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Lindsay Carter – Speaking the Language

Being fluent in the language of business opens many doors. And for CPA Lindsay Carter, it’s been the key into one of the world’s most progressive tech companies.

Over the course of his career, Lindsay Carter’s father realized the impact that accounting knowledge could have on making key decisions. As a successful business owner, he often said that knowing the ins and outs of accounting was key in understanding the financial health of your business. And he shared this insight with his daughter.

“That conversation has always stuck with me — that with in-depth knowledge, I could be empowered to make strategic decisions independently,” Lindsay says.

So, years later, when one of her professors at the Queen’s School of Business advocated the versatility of accounting and emphasized how its core skills translated to all businesses in all sectors, Lindsay felt her path was clear.

“I decided, with the combined guidance of my dad and my amazing professor, to pursue accounting because it would set me up to speak that language of business,” Lindsay explains. “That’s what drove me to accounting. It wasn’t: My dream is to have this or that career. It was: Let’s learn the fundamental language so that I can work in any industry anywhere in the world.”

While practicality provided the push for Lindsay to become a CPA, she’s found that the designation opened doors she hadn’t considered, including to one of the world’s most progressive tech companies. Today she’s an Account Manager at Google, where she works with Canadian retailers, helping them shape and grow their businesses in the digital age.

“Most of my clients are actually headquartered in Canada,” she explains. “When one of my clients grows, I can see it happening in the news; I can see it happening in the real world; and I know that I had an impact, be it large or small, on their growth, which is really exciting.”

"I decided, with the combined guidance of my dad and my amazing professor, to pursue accounting because it would set me up to speak that language of business"

Lindsay explains that being able to take data and translate numbers into a narrative that helps clients make good business decisions is a powerful tool. “If you’re not constructing a good story, you’re not leveraging those numbers, which is where I think the CPA background really comes in handy,” she says. “It’s being able to tell stories with numbers.”

Before joining Google, Lindsay was taking a more traditional road. Her first job was in the Financial Services arm of the Assurance group at PwC, a path she and many other CPAs have taken right out of school. It was challenging and promising, and she had many conversations with her managers and mentors about the path to Audit Partner. After three and a half years of auditing financial institutions, Lindsay began the search for an opportunity that would force her to step outside of her comfort zone.

Following an eye-opening secondment at PwC New Zealand, Lindsay decided to take a chance on the unknown. Through a friend, she learned of an opening for an Account Manager role at Google and immediately applied. Initially, Lindsay was concerned that on paper she lacked the digital experience required to succeed in the role. When she asked her now manager why he felt she was the right fit for the role, he explained it was her CPA designation that set her apart. “He said, ‘Ultimately, what the CPA tells me is that you have the relationship skills and business acumen required to succeed. The rest can be learned on the job,’” she explains.

For Lindsay, gone are the days of a single defined dream job. The tech space is always evolving, and she wants to stay challenged and grow along with it — something she’s finding with her current team at Google. “I’m in a space where everyone is so smart, engaged and extremely passionate about what they’re doing. And that continually builds me up to grow both personally and professionally,” she says.

As an Emerging Leader advisory member, Lindsay took some time out of her busy schedule to share with us her thoughts on dream jobs, on taking the leap, and where the “language of business” will take you.

Lindsay Carter On...

On dream jobs

“In terms of long-term career planning I see things like this: I’m on a highway, I’m in the left-hand lane, and I know my ultimate dream job is somewhere on an exit up ahead — I just may not know which exit that is yet. As long as I’m making moves to get in the next lane over and over, inching my way closer to that lifelong career that will continually challenge me, then I’m in a good place. Ultimately, I’m constantly focusing on what lane I’m in today: learning from all the cars on the road, tackling each roadblock one at a time, and always keeping an open mind as to when the right moment to switch lanes will pop up. Perhaps most importantly, I constantly remind myself to always check the rear-view mirror and take a chance to reflect on how far I’ve driven.”

On working to live or living to work

“I had an incredible opportunity to work in PwC’s Auckland, New Zealand office during my time at the firm. The first thing I observed was the focus my Kiwi team placed on personal passions outside of work. I had a true “aha” moment — (and, yes, it’s cliché — of: Are we working to live or living to work? The Auckland team was incredibly smart and talented, and happy. They took time out of their day to prioritize the things they loved, which is easy when surfing, hiking and any other outdoor activity you can dream of are mere steps away. It was there that I was inspired by my colleagues and got really into road running as a way to explore the city and challenge myself personally, which eventually lead to my first marathon. I developed a different mindset toward work: I used to think that I needed to love every minute of my day-to-day to be happy in my career, but by taking the time to invest in my well-being outside of work I learned that being challenged is just as important personally as it is professionally.”

On taking the leap

“After three and a half years at PwC, I was very confident in myself and my career: I had some incredible mentors guiding me down the right path and was involved in various initiatives that were having an impact on the organization at large. To leave that behind for the unknown, to jump into a space where I may not succeed, to enter an industry I knew very little about, it felt really good to take that chance on myself. That was a really proud moment for me to say, ‘Hey, I took the leap.’”

On earning the view

“I traveled to Peru in August 2017 and hiked the Inca Trail, which was really cool. It was my first time in South America, and I went on a four-day trek up to the top of Machu Picchu. You camp along the way alongside a guide that teaches you all about the history, the religion, and everything in the area. Because of the altitude, the air is really thin — it takes a toll on your body. So you’ve spent four days in the grind to get to the top, and when you make it up, there are tourists with selfie sticks who just hopped on the train to get there. It was quite funny to witness, but you feel so much more validated that you’ve truly earned the view.”

On where the language of business will take you

“Through audit, I learned about so many different types of companies from a unique perspective. Suddenly I was able to start speaking the language of these businesses beyond just one line item on a financial statement such as marketing or tax, or whatever niche you work in. With that perspective, you’ve got this whole story you can share and use those experiences to help other businesses make better decisions.”