August 2008 - Posts
Just when you thought Air Canada couldn't get any cheaper, or callous: sweet merciful crap.
That link takes you to a CNN story this site picked up, explaining that Air Canada's regional operator, Jazz, has decided to save 25 kilograms of weight from each flight by getting rid of the life vests.
The rules state that as long as your plane is flying within 50 miles of land, it's okay to do this - you can use the seat cushion as a flotation device instead.
So as long as I can swim 50 miles I'll be okay?
Oh sweet mother - I think I have to sign up for some advanced swimming
lessons before going to my next client, which happens to be on the
Let's pray and hope - and assume for argument's sake - that in the unlikely event a plane needs to make an emergency landing it doesn't crash and crumple and otherwise disintegrate catastrophically.
If you were to look for a place to land and there were no roads in the area, what would be a better touch-down pad?
A bunch of trees standing ready to rip you to pieces?
Or a wide open lake?
Wouldn't it be best to maximize the chance of surviving once you're in the water?
Gee, thanks Air Canada. Your game of Russian roulette with my life just makes travel on your Lawn Dart class of airplanes so much more fun and fear-inducing.
There's only two good things one good thing that comes out of this news:
- This idea - rental jackets - is a hilarious response worth reading.
- It turns out I get to fly on a full-service Air Canada flight with
proper life jackets - oh nuts, I don't. It is in fact with Air Canada Jazz, the discount "life jackets are overkill" version of the national airline that has created this smouldering waterlogged disaster in the making.
I wonder how they would react if I came on board wearing my own life jacket? Would security even let me through with one?
I try to help people, they turn me down.
That's about par for the course, I should say - auditors are used to not getting much respect.
With the exception that other auditors usually listen to what we have to say.
If I offer help to someone, they're usually happy to get it. My UFE mentees are a prime example.
They listen carefully to my suggestions, and pass their exams. It's a strong symbiotic relationship - I'm happy to share knowledge.
With that in mind, imagine my surprise when, while stationed a day's drive north of the city, I checked my mail in the morning to find an unusual e-mail from another writer.
What I received was a polite e-mail from PriceWaterhouseCoopers explaining why my commentary isn't welcome at Nisha's PwC blog, part of the new "PwC Connect" recruiting site that's gradually rolling out.
That they don't want to permit my voice to be heard at their site doesn't concern me too greatly as I have - oh, my own little soapbox, with a sizable and dedicated readership who continue to supply me with excellent questions which I do my best to answer objectively and fairly.
I knew something was amiss when my comments weren't appearing. But until I heard back from PwC, I was hesitant to write a post about my dropped comments.
Perhaps someone made a mistake and hit delete. Maybe I just forgot to hit send last time, and it was all my own dumb fault.
So before jumping off with a rashly written post, I sent in a new comment.
This time I saved the text of my comments in my notes, however, in case my suspicions that I was being censored were proven correct.
Sadly, they were.
The upside is that the comment I originally was going to leave there gains a much larger audience by being published here - after all, there's no sense in wasting a perfectly good piece of my writing.
The banned commentary
As a bit of context and background, in response to the announcement of the site's new name, one university student wrote "Before I begin with any suggestions, I would like to state that the
name and/or title "PwC Connect" is awesome. From my experience,
selecting an appropriate name and/or title is by far one of the most
challenging tasks when embarking upon new initiatives. “PwC Connect”
maintains creativity and professionalism."
This sounded like a good moment to step in and be the voice of reason. Or to at least foster some healthy debate. If you like something, that's great. But by bolding claiming it's awesome, you should support your claim.
I wrote, "Yes, PwC Connect will do as a title - it's good and all, but "awesome"? How exactly does it maintain "creativity and professionalism"? I don't want to shoot down the fine concept, only to challenge your writing: there's only so much that a name can accomplish. Your argument or compliment will be much stronger if you offer logical support for your position instead of just making naked statements. Keep this advice in mind and it'll help you greatly as you prepare for the UFE down the road."
Thank you for all of your comments, but unfortunately I will not be posting them as we don't feel as though they are relevant or appropriate
to the subject matter.
Thanks for being a loyal reader however, and take care!
You're asking for feedback on your new name. You get honest feedback, and you shoo it away.
Did I make a dead baby joke or something?
Always delivering a bit of extra value, forget about the negative experience and consider some bonus UFE advice to share: there are some true gems up on David Fleming's blog.
He's a Commerce grad who went into real estate instead of getting his CA - and judging from his stories, I'm glad he did because the information he shares is invaluable. Plus, I have no doubt he would've aced the UFE - this posting here is a fine example of the type of sharp analytical thinking you need to either have or develop to do well on that exam.
And he doesn't arbitrarily censor my comments either.
