Will Hillock is an expert on tax, and has worked in some of the biggest Canadian start-up success stories. Here is how Will made his jump into the start-up ecosystem and brought his CPA skill-set to the table for the tech industry.
Where does your accounting story begin?
“First year university at UWaterloo, I quickly understood the caliber of students I would be competing with for jobs, I knew I had to stand out. So, in the winter term I began reaching out to several accounting firms looking for a summer internship. I came across one where a Partner was my baseball coach from 5 years prior. He remembered who I was, and gave me the opportunity to work with them that summer, and all my following co-op terms. They offered me a position with them upon graduation, and I continued working in audit.
It was a great learning experience, but I realized that once you audit a few companies, the job becomes repetitive. My belief is you need to be in a position where you are constantly learning something new every day.
While in university, I had enjoyed my Tax-related courses. Looking for something new, the Tax side of the firm offered big potential for growth. When an opportunity arose to switch over, I did so without looking back.”
So how did you end up with Shopify? When did you make that leap?
“In late 2014, the Talent Acquisition team within Shopify reached out to me. It wasn’t on my radar at all. I always saw myself becoming a partner and taking the stable track. That being said, I had heard of the company and knew what they were doing was special.
I decided that if I were to ever leave public accounting for an industry opportunity, this was it.
It was a similar tax position to mine, so I threw my hat into the gauntlet and survived. Looking back, I was grossly underqualified at the time. I could have used a few more years of experience in public accounting, but they were willing to take a chance on me because I was the right fit and had potential to grow into the role.”
And now you’re with Wealthsimple. What was that decision-making process like?
“Being from Ottawa, a move to Toronto was always something I had considered— especially if I wanted to stay involved in the tech industry, Toronto would be the place to do it.
I had come across the Wealthsimple opportunity independently, but I thought the role required coding knowledge (which I did not have). A recruiter then reached out to me about the same role, I mentioned my concerns and they were able to confirm with the company that coding knowledge wasn’t actually required. It was the ability to communicate tax technical knowledge to a team of engineers that would then code it into the platform. That was something I could do.
A couple of interviews later, the position was offered to me and things lined up naturally. It evolved into more of a product role which I felt would round out my overall experience and profile.”
Any final thoughts or advice?
“Never look at opportunities like you’re taking a step back. Look at them as potential for growth. I strongly believe you’re going to end up where you’re meant to be.
For aspiring CPAs: Public accounting is a great career foundation. As a first step, the experience you’ll gain will be invaluable. That being said, don’t be afraid of change and look beyond for what other opportunities exist.
Change is good 99% of the time. Although in the short-term there may be some growing pains, you will almost always be better off in the end.”
Interested in diving into the start-up world yourself? Learn about our #FinInTech program to see how you can get placed with a start-up!