How Extracurricular Involvement Can Help You Hatch Your Accounting Career


University of Waterloo student Rosanne Lai discovered her passion for accounting in high school.

All it took was a few courses and her experience with Waterloo’s chapter of the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), a student association which let her compete in short accounting case studies, and Rosanne was hooked.

Rosanne’s father, a certified general accountant (CGA), also encouraged her to pursue a chartered accountant (CA) designation (now known as a CPA).

We spoke with Rosanne  to learn more about her school involvement, expanding networking opportunities, and landing a co-op position at a large accounting firm.

If you’re an aspiring accountant, read Rosanne’s story for some inspiration and egg-cellent career tips!

Q. What resources influenced your decision to enter accounting?

A. When first researching the industry, I found the professional accounting bodies’ websites to be very useful for finding information on accredited university programs, work experience requirements, and uniform exams.

I also found that networking with accountants who had already been through the qualifying process to be invaluable. Networking gave a more personal and honest insight into the profession (the good and the bad), which helped me to evaluate whether an accounting career was right for me.

As a result of my research, I decided to attend the University of Waterloo for the Accounting and Financial Management program in pursuit of a CA.

Q. Were you involved in any student groups? What was your role?

A. DECA has played a large part in my school life and career. Since my first year of university, I have been involved with the Waterloo DECA chapter as a student executive and, more recently, as President.

I acquired a valuable skill set from my co-op experience, including how to apply the audit methodology learned in school, professional teamwork, meeting conduct, and client relationship management. – Rosanne Lai, University of Waterloo

Leading an organization of 300 students and organizing an undergraduate business conference was a wholly rewarding experience. After first introducing me to business, DECA has since opened up many doors in my career for professional development, networking, and achievement.

Q. Tell us about your work experience with your university’s co-op program.

A. My program at Waterloo is a co-operative education program, which allows me to gain relevant work experience during my years of study. So far, I have completed two work terms at a large accounting firm as a Staff Accountant in the Assurance (Audit) practice. As a co-op, I worked extensively in teams to perform audits of financial statements for corporate clients.

Q. If you could give one piece of advice to fellow aspiring accountants, what would it be?

A. My greatest advice to students interested in Accounting would be to explore your opportunities and get involved wherever possible. Taking leadership of a campus organization is a great way to set yourself apart and build your skill set. Attending relevant conferences will also expand your network of contacts and may lead to future career opportunities.

Get insider insights and learn more about accounting careers with TalentEgg’s Accounting Guide!

About the author

Jessica Cruz 's scattered thoughts, ideas and quirky comics travel from her mind to paper. She enjoys narrative writing, graphic design, outdoor sports, and occasionally defeating virtual zombies. Her final year at the University of Toronto Mississauga and Sheridan College (joint program) lands a double major in Communication, Culture & Information Technology (CCIT) and Professional Writing. She faces a career quest in the realm of marketing, design, writing, and web. Find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.