Click here to sign in and leave comments. Just provide a nickname and e-mail address and you're set.
Get ready to ask questions when you go in for a job interview.
If you're stuck for a relevant question, Ask a Manager came up with a list of 10 possibilities.
Just picking even one or two out of that list that apply to your situation is a good idea. Few things show you care more than having shown that you've given some thought as to what you want.
If you really want to work here - either on the tracks or in the towers - you can pull it off, but you'll need to prepare
It helps prove that you want to work there - which is an important part of the interview process.
In loosely related news, congratulations to Ask a Manager for getting a 'full-time' gig writing her stuff for US News & World Report.
And my apologies for the unannounced break in programming - I've been travelling extensively which means lots of work, and time spent eating out, which takes up a surprisingly large amount of time. But the food is delicious and pictures will no doubt follow.
The following will make little or absolutely no sense unless you read this first.
Or unless you enjoy far-fetched pirate stories
How to Enjoy the End of a Summer Long Weekend - Prelude
Agree with your girlfriend that you need to get out of the city. Even
with all its parks, Toronto lacks certain things you can only find in
the countryside. Like fields full of fresh produce.
Set out for a promising venue, gorge yourself on the last raspberries of the harvest and the best french fries you’ve ever had in Durham region, and, realizing it's still very early, decide what to do with the rest of the day.
You mean people actually commute to work in Uxbridge?
Looking at the map, note that you’re not far from the home of your friend’s oddly located company. Send you friend a text message asking for details about your next destination.
Look for the town’s famous bakery. Note that it’s closed for the holiday. “No Empire Cookies for us”, the travellers cry.
Pay a visit to the ice cream shop instead. Shed off your gelato snob attitude and enjoy the best Kawartha has to offer.
Well, it's still early. What's next?
Study your Southwestern Ontario atlas.
Compare the distance to Lake Simcoe versus Lake Scugog.
Simcoe is relatively huge, but a little further away. It’s the last day of the long weekend.
Decide whether you want to risk a late night fighting mobs of people driving home from their cottages to go back to work from the larger, more distant venue, or a hopefully more pleasant return trip.
Scugog, the almost two hundred year old man-made lake, wins.
Helping the decision is the fact that next mission will involve driving to Port Perry.
If the town's frequently mentioned in CBC weather forecasts, it must be worthy of a visit.
Finally getting to the part about the 'pirates'
The above photo and the use of quotation marks around the word "pirates" means there won't be any real pirates in this story. Or does it?
Arrive in Port Perry, wander through the street, and find yourself at the waterfront park.
Joke about taking a swim. Then see the “no swimming” sign.
Right, man-made lake. Nothing but mud and weeds around the shore, as this was previously a swamp.
After wandering past the $11,000 boat for sale, find the rental boat dock, where several fourteen footers are tied up.
Yes - it's time. Start the pirate adventure. Which involves marching back up the hill to sign up.
Learn that there’s a half dozen people ahead of you waiting for their turn.
But aren’t there four or five boats sitting there?
They’re all broken.
And now we play the waiting game
Leave name and contact number, take a walk.
See all that Port Perry has to offer, then enjoy the traditional pre-voyage libation - a double espresso from the Korean coffee shop.
Delicious. Before leaving, investigate the display case.
Wait, are those Empire Cookies?
Enjoy a cookie, made by a baker different from the famed one in Uxbridge, but also quite good.
Return to the docks, expecting the voyage to be stymied by lack of vessels.
Surprise. Your boat is ready..
The paperwork and briefings complete, you’re ready to set sail, for destinations unknown.
Or so you think.
Quite unexpectedly, an elegantly dressed young couple makes a beeline for your vessel, the lady walking right up to your boat.
She probably has a question for the dock staff who are getting you ready to leave.
Except she doesn't.
“Actually, I want to speak to you”, the young woman says.
Learn that the couple narrowly missed the departure of a small cruise ship, carrying dinner and a show.
Would you be willing to do someone a favour?
No sense letting those tickets go to waste. And it's not like you were planning on going in the opposite direction. That only leads to your boat promptly running aground which means both a loss of your damage deposit and sense of machismo.
Long term readers know that when travelling, being helpful to others whenever you have the chance is also the best policy.
The marina office women said you’re supposed “to not approach other boats;” they didn’t say anything about dinner cruise ships. The guys on the
marina dock say it’s both possible and allowed.
You do the math. There’s two of us in the boat, and two passengers looking for a lift.
All aboard, then, and full steam ahead. Time to begin this adventure.
Majestically getting underway
The boat glides as majestically as anything can move, anyway, as it's pushed by hand backwards out and away from a shallow dock.
