Sisters share deep bonds, similar perspectives

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

“It’s somewhat embarrassing!” What Cynthia McIntyre [Loeffen] (MAcc ’96) is admitting is the kind of faux pas we’ve all committed or imagined doing.

Here’s her terrible secret:  years ago at Waterloo, she ticked THE WRONG BOX on a co-op job application form. She had applied for a tax role, not an audit role. . . . Oops!

“The rest is history,” Cynthia laughs in retrospect. That box turned out to be exactly the right one. “I think she did it ‘accidently on purpose,’” jokes her sister Heather Wright [Loeffen] (MAcc ’98).

Career Paths a Family Affair

“Some might find my career path predictable, since I've been in public practice for all of it,” acknowledges Cynthia, who is a Partner, Business Tax Services in EY’s Kitchener, Ontario office.

“When I began, it was all about passing the UFE, then being promoted to manager,” she explains. “But as I started my family, I wanted to progress in my career, have flexibility, and be around smart, high-energy people. I’ve found all of that in spades at EY!”

Heather started with EY two years later. She too has stayed the course, serving in the firm’s London, Ontario office ever since, except for a six-month secondment in New York City. Currently she is a Partner, Tax Services.

“My career looks fairly linear in hindsight,” she concedes, “but it didn’t start off that way! I once felt I was better suited to a career in industry, but my instinct told me to stick with public practice and EY.”

At this point in the narrative, the sisters’ commitment to encouraging and supporting each other comes into sharp focus.

Heather had worked in London on her co-op terms and wanted to return there after graduating. While she was finishing her studies at Waterloo, sister Cynthia and her husband, both employed at EY, moved to London from Toronto. They convinced Heather to attend a pre-graduation interview with their firm  -- a successful encounter destined to set her career course.

“I met my husband Steve in my first months at EY,” says Heather, rounding out this part of the story. “So, all four of us were working in the same office at the same time!” It wasn’t too long before she switched from assurance to tax. “Although I had a general interest in my tax courses at UW,” she recalls, “it was a few years before tax became a focal point.”

Pleasure in Daily Work

Asked independently what makes their jobs appealing today, the closely-bonded tax experts give nearly identical responses. “I get the most energy from working with others toward a solution,” offers Heather, adding that this holds true whether the setting is an outside meeting, a conference call, or an internal collaboration.

For Cynthia, “working with incredibly bright people who want to do the right thing” is a key motivator. Looking back a bit, she also praises mentors who showed her where she needed to improve. “These can be difficult conversations,” she admits, “but they really make a difference.”

Heather is a tax account leader in the London office and focuses on clients with an international presence. Outside the office, life is equally busy. She takes power skating lessons to keep up with her kids, Madeleine, 9, and Andrew, 7.

The wannabe recreation hockey player is a long-time volunteer with the Canadian Cancer Society as well. Her Kitchener-based sister serves on the executive of Women Powering Technology and is the treasurer of the St. Mary's Hospital Foundation.

Recalling Waterloo Days

“I particularly remember Jim Barnett’s estate planning class,” says Heather, “probably because it was so directly on point to my experiences.”

Cynthia also praises Barnett, for communicating effectively with students and clarifying complex topics, but singles out another professor as well. “I recall Stan Laiken's antics, and his passion for tax!” Laiken, now retired, is famed for his “tax is a microcosm of life” mantra and his awe-inspiring “rollover” dance.

The siblings’ memories include happenings beyond campus too -- OJ Simpson’s car chase, Princess Di’s funeral, the last episode of “Seinfeld” -- and good times locally at the Bombshelter and Fed Hall.

But it’s building relationships that really stands out for both women. Cynthia and several classmates still gather regularly for family dinners, and members of Heather’s class will mark personal milestones at an upcoming celebration in Las Vegas.

Feelings Are Mutual

“It’s been wonderful to work so closely with my sister and best friend,” Heather observes. “We set the family relationship aside at work, and while we have the normal sibling disagreements, we save those discussions for family gatherings.”

Not surprisingly, Cynthia expresses much the same sentiment. “I’ve been blessed to watch my sister blossom into a strong professional,” she says. “We don't often have a chance to work together, but when we do I always learn something from her. We’re also very good friends outside work.”

One thing is clear about the overall direction and pattern of the sisters’ professional careers and personal lives. As Heather succinctly puts it, “It seems to have worked out for us so far!”