Graduate Success Stories

Alumni sitting together

Graduates from our SAF undergraduate programs have leveraged their experiential education to pursue the MAcc or move directly on to their professional careers as financial leaders (or not) in a diverse range of industries and professions.

Learn more about SAF's Student and Graduate Employment successes.

2021 SAF Alumni Story Series

The global pandemic has created new challenges and opportunities both within businesses and our personal lives. SAF alumni are leading the organizations for which they work through and beyond the pandemic and implementing creative strategies to ensure success for their organizations.

SAF celebrates the successes and the leadership of our alumni in leading their organizations through and beyond the global pandemic.

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Andy Wang, an alum from the first Student Investment Fund (SIF) cohort at the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) eyes a return on investment after receiving funding from the Student Venture Fund after graduating nearly a decade ago.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

SAF announces 2023 Alumni Award winners

Every year, the University of Waterloo’s School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding alumni for their professional achievements and community service. 

This year, Jeannine LiChong (MAcc '92) has been awarded the Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award and Ian Weng (MAcc '13) has been awarded the Leader to Watch Award. 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Leveraging the language of business

As a Mathematics/Chartered Professional Accountancy student, Nitish Sharma (BMath '14) was part of the second team that led the development of the hEDGE Financial Services Conference. Hosted annually in the heart of Toronto's financial district, hEDGE offers University of Waterloo students a comprehensive look into both sell-side and buy-side finance through six pillars of capital markets: asset management, equity and debt research, investment banking, private equity, sales and trading, and venture capital. The brainchild of School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) students, the conference’s goal is to showcase the impressive finance talent that is present at SAF and to inform students about recruitment and networking opportunities. What is particularly inspiring about the large and successful conference is that it continues to be completely student-run to this day.

Dr. Steve Fortin, (PhD '99, CPA, CA, ICD.D) took the helm in leading the School of Accounting and Finance on September 1st, 2018. Steve is an active researcher in the areas of financial instruments, hedge accounting, fair value measurement, related party disclosures, and audit quality. Steve's goal is to continue SAF's trajectory of success in leading the transformation of the professions through world-class research and experiential education.

Hear from Steve what he feels future accounting and finance professionals will need to be successful.

Adnan Khan (BAFM, MAcc '17), attributes his accounting and finance education in providing him with the foundation and confidence to launch a social endeavour, EduGate. A social start-up that is close to Adnan's heart, is one step in fulfilling his goal to improve the quality and accessibility of education around the world.

Hear how Adnan was able to use his accounting and finance foundation to launch his social endeavour.

Arthur Wang (BAFM, MAcc '16), attributes the pressure of his accounting and finance studies, coupled with co-op in helping him succeed academically but also paving the way for him in creating a career in finance that's challenging and rewarding.

Hear how Arthur moved his career focus from accounting to finance.

Shubham Datta (BMath, MAcc '13) discovered his love for entrepreneurship while still going through the Mathematics/CPA program at Waterloo. Waterloo's innovative eco-system and entrepreneurial spirit encouraged Shubham to explore a career path that worked with start-ups and entrepreneurs. This interest morphed into a career in finance, working for Shopify.

Hear how Shubham navigated his career in accounting to finance through a love of entrepreneurship.

It's all relative. What may seem like the most important decision of your life today, may not be once you look back and examine the series of decisions you make over a lifetime. So please don’t stress and miss out on the exciting stuff that each day has to offer!

I can’t imagine a school or a program that could offer students more leverage than SAF. If you want a career in finance, accounting, or tax, SAF will put you on the direct line to achieving this objective. Choose SAF and make a leap rather than just a first step toward your career goals!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Saf grad scales path to Neverest

When she was a student at Waterloo, Cindy Kottoor (MAcc '97) never envisioned running her own company. "I assumed I'd work for established global organizations," she recalls. "Working for myself wasn't an option I was exposed to - or even recognized! So, when I started my business, I really had to figure out everything from scratch."

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Grad enjoys company's products and perks

"I started TrueCo. in my living room, with 500 bras and a pen-and-paper survey that reminded me of the Cosmo quizzes my friends and I loved in high school," explains the company's CEO and co-founder, who concedes that she and her colleagues never imagined becoming bra experts. "But we love what we do, helping women find their perfect fit. We created a brand new way to fit women online in two minutes with no fitting rooms, no measuring tape!"

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Grad takes PATH to healthful adventure

Preparing to launch the enterprise was both nervous and exciting, she admits. "It felt like jumping off a cliff! Accountants are typically risk adverse, and starting a new business from scratch was completely opposite to what I was used to."

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Grad activates passion for fashion

"My career path has been anything but linear, which comes as a bit of a surprise even to me!" says Sharon Ng (MAcc '04). There's a back story and a front story here. Her daytime job as a merchandise planner is one thing, her nighttime job is quite another - and that's the front story for this posting: the popular "Backseat Stylers" fashion blog that she and her sister created. Their casual exploration of the fashion world spiraled into an addiction.

