Finding the heartbeat in organizations with Marietjie Bower, CPA, CMA

Learn about the career path of CPA Canada member Marietjie Bower, chief financial officer at FEI Canada.

Marietjie Bower, chief financial officer and corporate secretary at FEI Canada, leads the membership group and participates in the IT and corporate reporting committees at the organization. Read about her experience.

What made you choose an accounting designation?

I wanted to be immersed in industry and work my way up to become a CFO, eventually a CEO. I wanted to be on the management/leadership side. Accounting and finance is my foundation, but I am not a very good “sitting in the corner with my head down” type of an accountant. I am outgoing and enjoy the people side. In my first job in Canada, after emigrating from South Africa, the VP finance asked if I had thought of studying further, so he planted the seed.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Strategy development — being part of the heartbeat of the organization, setting its direction — is pure adrenaline for me. I also really enjoy coaching and mentorship. I am passionate about helping people reach their potential. My previous teams will tell you that I like to push them beyond their comfort zone. It’s about being able to influence somebody and help them become better at what they do, regardless of their field. If one of my people ends up leaving my organization for a promotion somewhere else that I can’t accommodate internally, I consider it a compliment because it means they have learned and grown. I want them to continue to learn and grow, so if they need to move on to do that, I can live with that.

You have worked at both small and larger organizations. How have they been different?

I enjoy an organic structure more than hierarchical organizations, and I think it’s because of some of the successes I’ve had in my career. Much of my success has come out of organic and smaller companies, where you are much more hands on and actions have a more dynamic impact on the organization and are well evidenced; everything you do affects the organization. Everyone in a small organization tends to know that it takes a “roll up your sleeves” type of attitude to get the job done. In a bigger company, sometimes you just don’t see the impact to the overall product as much, as your work may be much more structured and narrowly focused. I like being able to touch different areas of an organization, and smaller companies have helped me learn and grow in areas faster than a large organization would have allowed me to. Each person is unique and the shoe fits differently!

What publications do you read?

I do the majority of my reading online, and I follow a lot of the emotional intelligence conversations. I also read a lot of articles that are based on growing as a leader, making sure that you are adapting to the latest trends and staying abreast of all the changes in the environment and industry. I like to read about what to expect with different generations and cultures, how we work together and how organizations integrate and enhance one another. I also read CPA Magazine, as I like keeping up with everything that goes on in accounting as well as the leadership world.

Do you use social media?

I’m a LinkedIn junkie. It’s so easy to become outdated. We continually have to grow today to stay current, because change has become the only constant. I recently participated in a webinar on using LinkedIn.

Do you have a favourite hobby?

I love being in the kitchen, whether it’s cooking or baking. Coming up with something unusual — it’s my favorite thing to have people over for dinner and make them something that I’ve never cooked before. And so far, knock on wood, I have never had a bad experience. Baking definitely is one of my passions; my retirement career is going to be owning a small coffee shop with some specialty baking and pastries. I want to introduce tourists and locals to popular South African pastries/treats but also some that I have come up with. I will always have a pastry of the day which will be my “inspirational treat of the day.” Baking is also a major stress reliever for me; if I’m super stressed, I just come home from work and start baking up a storm. My pantry is rarely empty. I also like fishing but I haven’t had the opportunity to do it in a long time.

What’s your philosophy in three words?

Push the boundaries. Never stop believing! Technically that’s two sets of three words.

Just because you are very poor doesn’t mean you can’t make it in the world. You can, if you put your mind to it, and you put hard work into it. From a very young age, I’ve always pushed the boundaries. You tell me I can’t do something, then I really want to do it, and typically make it my mission to achieve it.

There are doors that have opened up for me. I’ve been incredibly blessed! I have a very supportive and encouraging husband. Looking back, I have seized the opportunities but have had to work hard at each one (you always have to). I find you continuously have to test, improve, grow, learn and expand.

How has being a member of both FEI Canada and CPA Canada helped you either personally or professionally?

It’s helped me being a member of both organizations as they bring different perspectives. I believe [my] CPA [designation] has been a foundation, [and] FEI Canada helps build upon that foundation. CPA Canada is where I get my updates on what’s happening in the accounting/finance world and I have found FEI Canada has been very strong on leadership, developing the leader within to be the best at what I can be, and making sure that I grow. The mentoring and the networking opportunities within both organizations are very different but very complementary — and they do intersect in many places.

In FEI Canada’s Vancouver and Calgary chapters, I’ve been able to mentor and I’ve been mentored (often) indirectly. FEI Canada brings the opportunity to sit around the table with a lot of really smart, successful CFOs. I have been on its thought leadership committees where I can participate in the industry and also expand my skills. I’ve sat on a few CFERF (Canadian Financial Executives Research Foundation) round tables and been a seminar panel member as well — something I have really enjoyed — and that keeps stretching me.

FEI Canada has been building blocks on the foundation that CPA has laid, helping me exceed my limits, as I continually grow and succeed. Connect, be connected and be a connection. A lot of the people in FEI Canada are some of my closest network and people that I will go to when I need advice or am looking to do certain things. I am proud to be a member of both CPA Canada and FEI Canada.