, Munich -- to his colleagues, opting instead for shorter trips to neighbouring countries. "We made it work as a family, but I still spent an extreme amount of time on the road."

International travel and work experience have had a "long-lasting and positive" effect on the DeJongs. For instance, their children, Hillary, 21, and Benjamin, 18, are bilingual, thanks to their education in Belgium. But it's the Office of the Auditor General of Canada that's had the greatest impact. It offered a unique spectrum of diverse and stimulating opportunities. "I've worked with many of Canada's largest crown corporations," Terry reports, "and I've audited the Canada Revenue Agency. I've been responsible for auditing the overall consolidated financial statements of Canada, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut." In the process he has not only dealt with numerous variants of Canadian accounting rules and frameworks, he now ranks the far north as a favourite destination.

Choice of career

What Terry says about government service, not just his own experience, is instructive. "When I was a student, I probably had many of the same negative perceptions of 'working for the government' that you frequently read about," he told us. "But some of the smartest, most dedicated and most innovative people I've met are government employees. They would have been among the best in any career they chose, but luckily for us, as taxpayers, they opted for a path of government service."

Another insight harks back to a campfire a few years ago. Those gathered around it were mulling over a big question: "If you had to go back to university again, would you take the same thing or study something else?'" Almost everyone said they would study something else, Terry reports. "I was one of the only people to say I would do the same education -- and take the same career steps -- all over again!"

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