Luminari has been sitting down with CPA’s to learn how the designation can be used in less traditional ways. Read how Saeideh, with a vast industry background focusing on technology and change transformation, picked up the skills she needed to take her accounting career to the next level.
Travel Edge is a $750M travel management solutions provider, delivering innovative technology solutions to streamline management and distribution of travel services for global suppliers, agencies and tour operators. Saeideh Fard is Group CFO for Travel Edge, managing finance for three business units: Travel Edge (luxury travel agency specializing in leisure and corporate travel), Kensington Tours (custom private guided tour provider), and the Travel Technology Solutions arm of the company. She manages a team of 35.
Have you always had a passion for travel? Is this what brought you to Travel Edge?
“From a personal history standpoint, I was born and raised in Tehran, Iran and moved to Canada when I was 10. Travel became a bigger theme in my life in the last 10 years as my career brought me to various locations professionally and also afforded me the financial means to personally see more of our world.
From a career planning perspective, the travel industry wasn’t something I targeted specifically. It has been more my love for technology and the business transformation that brought me to where I am in my role as CFO today.
I spent a good part of a decade prior to joining Travel Edge at a company called Marketwired. While at Marketwired, I discovered my interest for the tech industry and the impact of tech solutions on business transformation and market agility.
I joined Travel Edge two years ago following a series of US, Canadian and Bermuda acquisitions. Business transformation was a key need in this role. I was tasked with centralizing the finance function in Toronto for both effectiveness and efficiency. This role tapped into my earlier experience and has expanded my passion for managing change in partnerships with technology.”
“The travel industry is a great example of an industry ripe for technological change and innovation.”
“Travel Edge is at the cutting edge with our investment in these areas and are already seeing the results of this investment in our impressive growth trends.”
How did you get the skills and experience required for such a senior role in finance, business transformation, and technology?
“I have to admit it was both a combination of (1) luck and (2) willingness to take on something different at every turn where opportunities arose.
For me, Marketwired acted as a bridge between my Big Four experience (focusing on larger public clients) and the world of small to mid-size players requiring nimble technology solutions for better decision analysis.
I was lucky in that I joined Marketwired during a time of transition and opportunity. This was immediately after a US based acquisition which had resulted in new systems, tax and reporting challenges. Small to mid-size entities need employees with multi-disciplinaryskillsets (or interests) to fill each and every position. In these settings, as long as you are a top performer who puts a hand up to tackle emerging challenges via projects, leadership is happy to give you the keys to go for that ride. These are great environments to broaden skillsets beyond the early years from what we’ve gained in designations or Big Four firm experiences.
So what would you say is your key advice for other up and coming accounting/financial professionals looking looking to make their mark in industry?
Roll up your sleeves to do work that may not have another owner in your organisation
“I spent my first year in an organization demonstrating that I had the skills for my “assigned” role. After this point, I began volunteering my time (often overtime) on a number of special projects for challenges that otherwise didn’t have an owner. Put your hand up willingly and enthusiastically when these hidden opportunities arise. It will pay off in you gaining skills and a network of champions and advocates needed for advancement.”
Have a healthy appetite for change, risk, and grit
“If you look at my resume, in those in between years, I took on many transitional roles that I knew would indeed be time limited and projects would come to an end. Examples in my career are international tax and transfer pricing set up projects, system implementation for a new BI tool that would eventually move to IT to manage, new compensation design and process roll out for sales which would become a sales operations role later on.”
Do not be afraid to take on roles that feel “interim”.
“If you perform well in these roles, you’ll have senior champions in an organisation that help you find your next role. Qualified employees with a positive attitude who are not afraid to learn something new are always in demand in any organisation”
Have a plan to train yourself and do it efficiently
“In those early years, I spent a lot of evenings and weekends by myself at the office or at home gaining the skillsets I needed to succeed in these new projects. I saw these hours as an extension of my university or designation education. This investment in time (and my positive attitude towards this overtime) helped me gain new skills that could have taken years more to master.
During these years I also reached out extensively to my network of former classmates or PWC colleagues to tap into their collective genius and find more efficient ways to train myself on new concepts. I’m grateful to these colleagues and mentors and have offered them similar time and advice when they face issues that I now have expertise in.
Eventually, it was my willingness to invest in my own learning and putting my hand up for projects that showed the management team I had both the aptitude and the attitude to take on a lot more than my original job description.”
What has been some of your favourite travel experiences to date?
“I loved Turkey – it’s the epicentre of where East (Asia) meets West (Europe). Izmir and the surrounding area are to this day one of my favorite travel destinations. This region for me was equivalent to the Amalfi coast in Italy which I know is a more travelled destination for many.
After our wedding, my partner and I travelled to visit my roots in Iran roughly 20 years after my family immigrated to Canada. I got to see cities from ancient Persia that I hadn’t seen earlier during my time as a child there.”
“This trip was meaningful for me as I had the roots and family with us to really bring the experience to light.”
Huge thanks to Saeideh for her great industry tips and check out more about Travel Edge here.