Female leaders in accounting: Heather Waldman

CPA Heather Waldman shares the career path she took to become a leader in the accounting field.

  • Title: Vice-President, Finance & Administration and Chief Financial Officer
  • Organization: Tennis Canada
  • University: University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Designation year: 1988, Arthur Andersen, Cape Town 1991, Monitor Company Canada, Toronto

When Tennis Canada’s CFO came to Canada from Cape Town, South Africa in December 1990 with her husband and 10-month old daughter, she had to write conversion exams to get her Canadian CA designation. She had graduated from the University of Cape Town with a degree in marketing in 1983, then earned her Bachelor of Commerce degree and a Graduate Diploma in accounting. By 1988, she was a CA.

“It took me a while to get there,” she says of her designation, which she achieved while working full time at an auditing firm and in Arthur Anderson’s tax division in Cape Town. “I had a marketing degree before deciding I was better suited to the accounting profession,” she says from her Toronto office.

She launched her career here in 1991, working part time at Monitor Company Canada in Toronto, a consulting firm that helps companies worldwide achieve their potential. During the first year, she got her Canadian accounting designation, then worked in a variety of positions over the next eight years, including controller for Monitor’s five Asian offices and in the role of global tax planning and transfer pricing.

“My husband and I had a busy schedule then,” she recalls. “We had another baby and had to juggle work, travel, car pools and school meetings. I think it’s important to be upfront about family commitments and set boundaries before even accepting a job.”

She credits Monitor with her first opportunity to step up as a leader. “Monitor decided to introduce a new global accounting software package and I was invited to be part of the decision-making team to select the software. That was the start of my more international role in the company finances.”

She believes her biggest career risk was leaving her secure position there in 2000 to be CFO at Postlinx, a direct mail service provider. Her three years there followed by some contract positions set her up nicely for Tennis Canada.

“I was ready to get involved with a company I could help move forward when Tennis Canada came along,” she says.

Now, she is in the top finance job at the Toronto-based not-for-profit organization that stages big events such as the Rogers Cup. As CFO and vice-president, Finance & Administration, its financial health rests on her shoulders.

That involves tracking revenues and cash flows, and ensuring the money is there to follow through on new projects. Recently, she started the initiative that introduced a new software database package that will help determine how customers use their services.

Waldman believes that being able to see the big picture and set goals helps make good leaders. Self-confidence goes a long way when it comes to decision making, and having enough aplomb to admit mistakes, compromise when necessary and identify your weaknesses are big benefits.

“Hire people who are skilled where you are not,” she recommends.

“And stand up for what you believe in. Some women may face some kind of discrimination from men in this profession but don’t let that change your beliefs. If you are good at your job, you will earn the respect of all of your peers.”

Finally: listen, keep learning and work hard.

“Never underestimate the value of hard work!”