Female leaders in accounting: Sandra Jack

Female CPA Sandra Jack discusses her career path as a leader in the accounting field.

  • Title: Partner, Felesky Flynn Law Firm
  • Number of company employees: 39
  • University: University of Calgary; Business of Commerce: Dec. 1983; Bachelor of Laws: May 1989
  • Designation year: 1985; Coopers & Lybrand, Calgary
  • Admitted to bar: 1990
  • Fellowship awarded: 2010

“I just poured my energy into going forward,” says Sandra Jack matter-of-factly from her office at Felesky Flynn Law Firm in Calgary after returning from a vacation in Hawaii in February. It was that verve that took her from running a tennis club as a teenager to receiving her accounting designation and becoming a tax lawyer and partner at Felesky Flynn in about 13 years. “When I moved to the next stage, I never thought of it as a risk.”

She saw it as an opportunity when given the chance to run the Calgary Tennis Club after teaching the sport to youngsters and learning the ropes for a couple of years. “I was going to university part time taking accounting and business classes because it helps an 18-year-old run a business,” she says. She picked up a lot from that first leadership role, including that it’s possible to take charge at any age and learn from those around you. She credits her father for cleverly helping her through the rough patches. “I made mistakes,” she admits, “but I was able to talk to him about issues and, at the time, I thought he actually told me what to do. In hindsight, I realize he asked all the right questions and let me figure things out for myself.”

With all of her accounting courses under her belt, she left the tennis world in 1980 and joined Coopers & Lybrand Chartered Accountants. She worked as staff accountant, tax specialist and tax manager, earned her BComm degree, and in 1983, her UFE results earned a bronze medal for third best in Alberta. She found she “hated auditing but really, really liked the tax side of things” so she decided to couple that with an earlier interest sparked in law and headed back to class in 1986. The next year, she joined Felesky Flynn, graduated from law school in 1989 and was admitted to the Bar in 1990. Three years later, she was partner at her firm.

These days, the most challenging — “and most fun” — part of her job is solving clients’ tax problems. “They typically have tough issues to work through and it often takes hard work and collaborative effort to come up with solutions. We’re always throwing things against the wall even though it might be a marginal idea. We work together to figure out creative solutions.”

She believes learning to speak up with ideas in a team environment, taking advice from colleagues and picking their brains and seizing opportunities are all vital leadership components, along with volunteering. “You make a lot of contacts and learn an enormous amount through volunteering,” she says. She should know. She has contributed her expertise to 17 different administrations including the Federal Department of Finance, the Salvation Army’s Women’s Health Council and the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Law over the years. That’s in addition to doing papers and presentations.

In 2012, she was awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for work through the Canadian Tax Foundation. “That was a really nice surprise,” she says.

Still a “sometimes” tennis player, avid golfer and dedicated owner of two German shepherds, Jack has plans for warmer climates down the road. “Where will I be in five years? Hopefully in Hawaii on a beach — but not in a sand trap,” she laughs.

Resume

  • 1977 — 1980: Tennis Professional, Calgary Tennis Club/Glencoe Club/Tennis Academy
  • 1981 — 1986: Coopers & Lybrand, Chartered Accountants, Calgary; Student, Staff Accountant, Tax Specialist, Tax Manager
  • 1987 — 1992: Felesky Flynn LLP, Calgary; Consultant, Student, Associate
  • 1993 — present: Felesky Flynn LLP, Calgary; Partner

Recognition

  • 1989: Bachelor of Laws, University of Calgary — Campbell McLaurin Achievement Award, Silver Medallion
  • 2003: Lexpert Magazine — One of Canada’s Top 25 Women Lawyers
  • 2004: ICAA — Distinguished Service Award
  • 2006: Queen’s Counsel appointment
  • 2010: Awarded Fellowship

Highlights

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