Female leaders in accounting: Sheila Smigarowski

CPA Sheila Smigarowski shares the career path she took to become a leader in the accounting field.

  • Title: Director, Risk Assurance & Advisory Services, EPCOR Utilities Inc., Edmonton
  • Number of employees: 2,749
  • University: University of Saskatchewan, Commerce (with distinction), 1987
  • Designation year: 1990, Price Waterhouse
  • Certified Internal Auditor: 2000
  • Certification in Risk Management Assurance: 2013, Institute of Internal Auditors

Sheila Smigarowski has taken a few lofty leaps of faith over many miles during her 27-year career. In 1987, she left Saskatoon for Horsens, Denmark, population 54,450, after a summer job as assistant auditor with Price Waterhouse. She spent six months in the Nordic country with electric company Alcatel Kirk as business analyst, before returning to the Big Four firm to begin articling.

In 1991, a year after getting her designation, she transferred to Price Waterhouse’s Vancouver office Management Consulting group as a senior consultant and stayed until 1993.

During the next 13 years, 10 with PRA Group located in Delta, B.C. and three years with Peoples Trust Company in Vancouver, she became ensconced in the coastal area, so her move back to Saskatoon in 2006 proved to be the toughest one of all.

She left her job as manager, Internal Audit, at Peoples Trust, a $3B privately held national organization, to join Cameco Corporation, the largest low-cost uranium producer in the world.

“I wanted to move into broader, more complex leadership roles in larger organizations and the opportunities were not presented in Vancouver,” she says from her office in Edmonton at EPCOR Utilities Inc. where she has worked since 2009. “But it was hard because I loved Vancouver, had great friends and a great life there.”

The last leap was to Edmonton in 2008 when she joined North American Construction Group as director, Internal Audit. “All of those steps have allowed me to move into the leadership role I hold today, which includes internal audit, CSOX and ERM programs,” she says.

As director, Risk Assurance & Advisory Services at EPCOR, the biggest challenge is adding value to multiple, diverse stakeholders. Being able to strengthen governance and management systems of internal control within an organization’s risk tolerance is inspiring, and she enjoys being able to trigger positive changes.

A dedicated volunteer, she recalls that even as a student at the University of Saskatchewan, she was willing to hold leadership positions in organizations such as the Gavel Club, AIESEC and the Commerce Student’s Society.

“They were all great places to take risks as a leader and try different approaches,” she says. “Leaders can demonstrate their skills from all seats and roles within an organization and in people’s lives outside of work when they step up to be coaches, in their profession or as volunteers in the community.”

Along the way, others noticed her outgoing, positive attitude and willingness to take initiative as potential outstanding traits that would likely take her to the boardroom. She thinks the key to her overall success was tackling new opportunities and is staying open to opportunities “as they arise” in the future.

After hours, she enjoys being an aunt and great aunt to six nieces and nephews, and likes to travel, golf, read, ballroom dance, volunteer and learn.

She has attended an Executive Leadership program at the University of Alberta, and recently she received her CRMA (Certification in Risk Management Assurance) designation.

“Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves,” she advises novices plotting their career courses. “Seize opportunities and work hard. One of the most important ways to move up within an organization is to gain experience. Do that by putting in the time and exploring all of its different areas,” she says, speaking from experience.

Resume

  • 2009 — present: EPCOR Utilities Inc., Edmonton
  • 2008 — 2009: North American Construction Group, Edmonton
  • 2006 — 2008: Cameco Corporation, Saskatoon
  • 2003 — 2006: Peoples Trust Company, Vancouver
  • 1993 — 2003: PRA Group, Delta, B.C.
  • 1991 — 1993: Price Waterhouse Management Consultants, Vancouver
  • 1987 — 1991: Price Waterhouse, Saskatoon
  • 1987: Alcatel Kirk (formerly “Standard Electric Kirk”), Horsens, Denmark

Giving back

  • September 2012 — present: Chairman of the Board for the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) in Canada, Ottawa
  • Former leadership roles:
    • Western Canada District Representative for the IIA for four years, overseeing Chapter operations
    • IIA Vancouver Chapter President for 1 year
    • Volunteer Instructor, IIA
    • Professions Division Chair for the Saskatoon United Way Campaign for three years
    • Katherine Sanford Housing Society, Vancouver, Treasurer

Highlights

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