In the Right Place, at the Right Time, Says Grad

Thursday, October 3, 2013

“There aren’t many more things I need to accomplish professionally in the tax and accounting arena,” says Michael (Mike) Dutot (BA ’79), who is set to retire from corporate life. “It’s time for new challenges – such as the lifelong pursuit of a lower golf handicap!”

Now completing nearly three decades with The Dow Chemical Company, he serves as the Midland, Michigan-based firm’s Senior Director, Tax Economics.

As an economics student at Waterloo, Mike aspired to a career that would let him live where he chose. Some paths seemed to lead only to metropolitan Toronto, but he wanted the flexibility to have a great career while living in smaller cities or towns. “As it turns out,” he explains, “I’ve enjoyed a smaller center lifestyle – while working for a major multinational company. That expectation has been met!” 

His career, he then imagined, would be in finance, accounting, or a tax-related field, or in business management, or in a combination of those. “What I didn’t anticipate was that about two-thirds of my working life would take place outside Canada,” says Mike, who started working with Dow Chemical in Canada. He was transferred to the US in 1990. “It seems I was in the right place at the right time – and with the right skills. That was serendipitous!”

It’s a truism that a person’s interests and perspectives evolve over time.  Early in his career, the UW grad was an enthusiastic number cruncher. “I enjoyed the technical detail, making sense of the numbers, and explaining their meaning to non-accountants,” he recalls. “Now I get the most pleasure out of helping younger employees develop their talent, including the soft skills.”

Professional development

Many things can enter into a person’s professional development –another truism, but the blend is always unique to the individual.  That the Dow executive’s Canadian accounting and tax training focused on concepts more than on rules (a defining feature of the US tax system) proved invaluable. He praises his alma mater for giving him the technical background and critical thinking skills that made a firm foundation for new skills he would later add to his repertoire. 

He also lauds his colleagues in the business world: “I’ve had the good fortune to work with some highly skilled practitioners – and to absorb the knowledge they passed forward.”

Before his move stateside, Mike was heavily involved with CMA Ontario, and served on its board of governors when members opted for the CMA designation. “I was part of a younger group who brought generational diversity to the board and committees,” he recalls. “It was easy to observe the direct impact of your efforts. The people were outstanding, and I made many good friends.”     

Offers insight

From his seasoned professional’s vantage point Mike offers an insight into corporate taxation in today’s economy. “In North America and globally, the expansion of broad generic anti-avoidance-type rules makes it difficult for tax professionals to have comfort on anything but the most conservative transaction,” he observes.  He predicts that the next generation of tax experts will likely deal with even more uncertainty, even while their clients will be demanding ever more definitive guidance.

Mike probably won’t worry just too much about those prospects when he’s out on the back nine. But what could take some of his attention between rounds is contemplating ways to expand a small business that he and his wife have an interest in. 


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