Female leaders in accounting: Lara Gaede

CPA leader Lara Gaede discusses her career path.

  • Title: Chief Accountant, Alberta Securities Commission (ASC)
  • Number of company employees: 180
  • University: University of Western Ontario, BA (Math) 1993; University of Calgary, BComm (Accounting) 1995
  • Designation year: 1998, Coopers & Lybrand, Calgary
  • CFA designation year: 2001

Lara Gaede is a risk taker. After high school in Victoria, B. C., she flew off to Denmark by herself to spend a year as an exchange student to get to know the culture and language in the country of her heritage. Then, she chose to go to Western University in London, Ontario — where she didn’t have any friends or family — because she had been impressed with their presentation at the boarding school she attended for grades 10 to 12. During her career, she has even ditched a job she loved to develop new skills.

“I was senior securities analyst in the Corporate Finance division at the Alberta Securities Commission,” she says from her Calgary office. “I loved the organization and enjoyed my job but I wanted to move forward in my career. I decided to return to public practice at Ernst & Young to gain some management experience and refresh my auditing skills while still staying in a professional environment and using my technical accounting and securities skills. I firmly believe that without that risk, I may not have been hired as the associate chief accountant for the Alberta Securities Commission, which led to my job today.

Now, the married mother of four who was a single parent of a young son at that time, thrives in her diverse role. She has participated as member of the Accounting Standards Board (AcSB), discussed challenging Canadian IFRS application issues with the IFRS Discussion Group and chaired the Canadian Securities Administrator’s Chief Accountants Committee — for starters. Then, there are the speaking engagements and dealing with technical accounting, auditing and financial reporting issues.

“The most challenging part of all of this,” she says, “is getting everything done I want to get done. Multi-tasking, organization and prioritization are all essential!”

The other important steps Gaede believes helped boost her to the pinnacle were continuous learning, interacting with dynamic people, mentorship and networking.

“One of the most influential lessons I’ve learned is the importance of a strong network. Relationships are vital to success and take time and attention to nurture,” she says.

One popular way among CPAs to connect beyond office borders is to volunteer. Gaede has been involved with the AcSB and the Board of Governors of the Chartered Professional Accountants Education Foundation of Alberta.

Her involvement with the Volunteer Income Tax program in her first year at U of C was one of her first leadership roles. By second year, she was running it.

Her advice to young CPA women with drive and ambition comes directly from personal experience: take risks, network, learn from your mistakes, be sincere and treat everyone — “everyone” she stresses — with respect. And believe in yourself."

“It takes time and effort to become an expert in anything,” she says. “Don’t give up.”

Gaede was appointed to the AcSB for a term that began April 1, 2012. She also initiated the ASC becoming a CA Training Office and oversaw the recruitment, and continues to oversee the operation of the program.

In her personal time, she reads, does digital scrapbooking and likes to travel. In 2013, she and her husband, also a CPA, were off to the Celebrating Alberta CAs 2013 event in Jasper and to New York City.

Gaede expects to still be with the ASC in five or 10 years and may extend her influence beyond the regulating agency. “Eventually,” she says, “I would like to join some boards of public companies.”

Resume

  • 1995 — 1998: Senior Accountant, Coopers & Lybrand, Calgary
  • 1998 — 1999: Chief Accountant, Cimarron Engineering Consulting Ltd., Calgary
  • 1998 — 2005: Securities Analyst, Corporate Finance, Alberta Securities Commission, Calgary
  • 2005 — 2006: Senior Manager, Ernst & Young, Calgary
  • 2006— 2009: Associate Chief Accountant, Alberta Securities Commission, Calgary
  • 2009 — present: Chief Accountant, Alberta Securities Commission, Calgary

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