We talked with Jean Burgess, MSA/MBA'99, who is the VP of Tax for Brookfield Renewal Energy Group, an owner and operator of one of the world's largest renewable power portfolios. She reflects on how her experiences at D'Amore-McKim transformed her life and why tax accountants need to be on their toes after the election.
Q:What is your current profession and what led you there?
I currently lead the corporate tax group of a publicly traded company based in Canada. Since graduating from Northeastern, I have held a number of positions, both in public accounting and industry that have led me to my current position. I chose not to specialize in a particular area of tax, and as a result, I have had a broad base of experience and have always been open to venturing into areas that are a challenge for me. My generalist background has served me well in my current position, as I'm able to identify issues as they arise and can use my past experiences to help develop and lead the processes required to resolve them.
Q:How did D'Amore-McKim prepare you for this career in the global business world?
Tax is a very complex and technical area of accounting that many people find intimidating. I can credit the MSA/MBA program with giving me the tools to both learn and comprehend complex issues quickly, while also translating these concepts into simpler terms that I can ultimately explain to business counterparts both in the U.S. and abroad.
Q:What do you think the future of accounting will look it?
The presidential election will almost certainly impact our industry, although until actual legislation is enacted there is no way to predict exactly what the final tax reform will look like. Literally the day after the election, many of us in tax were asked to provide answers regarding how the changes will impact our businesses and financial statements. Many business decisions are made based on what the expectation of the future landscape will look like. Decision makers are looking to their tax teams and advisors to provide these insights “now” so that their business can move forward prudently. Clearly no one has a crystal ball that can tell us where things will ultimately land. As tax professionals, our challenge will be to stay on top of the ongoing discussions in Washington and keep our business counterparts updated on the changes that may potentially impact our business in the future.
Tax law changes impact not only how tax returns are filed and business decisions are made, but they almost always impact corresponding financial statements as well. Regardless of what someone's focus in tax is right now, the crystal ball I do have tells me that we all need to be prepared for change in the not too distance future! Changing tax laws are a constant in our industry; however, the upcoming changes will likely be broader sweeping than we normally see in practice.
Since tax is one of the two certainties in life, I am confident that this will always be a solid field to go into.
Q:What's your most interesting memory from your time at Northeastern?
What drew me to the MSA/MBA program was that it was geared towards people like me who had no prior accounting knowledge or experience. One of my most vivid memories was from orientation. We were given an accounting quiz and, at the time, I thought “how can they be quizzing us on something that we're not required to know?” In a state of panic, I stared at the sheet of what, in hindsight, were very basic questions, and I had NO idea what any of the answers were. It was a bit like reading a foreign language. I immediately questioned whether I'd made the right decision. It didn't take me long after classes started though to realize that the program was designed to ensure the success of those students who were willing to put the hard work in. Within weeks I knew I had absolutely made the right decision, but I continue to this day to remember my “deer in headlights” moment. It was very humbling! The program, however, did what it promised – and within 15 fast-paced months it turned a clueless student into a successful accountant.
Q:What would you say to a prospective student considering D'Amore-McKim for their business degree?
I would tell any prospective student considering enrolling in the MSA/MBA program that it would be one of the best investments they can make, both personally and professionally. I suppose the best endorsement I can give for the program is that, when my stepdaughter expressed an interest in enrolling in the same program a few years after graduating from college, I supported her decision to do so whole-heartedly. She recently graduated with her MSA/MBA in 2016 and is very excited to be embarking on her new career path in tax.