Female leaders in accounting: Jolene Kendrew

Female leader and CPA Jolene Kendrew discusses her career path in the accounting field.

  • Title: Acting Deputy Director of Finance, City of Colwood, Colwood, B.C.
  • Number of company employees: Approx. 80
  • University: 2006, Bachelor of Commerce, University of Victoria
  • Designation year: 2009

Nine months before writing the UFE, Jolene Kendrew changed employers. She left her senior accountant position at Victoria’s KPMG and moved into an internal finance job in municipal government, working for the City of Colwood, located about 25 minutes down the road.

This was a risky move, given that the resources and support necessary for success on the exam could be lost and that earlier, she had been absent from work and school when her dad passed away. The ambitious student, however, was more than ready for the three-day September trial. She scored the top mark in the country. That earned her the Governor General’s Gold Medal and $5,000 from the Chartered Accountants of Canada.

“This opportunity came up due to a leave of absence,” she says. “In this role, I’ve been able to show some management and leadership skills that my previous position wouldn’t have given me the chance to demonstrate.”

Responsible for overseeing the day-to-day financial management of the city, she has also made some big changes. “I’ve been in charge of implementing new financial processes and a new, core financial IT system. My role has a significant ‘change management’ component, as well as developing training material and introducing processes to staff.” She is also involved in discussions at the management level regarding the strategic direction of the city, and is responsible for three staff members.

Leadership skills, she believes, are both innate and developed. “I think leaders need to be able to read people and identify what they need and want so they can interact in a way that is effective and comfortable for both parties. Leaders also have to have strong ethics, and practice the competencies that they want to see in others.”

Her training has been mostly observation and first-hand experience. Her parents regularly took on leadership roles, summer-camp jobs often put her at the wheel, and she still looks up to her UFE mentor.

One big lesson learned was that it’s essential to share the load. “You can only lead if you have time to make the important decisions,” she says. “I learned to delegate through experience. I quickly realized that without working as a team, the job wasn’t going to get done.”

The essence of her formula for success to date is threefold: drive, outstanding work and initiative. “I think wanting to get better and better led me to gain the skills I needed to move into a management position and help others improve themselves too. I make sure my work is done to a high standard, and I’ve taken the initiative to make changes without being asked.”

Since receiving the medal, she has been doing contract work with the CPA School of Business, and plans to work more in the education field through CPASB or in post-secondary institutions.

But after hours, Kendrew and her husband try to leave work behind. “I find it’s important to schedule work-free time or the stresses of a leadership role can be overwhelming,” she says.


  • May to Aug. 2005 and Jan.: April 2006: Co-op, KPMG
  • Sept. 2006 to Dec. 2008: Senior Accountant, KPMG
  • Jan. 2009 to Nov. 2009: Senior Accountant, City of Colwood
  • Nov. 2009 to present: Acting Deputy Director of Finance, City of Colwood

2013 UPDATE:

Kendrew moved on from her government position with the City of Colwood in January 2011 to pursue her goal of getting more involved with education. Now, the UFE gold medallist teaches financial accounting and taxation at Victoria’s Camosun College in the School of Business. She is also an instructor at the CPA School of Business and is very involved with the development of materials for their CFE preparation program, including case authoring and editing. She particularly enjoys mentoring students, coaching them through the CFE process, and helping them plan their careers.