"It's somewhat embarrassing!" What Cynthia McIntyre [Loeffen] (MAcc '96) is talking about is the kind of faux pas we've all done or imagined doing. Years ago at Waterloo, she ticked the wrong box on a co-op job application form. "I think she did it 'accidentally on purpose,' "suggests her sister Heather Wright [Loeffen] (MAcc '98). Both are tax experts - and their career choices have proved to be exactly right.

If the license plate of the car ahead says "A TRIGUY," you're behind ace triathlon competitor and UW Accounting grad Scott Slaven (BA '82). And that could be fellow triathlete Bernie Linseman (BMath '81) beside him. Triathlons enable the London, Ontario duo to build their physical strength, focus their minds — and rekindle their youthful vigour. "The great thing is the inspiration you receive," Bernie reports.

Even during his time at the School of Accounting and Finance when studying in the Master of Accounting (MAcc) program, Langill was drawn to complex problems that needed solving. This curiosity and tenacity led Langill to build an impressive career in the financial services industry.

Oni Prisecaru, (MAcc ’16, CPA, CA) is one of a few co-op students who completed their co-op work terms and launched their careers with the same employer. Hired by Deloitte in their Audit Practice as a Junior Associate for his first co-op work term, Oni leveraged his accounting skills and knowledge and quickly became interested in the finance side of Deloitte’s business. As the Executive Director of the M&A Advisory team within Deloitte’s Corporate Finance area, Oni attributes his success to maintaining his intrinsic values, being open and coachable as a manager, and always seeking learning opportunities.

The Women in Accounting and Finance: Global Summit is an event that celebrates our female leaders and showcases their accomplishments in the field of accounting and finance. This year, though virtual, was a great opportunity to hear the unique and empowering stories of the panelists from around the globe.

As the world begins to transition back to business as usual, it is more important than ever to provide forums, such as the Women in Accounting and Finance events to serve as inspiration to current students and young alums in amplifying the importance of female leadership and perspectives in business. The 2021 Global Summit event for the Women in Accounting & Finance panel discussion brought together three School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) alums to share their career stories and answer questions from event attendees.

Julia Klann (MAcc ’05) is one of the lucky few who knew exactly what they wanted to do after graduating from university. From her co-op experience at Big 4 accounting firms, she developed an affinity for working in tax early on – Canadian tax that is. It was when she was searching for her final co-op work term that she came across a role focused on U.S. tax – a realm she wasn’t as familiar with. She made the leap, and from that moment on fell in love with U.S. tax and never looked back. 

For Carol Leaman (MAcc ’89, CPA), the solid foundation in accounting from the University of Waterloo led her toward a winding, yet interesting and life changing career path of founding early-stage technology companies and leading them through to acquisition…four times over. From the wild rides of founding to the sale of the tech companies she’s led, Leaman has remained humble with the firm belief of creating an environment and culture that empowers everyone with knowledge, transparency, and honesty. Her latest start-up, Axonify, is a demonstration of Leaman exemplifying these qualities through her leadership which has translated into multiple years of recognition for Axonify as one of the best workplaces in Canada. Axonify was acquired last April by an American private equity firm to which Leaman has remained in the leadership role to take her passion project to the next stage of growth.

Globally, 2020 has been a year of unanticipated decision-making as organizations pivoted to ensure business success, often with very tight timelines. With the common theme of the global pandemic as the driving force of these strategies, the School of Accounting and Finance leveraged its annual Women In Accounting and Finance event to invite five SAF alumni from across the globe to share their stories and insights in managing and pivoting their teams, organizations, and personal lives through the global pandemic.

As the world slowly transitions back to in-person office environments, the newly appointed Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Sun Life, Manjit Singh, (BA ’93, CPA, CFA), is excited to implement digital and people focused strategies to lead Sun Life beyond the global pandemic. The School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) caught up with the Waterloo alum to learn more about his career and where he sees the future of the financial services industry.

As the President and CEO of Sun Life, Kevin Strain (MAcc ‘90) brings close to thirty years of insurance industry experience to his new role. Strain spent much of those years with Sun Life in various finance and business roles to advance his career to eventually assume the responsibility of Sun Life’s leadership. The School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) caught up with the very busy President and CEO to chat about his career, how he hopes to lead Sun Life beyond the global pandemic, and why he chooses to give back to Waterloo to help build future talent.

With the start of the fall term, our community is getting ready to return to campus, and so it is a great time to be introduced (or re-introduced) to some of our faculty and staff. Candid, enlightening, serious, and not-so-serious, our Q&A series allows the personalities of the faculty and staff members who make up the School of Accounting and Finance community to shine.

This week, we interview David Ha (MAcc ’09), Professor and MAcc Co-Director, who has been with the School for ten years. Fun fact: At Grad Ball when Ha was a university student at Waterloo, he was voted by his class as most likely to become a professor one dayguess they were spot on in their assessment! 

