Tony Masella: An Accountant Abroad

2016-2017 Issue 1

tonymasellaTony Masella has over 25 years of experience working for the world’s largest consulting firm, and it all began while he was studying for the Graduate Certificate in Professional Accounting at McGill’s School of Continuing Studies. Since then he’s worked in Canada, America and Europe, and currently serves as Global Managing Director for Accenture. We spoke to him regarding his career, the accounting industry, and working abroad.


What is most memorable about your time spent at McGill?

I was working while doing my graduate work at McGill – I attended courses part-time in the evening and challenged myself to complete the program within a year. I wanted to earn the CPA designation because it is recognized all over the world and I firmly believed it would help open doors. It gave me an appreciation for how companies work – how they’re structured, organized and governed, and what makes them tick. That helped me not only here in Canada, but also for dealing with corporate clients in the U.S., France, Spain and Italy.


Many of our students have international backgrounds. What advice would you give them for working abroad?

Get to know the local culture of where you live and work; that means the norms of both of the country and the organization you’re working for. What are the business environment, culture and the business norms?
When I moved from Montreal to Paris, I quickly discovered that organizational decisions are made very differently than they are here. In France people love to debate; it’s taught in school from kindergarten. Every business decision is debated and discussed by colleagues and a consensus is required before it’s adopted; it’s very different from North America.  The culture is significantly more top-down, where management makes a decision and then you move on.


Any advice for those studying accounting and working abroad?

Take a variety of courses; I particularly recommend organizational behavior. Build your “soft skills”. It is the variety of courses that helped to prepare me. I understood governance structures, how companies operated, in addition to management disclosures, board responsibilities, and financial statements. It all helps you understand a business’ strategy.


What changes have you seen in the industry over the course of your career?

I think the biggest change I’ve seen has been the harmonizing of accounting standards across the globe. In the past every country had it’s own local standards, but nowadays a company listed on any exchange needs to adopt either international (IASB) or US (US GAAP) standards. So if I’m looking at an organization and south-east Asia, I can easily understand their financial statements and disclosures because recording revenue and expenses are now much the same. It has really helped potential investors and business partners.


What advice would you give McGill graduates entering the accounting industry?

I’ve recruited from McGill, and I’ve given advice to many grads.
First, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re asking questions it means that you’re thinking and you’re contributing to the dialogue – you’re trying to stretch yourself. Everybody will make mistakes, but if your mistake was the result of simply not asking questions, you’re really exposing yourself to failure.
Second, just because you graduated it doesn’t mean that learning stops – learning just started, and the learning cycle is just going to keep getting faster.


Technology means that the world has now virtually become a global village. So keep your eyes open and continue to learn – especially from people with different backgrounds. It’s just going to make you better.

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