Becoming an accountant isn't all about the fast cars and rock-star lifestyle - sometimes it offers you the chance to help the community. Antonio Caliari-Pearce CA has done just that, giving back to two charities in New Zealand. We ask him a few questions on his career and what influences him:
What is your current role?
I'm an accountant at Vend in Auckland, New Zealand. I'm one of the accountants who looks at the forecasting for Vend's future growth. What I do is I take the highly evolved three year strategy and break that down into its components and confer with each of the department heads about how their department's going to fit into the overall picture.
How did you get to where you are today?
I studied Accounting and Management at the University of Auckland and then I went into a job in HR, but realised that accounting really is a fantastic base for business. So I went to Grant Thornton, one of the international accounting firms where I was for three years and now I have moved to Vend.
Why did you become a CA?
I became a CA because I knew it would give me the ability to have an impact. From very early on you're able to have an impact in business and the wider community. Sitting on the board for two charities has shown me this firsthand.
It's a skill that can expose you to a wide range of industries and experiences. All companies need accountants, so as a CA you can choose any industry you want to work in. I love working for a tech company - it's really exciting to see upcoming products. Technology is going to have a massive impact on our generation, and it's awesome to be at the forefront of that.
One of my career highlights would be being elected to the Board of The Discovery Foundation. It's awesome being involved in the strategic decision making for a charity and knowing that you are helping people less fortunate.
How has being a CA changed your life?
For me, having the Chartered Accountant designation means that if you are having a conversation with someone they know and understand the training that you have been through and know that your argument will be well reasoned and really strong.Some friends of mine actually just started their own marketing agency and it was really cool that I was one of the first people that they came to. We sat down, made a business plan, made a forecast and I have been there with them tracking the progress the whole way.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
One of my career highlights would be being elected to the Board of The Discovery Foundation, which is a charity in New Zealand that runs camps for kids between the ages of 14 and 18. It has been awesome being involved in the strategic decision making for a charity and knowing that you are helping people less fortunate, and as an accountant it's almost an obligation because we have the skill set to do something that benefits the wider society.
Any advice for those considering following the CA path?
Someone starting out in a Chartered Accountants program I'd say just do it, it's absolutely awesome and it's hard work but it's worth it in the end. The skill set that it gives you is such a fantastic grounding for any area of business you want to go into.
You mentioned sitting on the board of two charities. Tell us a bit about them.
Discovery for Teens is a unique program, providing benefits to adolescents of all backgrounds and has a good cross-section of the average NZ population. I am also on the Rotary Club board in downtown Auckland, which does fantastic work in the community.
Why is it important for you to give back?
Pavarotti once said that his voice was a gift and he has a duty to use it to positively impact as many people as possible. I feel the same way. I'm so lucky to have received a fantastic tertiary education and professional training from Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.
I want New Zealand to be a country where every young person has a chance to succeed. Discovery is helping to create that New Zealand.
Where would you like Discovery to be in five years' time?
I would love Discovery to become a rite of passage for every Kiwi teen. We can already see where the children of early participants are now attending programs. There's something cool about seeing the organisation impacting multiple generations of a family. In five years, I would like to see Discovery have similar brand recognition to [not-for-profit outdoor education organisation] Outward Bound.
From a financial perspective, I would love Discovery to secure diverse funding sources. Not-for-profit funding is becoming increasingly competitive to access and a diverse funding base will help reduce the risk for the organisation.
How do your skills as a CA enable you to be an asset at Discovery?
Like many small charities, Discovery runs on the smell of an oily rag. As a CA, I'm able to balance and prioritise where funding will be allocated in the organisation. The skills I've learnt through being a CA means I can make logical and well-reasoned decisions both at the board table and when interacting with Discovery staff who take care of the day-to-day management.
At the same time, being a CA has also made me aware of the compliance issues when making decisions. The compliance side isn't glamourous, but it's necessary to make sure you're ticking all the correct boxes to keep the organisation going.
Accounting offers a wide range of opportunities outside of crunching numbers, even allowing you to help your community and make an impact on the world around you.
Can you give us a snapshot of your average day?
I usually try and get to the office by 7am to get a couple of hours work done before anyone else gets in. I like to go for a run in the afternoon at around 3pm when my concentration starts to wane. If I'm not going for a run, I try to use my lunches to catch up with old friends or colleagues.
I also love coffee - I happily have four to five a day and don't find it impacts my ability to sleep at all. Other people I know can't have coffee after midday, or they're up until midnight. Not me - I love the stuff!
* This interview was conducted in 2014. Antonio Caliari-Pearce CA has since become the Business Controller, Booking.com International in the Netherlands.