A pair of Waterloo alumni are helping families deliver math in a fun and engaging way.

Prodigy Game, developed by two University of Waterloo Engineering grads, has filled the resource gap for building math skills and confidence, especially during the present school-year interruption due to COVID-19.

To celebrate Canadian Beer Day, we caught up with Phil Hipkiss (BAFM ’10, CPA, CA), the co-founder of Block Three Brewing Company in St. Jacobs, Ontario. In addition to the craft brewery, Hipkiss is also CFO and VP of Finance for the hearing aid manufacturer, WS Audiology.

Hop, hop, hurray! Cheers to another SAF Alumni Story.

For many, gone are the water cooler and lunchroom conversations that while mundane, were important in staying connected with colleagues. Workplace rituals we’ve long taken for granted have been removed by the pandemic. You would expect that these changes could be detrimental to every company’s culture, however, employees like Siddhi Purohit (MAcc’08) are currently very impressed with their employer’s culture and the values exhibited during the pandemic.

Boris Bong (MAcc ’94, MSc Finance (UK), CPA), like many of his peers completed co-op work terms in the field of accounting throughout his undergraduate career. After attaining his CPA designation, Bong sought a career path beyond accounting and pursued a Master of Science in Finance at the London Business School (UK). He then built his finance career by working in Canada, the UK and Hong Kong for EY, Barclays Capital, Prudential plc, Search Investment Group, and JP Morgan Asset Management. SAF caught up with our accomplished alum to learn more about his career path and his insights and observations of the financial industry in Asia, where he now resides.

Since we last caught up with Arthur Wang (BAFM, MAcc ’13) in 2019, his career hasn’t slowed down one bit. As an estate planning specialist at RBC Wealth Management Financial Services, Wang has been focussed on building and expanding his team, and on pursuing professional development opportunities. Most recently, he’s obtained his Trust and Estate Practitioner (TEP) designation and Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation.

Two points Susan Uthayakumar (MAcc ’95) wants to make clear: Sustainability is not just a trend, and climate change is not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’. As president of the Global Sustainability Business Division at Schneider Electric, Uthayakumar advocates for diversity and green practices in business to not only save our environment but to stay relevant in the marketplace.

When running due diligence on transactions and tax planning on multi-million-dollar deals, what exists between Jocelyn Blanchet (MAcc '00) and Benjie Thomas (PDAcc '98) is a desire to deliver the best with a unique camaraderie and mutual trust.

However, it wasn’t always like that. They were once professional competitors, which began with their time at the University of Waterloo.

The value and potential profitability of being environmentally conscientious has placed more accountability on corporations to be transparent about how they get to their bottom line. Consumers and investors, and increasingly, younger investors are wanting to align their investment choices with their own values of environmental sustainability, equity, and human rights.

Like many freshman university students, Dinesh Balakrishnan (MAcc ’14) did not have a definitive goal in mind for his career. One certainty was his vision to build a career focused on supporting others and providing value. “A vague goal but I felt it resonated with my core, gave me purpose, and started to define what ‘success’ meant to me.” Graduating from Waterloo’s accounting and finance programs may not seem like the most direct pathway to a career in helping others, so the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) caught up with the 2020 SAF Young Alumni Award recipient to gain a better perspective of his circuitous career path.

In a year defined by the global pandemic, it is more important than ever to recognize and acknowledge those who have positively impacted our businesses and communities. Being named in 2020 as the School of Accounting and Finance’s (SAF) Alumni Achievement Award recipient, alum Pamela Steer (MAcc ’94, FCPA, FCA, CFA) is honoured by the recognition and will be using it as a way to benefit future students of SAF and the University.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

MAcc alumni band together

Celebrating the 25th anniversary with your graduating class is a milestone. Reunions provide opportunities for classmates to reconnect, engage, and reminisce. But for the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) Master of Accounting (MAcc) class reunions, it was also a call to action.

On a wintry day in 2019, the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) celebrated alumni, donors, and scholarship winners at the annual SAF Awards Celebration event…one of the last in-person celebrations before the global pandemic.

The Waterloo Centre for Taxation in a Global Economy (Tax Centre) has taken a significant role in advancing and supporting tax research and education, not only at the University of Waterloo, but across Canada. As the Tax Centre enters its 25th year, Ken Klassen (MAcc ’89), Director of the Tax Centre and professor with the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF), sits down for a conversation about the Tax Centre's accomplishments and the influence that it has had on the accounting profession and the SAF curriculum.

Cousins Elaine Lee (BA ’03, pictured second) and Michelle Lam (BA ’01, MAcc ’01, pictured first)spent their university days together. Both were accepted into the Accounting and Financial Management (AFM) program and became roommates, supporting one other through their studies and university life. SAF caught up with the two to reminisce about their academic and career paths.