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Thelma Siglos 

AFCA-BC, Founding President

In 2008, the founding directors saw a need for a group of Filipino Canadian accountants oriented towards providing affordable professional development.  We also saw the potential for advancing our status as professionals by helping each other. Faced with inequalities in the workplace, mentorship and connections building also became central to our vision.

Today as the pandemic rages, let us be creative in reaching out to others, aware that most of us started as immigrants.  Be relational, seek connections, or mentor whenever you can with or without roles or titles.  Let us stay united and seek out inactive members. Be a presence that attracts for good. In other words, be an ambassador for AFCA- BC. 

Yet our work is also about social justice. Pope Francis during his address on the world day of migrants and refugees on November 12, 2020 said, Yours is the vital task of extending the hand of friendship to those who are lonely, separated from their families, or even abandoned, accompanying them and giving them a voice, especially by providing them with opportunities to grow through educational and development programs.

How is God inviting you and me (in AFCA-BC) to give Him glory through our service and witness to God's love?

Shirley Shannon 

2010 AFCA-BC President

What was your background in the Philippines, before you came to Canada?

I got my bachelors degree in Accounting from the University of San Carlos, in Cebu.  During my last university year,   I was employed by Mindanao Rattan Corp, a rattan furniture exporter initially as the payroll clerk for 100 employees, and was promoted to Cost Accountant in just a few months. The company worked with rattan poles as raw inventory,  cut them to different sizes,  bent, shaped these parts using machinery, and sold them as knock down furniture for export to the United States.  For this type of manufacturing, we used the process costing method  allocating labor and overhead costs to each production department.  This is high level work and was very exciting for someone fresh out of the university. I loved the work and I was very proud of myself.

What kind of work struggle do you have upon arrival in Canada?
Imagine my shock when I could not find work in my field.  I was  babysitting and house cleaning at minimum wage.  I spoke with an accent, and the general impression by the Canadians was that if you can not speak English with a Canadian accent, likely, you can not be very smart.  But that did not depress me, as I was learning new things, and I looked at the experience as a new adventure.  I quickly enrolled in the CGA program, and having been qualified as a CGA student, it was much easier to find work in the accounting field.

Fast forward to the last 10 years, how did you become involved with AFCA-BC?

My sister Meredith Askew, was one of the founding members of AFCA. She introduced me to Thelma Siglos, the first AFCA president.  They were looking for someone who could help with the website, and I agreed to help out.   Shortly thereafter, Thelma asked me if I could be the Vice-President the next year, and little did I know, that meant that I would be the President the year after.

What can you share about your experience as a member of AFCA-BC?

I can not begin to enumerate the many blessings I received having been a member of AFCA-BC.  For an accountant in the private sector, whose main goal is to maximize profit for the company, Public Service is a strange concept.  All of a sudden, there I was, given the task of looking after the welfare of the new immigrant accountants from the Philippines, and looking for PD opportunities, employment referrals, mentoring, and networking.  I felt like I was living a completely new life.  It was a challenging time, as I had many things to learn, and I am very grateful to Thelma Siglos, who was my mentor. "Do not be afraid, I will mentor you" she reassured me constantly.

Let's talk about the many blessings you received having been a member of AFCA-BC?

As an Accountant, you do not make speeches. As a President, I had to learn to make speeches, I chaired and facilitated meetings.  These experiences came in handy when I applied to Douglas College as a Business Advisor to their Self Employment Program.  They were looking for someone with an Accounting degree who could help students develop business plans.  My experience as an ex-President and Chair of the Professional Development Committee was what convinced them to hire me. I became a Finance Instructor for the program.  Later on, when my contract with Douglas College ended, I was immediately offered a Controller job at a Mortgage corporation, that was impressed with my experience at Douglas College, one thing led to another.

Can you relate your experience with the Immigrant Services Society of BC?

The mandate of ISSC is to provide newcomers to Canada with assistance with settlement, employment needs and mentoring.  AFCA-BC partnered with ISSC to provide mentoring to accountant newcomers from foreign countries.  I took on a mentee, whom I met with on a regular basis, provided helpful employment tips, educational opportunities.  Mainly, it was an investment in time, to help a fellow accountant. I did not think it was such a big deal, but when ISSC did their promotion video, I was interviewed, and featured on their video and radio ads- this was another wild and exciting adventure.

Julian Ysmael 

2018 AFCA-BC President 

I have fond memories of my short stint as President of AFCA-BC in 2018. I was sad that I had to leave Vancouver in the middle of that year to pursue an MBA, but I am glad that we were able to do interesting activities like CVITP, AFCA, and Summer BBQ while I was still there. I have enjoyed being a part of the AFCA community since 2015, and I have been able to develop professional relationships by participating at events and being an active council member.

After my time as President, I moved to Los Angeles, California to enter graduate school and complete my MBA at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. I had not had prior experience with in-person studies outside of the Philippines, so I experienced a lot of new things and learned a lot about different cultures. It was an amazing experience overall. I was able to put my accounting skills into good use during my time there, as I was able to tutor my classmates in accounting classes! The most valuable things I learned at school were soft skills on how to be more confident, how to network better, how to shape my resume and LinkedIn profiles, and how to communicate more effectively with people. It was also super fun to branch out and not solely focus on accounting or finance classes. I took classes that were out of my comfort zone like customer analytics and marketing or negotiations behaviour, which helped broaden my knowledge on other parts of the business.

It was not ideal graduating in the time of COVID, but I was lucky to get an internship return offer from Amazon in their Seattle headquarters. I wanted to live close to my family in Vancouver, so I found this as the perfect opportunity to work in the technology industry and be as close to home as possible. I currently work as a Senior Financial Analyst for Amazon Business, Amazon's B2B arm. It has been super challenging work filled with many stressful working days, but I am grateful that the work I do impacts the business directly.

One thing I learned over the past couple of years is that there are so many opportunities out there, and that I should be more open to change. Being vulnerable by trying uncomfortable things has helped me grow as a person and has made it a little easier for me to explore new career avenues. I encourage people who find themselves at career crossroads (like I was 2 years ago) to be bold and jump on any opportunities you might find interesting. It might just be the perfect opportunity for you.

Over the past couple of months, I have been able to settle down a bit and do other things. I am really happy that I can be more involved in AFCA-BC again after a couple of years of being away. See you all at our virtual events this year!

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