Brian Trnkus, CPA, CA, explains how the path of least resistance is not always the road you want to take – and how the challenges that test our will and character are also the ones that spur growth and success.
The road to success depends as much upon the map you use to make your way, as it does on the journey itself. Above all, it requires a certain foresight — the ability to look not just one, but two, even three, steps ahead, so that you can plot out your course in advance. The successful finance and accounting professional has to be something of a visionary in that regard: they can see both where they want to be in the future, as well as the path in the present that will take them there.
If anyone knows about looking ahead and finding the path to success, it’s Brian Trnkus. Having served as Director General and General Manager of Euro Ressources, Director of Finance and Corporate Controller at RAND, Director of Finance at Boart Longyear, multiple roles at Nortel, and Vice President of Finance at IAMGOLD Corp, Trnkus has a history of personal and professional accomplishments that is the envy of many. He took some time out of his busy schedule to share with other finance and accounting professionals some of the keys to his success.
Building a toolkit
“At the beginning [of my career],” Trnkus recalls, “my goal was to develop myself, and to get a feel and experience for different aspects of the business world, without overspecializing in any one field.” As such, one aim he has always been mindful of throughout his career has been to develop what he describes as a “broad toolkit” that he could draw upon in the future, and that would open doors for him to new challenges and opportunities. “You have to invest time and effort to create that toolkit.”
It started as early as Trnkus’ first accounting job. After graduating from university, Trnkus worked as an internal auditor for Henry Birks & Sons Jewelers. “I wasn’t immediately sure that I wanted to follow the CA path,” he explains, “so I worked in the industry for three years first, to get some experience under my belt.” At that point, Trnkus decided to invest the time and money necessary for earning his CA designation. “I recognized that I needed to up-skill myself and then look for the next steps in my career.” He advises any students interested in a career in finance and accounting to take a similarly long view. “Think beyond that first degree — the sooner, the better.”
“You have to invest time and effort to create that toolkit.”
After earning his CA designation, Trnkus joined Peat Warwick, as an audit manager. Working for an accounting firm offered a great training ground for Trnkus. The structured environment of the firm “teaches you how to work in a tight deadline environment, multi-task across clients and face new challenges. To succeed, you have to strive to be ahead of the curve by thinking proactively. [Working at a firm] lets you develop your decision-making skills and learn about leadership.”
A born accountant
In many ways, accounting and finance was Trnkus’ natural calling. Out of high school, he was faced with a choice between a career in science, or one in commerce. But upon further reflection, Trnkus knew that his future lay with the latter. “I saw science as perhaps being more introverted, and research-focused, while commerce was more extroverted and practically-oriented.” As an analytically minded person, he found that the world of accounting appealed to his predisposition for logical thought. “I think you have to recognize where your strengths are,” he says. “Self-assessment is important.”
“To succeed, you have to strive to be ahead of the curve by thinking proactively. [Working at a firm] lets you develop your decision-making skills and learn about leadership.”
But it wasn’t just the numbers that exerted a gravitational pull on Trnkus. A career in accounting and finance also promised to help him spread his wings and explore various industries and fields. While he enjoyed the sciences, Trnkus couldn’t see himself being pigeonholed into a single discipline, such as engineering or chemistry; he preferred the flexibility that finance and accounting offered. “I knew that a finance career could provide a broad reach as to where I could end up,” he says. Determined to keep his options open, Trnkus concluded that accounting would give him a foundation upon which he could build an expansive and multifaceted career, one that he could extend into different industries, if he so chose.
Stay tuned for Part II of Brian’s story next week, when he explains how he sought challenges and found experiences that forced him to grow as a professional.
Let us know what you think! At Clarity Recruitment, we’re always interested in hearing from accounting and finance professionals like yourselves, who are ready for new, exciting opportunities that can take their careers to the next level. And be sure to follow us on Twitter (@clarityrecruits) and connect with us on Facebook for more great tips and advice!