Carefully getting acquainted with the vagaries of the throttle, the tentative first few metres of travel take place without incident, despite a plethora of obstacles just asking to be inelegantly rammed into by a neophyte skipper.
Clear of the docks, what follows is a thrilling slow motion half hour chase, just like in the ancient days of sailing ships.
Except you have the nagging sensation that a good sloop would no doubt outrun you and your little boat, as its 25 horsepower outboard motor is running all out and leaving something to be desired.
Curiously, the marina forgot to equip your vessel with a sail.
Rowing with the emergency paddles, of course, is possible, but would look extremely silly since this is no rowboat, or ancient Greek galley for that matter.
And so the chase continues, with plenty of time to chat about the day, laugh at the novel adventure, and take cameraphone pictures of the merry band of adventurers. Just like they did in Blackbeard's day.
A float plane was spotted landing on the lake. That option would've been both faster and massively impractical, though, as the wings of the plane would've uncomfortably ripped through the hull of the boat we were catching up to, and would have most likely upset the dinner service.
The couple sits at the front of the boat; they're friendly, charming, and above all very grateful for the surprise
water taxi, er, pirate raid service you're providing them. The marina itself has no regular water taxi service, and the rental shop is too busy on a holiday Monday to send out one of their staff to pull a crazy mission like this.
Although calling this a "crazy" mission for the locals would be a misnomer, as this sort of thing would not tax the skills of the young employees of the marina at all.
You, on the other hand, were last cruising a lake an entire year ago. In a rowboat with no engines, that left you tired and blistered.
Manning the outboard motor, on the other hand, is a breeze.
But you can't remember the last time you've done piloted a proper motorboat. Although operating the rowboat's tiller probably did help prepare you for this adventure, as the principle for controlling direction is identical for both vessels.
This is just much faster.
And you've definitely never tried to bring one alongside a much larger ship already underway!
But you press on undeterred. As a CA, you're ready for anything (Even sending out naval boarding parties? HA! Yeah, mention this at a recruiting session, why don't you...). Although CA Magazine does have a story about one man who joined the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan to administer the army like a true hardcore chartered accountant.
You shake your heard. No. Let's not take inspiration from an article about a finance officer - you're a naval brigand, or some kind of exotic taxi operator, anyway.
Countless hours spent playing Sid Meier's Pirates! finally pay off, though - you're within shouting range of the cruise ship. Your passengers thank you graciously and generously for the help - it was nothing, but thank you for the gift, you say.
And the fun of the boarding procedure begins.
Fortunately the Lake Scugog cruise ship is much smaller and lower than Seattle harbour tour ships, otherwise you would need grappling hooks and ladders.
You've been joking about needing a skull and crossbones flag throughout the adventure. The boat has a rescue whistle in the emergency kit, and as fun as it would be to crack that open, perhaps some shouting and waving will do the trick.
The ship's crew complies with your
amazing show of wit and equally fearsome cannonade polite request to take on your passengers, ropes are thrown and you're brought alongside, coasting along carefully with your hand gingerly playing with the throttle to give you just enough of a boost to finish gliding up to the gathered crowd, all running up to see the unusual arrival of the honoured guests, your passengers.
You try and hide your amazement when you manage to pull off the rather delicate ballet that is pulling up one ship alongside another on the first shot, with no trouble whatsoever.
Thank you, Sid Meier and company.
The return trip has one more surprise in store for you - a 25 horsepower engine will make you positively fly across the lake when you remove half the occupants from the boat. So much so that you warily eye the wake from the speedboats crossing your path.
The last thing you want is to see a nice big wave smack your boat so hard that your girlfriend go flying out.
Fortunately she has strong sea legs and enjoys experiencing the boat's surprising show of proper speed.
Aside from the weeds getting tangled up in the propeller one time, the remainder of the choppy trip is otherwise uneventful.
You pull into the dock.
This time pulling a precision low speed manoeuver is exceedingly basic, compared to the open water adventure, and you retire from your swashbuckling career.
CAs do more than audit. They need to speak to their clients in an understandable way, simplifying complex issues and "getting to the point" quickly.
For a CA to be an effective young auditor - who doesn't necessarily speak to the client on a daily basis - it’s equally important to write well.
Not until you begin to write up ‘walkthroughs’ does the importance of what professors refer to obliquely as “strong communication skills” become important.
This doesn’t mean you’re supposed to turn out florid prose. Writing about how “during the interview, the furtive glances of the apprehensive accounts payable clerk belied his Cheshire cat grin, pointing instead to an uneasy conscience; a dark night of the soul taking place before my eyes”, will not score you any points with the audit partner.
Unless you work in the forensic audit group and you’re looking for fraud. And your managers and partners love ultra-cheesy schlock.
