By Renu Singh-Joseph
Like many people, Lynn Cook, CPA, CGA, chief financial officer of Colliers International’s U.S. operations, explored many different career paths before finding the perfect fit. And for each path – accounting, fashion design and architecture – Cook did her due diligence by researching the profession and speaking to individuals in those fields.
She found that in accounting, the common perception was that accountants were dull, and that it was a boring field in which accountants “just counted things and reported on the numbers.”
However, the reality was quite different.
“When I looked at accounting, it seemed like there was more room for variety and creativity,” Cook says.
And when she did an internship at KPMG, she discovered that not only were the accountants she worked with fascinating, but the work they did was diverse and interesting.
“What I realized is that once you have your designation, there are so many different things you can do with your career. For me, the biggest reward is that it’s opened up so many doors and opportunities in terms of networking, building relationships and learning all the time.”
Over the past 20 years, Cook has had an amazing, diverse career with a number of different organizations, including Intrawest, Overwaitea Food Group and KPMG. In 2007, she was contacted by a recruiter who asked her to describe her ideal, perfect role.
“Working for a large company based in Vancouver with the kind of business that was dynamic and growing, where I could be excited about working for that company in a role where I could solve problems,” Cook answered.
A couple of months passed, and she received a call from the recruiter who told her he had found her perfect job.
She didn’t believe it at first, but once the role at Colliers International was described to her, it did seem perfect.
The company was undergoing “rapid growth and its team required someone to systemize things so it could be scalable,” Cook says. “It was a fascinating challenge, exactly what I was looking for.”
Cook joined Colliers in 2007 as the corporate controller, then served as global director of finance, followed by the role of VP of corporate development, global, and her current role, CFO of Colliers International’s U.S. operations.
Cook believes uniting the accounting profession into one designation from three – to chartered professional accountants from chartered accountants, certified management accountants and certified general accountants – is good as it “helps to clarify to the market that a professional accountant is a professional accountant and takes confusion out of the marketplace.
“It also makes it easier for business owners to understand who they can seek advice from and who is qualified to give that advice,” she says.
“When I’m looking at hiring people, knowing that they have a CPA designation tells me that they have a consistent level of knowledge and professional expertise,” Cook says. “If I’m looking at someone with a general business background, I really have to ask a lot of questions to know if they have that fundamental basis of knowledge.”
Despite her busy schedule and travelling globally for Colliers, Cook takes time to mentor up-and-coming professionals.
“I recognize potential in people and I like to support people in their career growth when they’re excellent at what they do, but they don’t recognize how far they can go.”
“I always tell people when they’re contemplating doing their CPA or are halfway through and want to quit, that having those letters is your ticket to the dance and if you don’t have them, you don’t get invited. Once you’re there, your experience determines how well you are going to do, but you don’t even get invited without the ticket.”