Photo: Kent Kallberg Studios
Name: Nadine Haddad, CPA
Position: Finance lead
Company: British Canadian Importers
Years as a CPA: 2
By the time she became a CPA in Canada in 2017, Nadine Haddad had already earned a bachelor’s degree, an MBA, and a technical diploma in information systems and computer programming in her home country of Lebanon. She’d also established a 17-year career in accounting and finance.
Nadine began her career developing reporting protocols for a construction company. Her expertise in financial systems and her ability to speak three languages (Arabic, English, and French) soon led to a position with Capital Investment Services (CIS), a regulated financial institution that was in the final stages of a systems upgrade at the time. Over the next 15 years, she led the accounting team at CIS through the chaotic global market events of 2000 and 2008 and worked closely with Lebanon’s Special Investigation Commission, the body responsible for fighting money laundering and terrorism financing.
Today, Nadine is a CPA and the finance lead for Burnaby-based British Canadian Importers (BCI), a supplier and distributor for the food industry. She’s also a dedicated volunteer and an award-winning baker!
What made you decide to move to Canada?
I always wanted to travel, and I knew I could accomplish so much more if given the opportunity. I’d reached a point where I couldn’t advance anymore at CIS and there were no better opportunities in Lebanon. Also, the instability in the Middle East had always bothered me, and the war that took place in the summer of 2006 was the last straw. So I applied for immigration to Canada in early 2007.
What inspired you to pursue the CPA designation?
The CPA opens up a world of opportunities. It increases your chances of getting a better job and gives you the proper tools in case you decide to start your own business. I knew I had to get one even before my immigration application was finalized!
Was it hard to make the transition to the CPA?
My training in Lebanon was all transferable, but I needed the CPA to validate my background, update my knowledge, and take my skills to the next level. CPA helped me with that extra mile—like healthy change management and building proper internal controls into any ERP [enterprise resource planning] system so the reporting can be reliable. The biggest challenge was being a student during the initial stages of the merger—a big change for the profession, another fun challenge for me!
Was it hard to find meaningful work in Canada?
I struggled to find a job when I first came here, but one of the reasons I got hired at BCI is because I shared that I was in the process of enrolling for the CPA designation. The CPA really opens up the world to you.
What’s your role at BCI?
I was initially hired as part of a strategy positioning BCI for further growth. They needed a new, scalable ERP system and someone with accounting knowledge to help look after this process. I co-championed this project with our operations leader. Since then, I’ve overseen the accounting and finance function and helped improve processes where needed.
Do you have any advice for international CPA candidates?
Your international training will become more relevant to the Canadian business community when you back it up with a CPA designation. I take pride in my accomplishment and the fact that I now belong to one of the most trusted organizations in the country. If I was able to do it (with a full-time job and a family to look after), so can you!
Do you have any mentors or people you look up to?
My parents, Joseph and Yolla, are my all-time mentors and role models. I also look up to my CPA mentor, Sepand Jazzi, CPA, CMA (the teacher of my first-ever CPA class), who provided me with tremendous support. And I’m inspired by the leadership team at BCI—they are all genuine people who do everything they can to empower others to reach their full potential.
In 2018, you became a CPA mentor and a CPABC ambassador, partnering with organizations like MOSAIC to share your CPA journey with new Canadians. What inspired you to give back?
When I was in the last stages of the CPA program, Sepand Jazzi asked me if I wanted to meet his new mentees and answer their questions. I genuinely enjoy helping out, so I agreed. CPA made such a huge difference in my life. Now I want to inspire others.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
Have a plan, but be flexible!
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I love to bake, and I won third place with my pear and vanilla pie at a pie-baking contest at the West End Farmers’ Market in 2015.