MEET SHANNON SMITH: A young professional on a roll

MEET SHANNON SMITH: A young professional on a roll

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Shannon Smith, one of GGFL’s newest staff recruits, thought she’d done okay during the three consecutive days last September when she wrote the Common Final Examination (CFE).

A ‘veteran’ of four GGFL co-op terms, Shannon finished the exam and, like all other CFE writers, had to wait until the end of November to be told how she’d done.

And then came the shock.

A week before the results were officially announced, University of Waterloo student Shannon was told – and sworn to secrecy – that she had made the CFE Honour Roll.

Of the 6,000-plus writers who also passed the exam, only 35 Ontarians made the national honour roll – a major achievement for any accounting student.

“I was shocked,” she says. “For a week, I wasn’t able to tell anybody, but everyone knows when the results come out, so people were asking me ‘Are you nervous?’ I didn’t want to lie, so I’d just say “Yeah, I’m really excited for the results.”

“I honestly didn’t know I had done well enough to achieve honour roll,” she adds. “I was just happy that I passed, which was the main thing; but, I was trained really well at Waterloo, and I’d been able to get a broad range of experience as a GGFL co-op student, which helped prepare me for the exam.”

(Almost half of the Ontario honour roll this year was from her Waterloo Masters of Accounting group.)

The CFE success was Shannon’s second major academic achievement of the year. Before she sat for the CFE, she had already joined the Waterloo Masters honour roll, putting her in the top 10 per cent in her class.

Being able to work at GGFL for a total 16 months during her co-op placements was a major plus, she commented.

While many of her fellow co-op students were restricted to narrow audit work at other firms, Shannon got to experience a variety of assurance and tax work – audits, notices, reviews, and personal and corporate tax.

“That’s what’s so exciting about working at GGFL,” she says. “I got introduced to so many different areas. The people here are amazing and I love the learning atmosphere of the office. All the managers and partners don’t just give you the answers to your questions, they explain them in detail.”

Shannon also experienced the busy season during three of her four co-ops.

“You work a lot of long hours and have tight deadlines,” she says. “I used to be a high-performance athlete in high school so I was used to high-pressure situations. People commented on how calm I appeared in busy season; but, I just put my head down and worked as hard as everyone else until we got through it.”

That high-performance athletic pursuit was synchronized swimming, a sport that saw Shannon compete at elite provincial and national levels – she was among the top 25 junior athletes in Canada. She coached the University of Waterloo team and today helps coach at the University of Ottawa and competes with a Masters team.

“Swimming is more to stay active and just for fun now,” she says. “Synchro is also a great way to learn team dynamics. If one person doesn’t turn up, you can’t practice,” she adds. “To make stuff happen, you have to work as a team all the time.”

Shannon is now a full-time staff accountant at GGFL and has been asked to help train new incoming co-op staff arriving in the New Year.

“I’m so happy to be back at the firm,” she says. “I want to continue to learn and take on new leadership roles. In university, we focused on technical knowledge, but at GGFL I get to apply that knowledge. That’s what makes working here so exciting.”