What you write needs to be consistent and to the point. Audit walkthroughs, succinctly described at the moment by Wikipedia, can, to simplify things greatly, be compared to a how to guide.
Get your message across, confirm it's been understood by asking and answering relevant questions, and move on.
Okay, so the point has been made - run along now.
And now for something completely different - the non sequitor of the day "bonus part two" continues here, because it's time to move on.
I just wrote a post inspired by an earlier article by Steve McIntyre-Smith, but that wasn't the only commentary on his writings I decided to prepare. I was also intrigued by his note regarding the fact that only 953 people, out of 2357 nationally, successfully passed the UFE in Ontario last year. He goes on to speculate about the demographic time bomb facing the profession.
In the near future, the baby-boomer CAs are going retire. Steve, as are many, is worried that not enough students are joining the profession to fill their spots.
He argues that current CAs should do more to "sell" the CA designation.
When asked "what do you do?", they need something captivating to share with the listener, instead of just saying, "I'm a CA". Instead, saying something like "I make millionaires" through the work you do is more likely to grab people's attention.
When speaking to junior staff, I myself have always liked to half-jokingly point out that as auditors, we're Defenders of Capitalism.
It makes life in the audit room a little more fun if you think you're part of a great epic crusade in defense of our economic system.
And it's also true.
Just picture it: wouldn't you have more fun if you didn't think of it was ticking and bopping a bunch of spreadsheets, but a valiant struggle as the thin line of laptop equipped vigilantes which is all that stands between upholding order against the great unwashed hordes of the socialist menace that make hard edged business people lose sleep at night?
Even in wealthy Malibu, epic home of millionaires, there are people who ride buses and bikes.
Actually, if you're not very good at your job that idea and you easily accept the stretch of the imagination needed to dream it up, can make you sleep poorly too.
Regardless, the fact that we do more than just accounting led to conversations I had with several people regarding the CA recently. The conclusion was that the "A" should stand for something more appropriate, like "Asskicker", since audit and accounting is far too narrow a description for the many flavours of "awesome" professionals both young and old deliver their clients.
With a mindset like that, one could truly engage in some Hardcore Chartered Accountancy.
Now that we know the career itself is an easy sell - it really is, without even coming close to using apocalyptic bombast - I look at Steve's points.
They are terrifically valid, and find several factors that his discussion should also consider:
- Tuition for University Commerce (and related CA) programs is at or above the level of law school tuition. $10,000 a year or more is common now. Scary.
- Despite the very high tuition, Commerce programs fill up fast and it's safe to say that there's a surplus supply of students who want to get into these programs, despite the scary tuition.
- Even after getting top marks in your courses, you won't necessarily land a job with an Approved Training Office.
CAs can do their part to improve things - expanding the range of Approved Training Offices is an excellent move - but it's clearly not just one little factor like a "boring reputation" which is setting us back.
There are some tough barriers to entry at the university level.
Do we need more people to volunteer to teach courses? More encouragement for students to try out at "second tier" universities where the programs might not full up as fast? Encouragement to the firms to hire from those 'other' schools?
Or do we need something completely different, like more people in the profession who will laugh hysterically at phrases like "the socialist menace", to show that CAs aren't a bunch of 'money-freaks'?
I doubt the last idea is necessary. But I don't want you to get the wrong idea - after all, my education was delivered via Canada's wonderful socialistic system and in our rough market, you will always need to maintain a fine balance between government intervention and Liberterian chaos.
I have a vocal contingent of readers who are young CA students or still in university. I'd be curious to hear their take on the 'big picture' of taking the CA route. Is it primarily the hard road to entering a valuable profession, or just an easy street to riches?
Ages ago I linked to GarfieldMinusGarfield, and was in awe of the hilarity created by removing Garfield from the comic strip, and instead making the focus on inept Jon Arbuckle.
Restoring my faith in humanity, Jim Davis, the original Garfield's creator not only likes this crazy concept, but they've given the green light to making a book featuring both the original and "minus" strips.
My anti-hoax radar, well honed from being both a veteran internet user and auditor, started pinging high and is still on high alert for someone jumping out from behind a bush yelling, "gotcha, it's a hoax", but so far everything points to this being the real deal. And in this sentence I drag this short post kicking and screaming "on topic", albeit ever tangentially. Not that being "on topic" matters, of course.
Assuming that isn't another devious gag, I say congratulations to Dublin's Dan Walsh for his wonderful accomplishment.
I say my faith in humanity is restored because the Davis "PAWS" media empire seemed a little wrong to me. The "art", if any, was completely subsumed by commercialization of his comic strip - they admitted as much in some video I saw online ages ago.
Although this new deal only cements its benign yet notorious ultra-capitalist reputation, the fact they're willing to laugh at themselves is an instant way to redeem themselves and earn my applause.