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Employee Spotlight: Sarah Gagnon

What attracted you to IFAC when you joined?

Before joining IFAC, I was in Washington, D.C. where I had just finished my master’s degree concentrating on Latin American Studies & Development and was working at a global membership organization for microfinance associations. I understood and appreciated the value of a global membership network, and I was interested in continuing to work at a global level and in a field that supported economic development & growth. I had not previously thought about the links between accountancy and economic development but when I came across the open position on Devex and looked around the IFAC website, it all clicked.

Were you surprised by anything once you became an employee?

I was a bit apprehensive about working with the accountancy profession as a non-accountant but learned and have come to greatly appreciate that diverse backgrounds and perspectives are welcomed. I also was surprised and continue to be impressed with how much IFAC as an organization is able to achieve because of support from colleagues and our volunteers.

What is your role at IFAC?

I am a senior manager for IFAC’s membership engagement area. Currently, I provide membership & development support for IFAC’s member organizations in Central Europe, but I’ve been fortunate to work with IFAC’s members across Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean throughout my time here. I also lead IFAC’s Member Compliance Program. Through the Program, all IFAC member organizations commit to improve the quality of the accountancy profession by adopting and supporting implementation of international audit and assurance, education, ethics and independence, financial reporting, and public sector accounting standards. In turn, I also produce a lot of IFAC’s reporting on adoption & implementation of global accountancy standards and liaise with the independent standard-setting boards like the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB), International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA), and International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (IPSASB) .

What does a workday look like for you?

Given the time zone differences, the first part of my day is focused on around relationship management and might include responding to member e-mails and/or calls with member organizations to understand what is happening in their jurisdiction, priorities & challenges, and how IFAC can provide support. Throughout the day I then might have meetings with other departments in IFAC about collaborative initiatives, meetings with the standard-setting boards about their current projects, and/or spend time reviewing and analyzing data derived from the Program to report on trends in the adoption of standards.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

I enjoy researching, writing, and being able to be of service and at IFAC I have the opportunity to get into the technical details as well as see the big picture. Through the membership engagement, I have learned so much about different jurisdictional contexts, frameworks, and the varied roles of professional accountancy organizations and professional accountants. In addition to my specific portfolio of membership engagement, because I also oversee the Member Compliance Program and report on our global data, I get a high-level understanding of the profession across other regions and the common challenges IFAC’s members face. With this information, IFAC is better positioned to facilitate connections across our global network and produce resources and tools that will help our members.

What’s the most unique part about working here?

Being able to meet many individuals who really demonstrate what it means to work ethically and in the public interest at a global scale.

What kinds of resources have you taken advantage of?

IFAC is quite supportive when it comes to professional development. I have taken courses from the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and a Google Data Analytics course. These have all helped me branch out and take on new tasks at IFAC. I have also been enjoying the recent wellness challenges organized by our Human Capital team!

How has your career grown since starting at IFAC?

I started as an Associate when I joined in 2016 to support the Member Compliance Program. I have since progressed in my role and gained a huge understanding of the accountancy & standard-setting realm where I now oversee the Program. It is a fun full circle moment.

Additionally, thanks to IFAC’s professional development support, my career has expanded outside of membership engagement. Since 2020, I have been working with IFAC’s CFO on IFAC’s carbon footprint and strategy.  Sustainability & climate are very much a personal passion and priority for me, and I was keen to see how I could complement IFAC’s advocacy around sustainability by spurring an internal strategy too. This is my plug that anyone can make their job a climate job and it is very much needed! I now have the opportunity to learn more about strategy creation, execution, governance, and getting to know other departments like finance and operations that I did not interact with as much before and are essential for making sustainable changes. Small organizations can still make a significant impact and set a positive example.

What would you do for a career if you weren’t doing this?

When I was younger, I dreamed of being an interpreter. I still think languages are fascinating and the way knowing different languages can create a bridge and allow you to connect with different people. It is definitely part of the reason I pursued international-related studies and work. I’ve recently started an introduction course on American Sign Language.

Where is your favorite place in the world?

Cape Cod, Massachusetts is a special place for me – we took many family vacations there when I was growing up. I love the beach and can listen to the ocean for hours. I highly recommend the Brewster General Store to anyone making the trip! I also love anywhere in New England in the fall with the trees changing color.

How do you spend your days off?

When not working, you could find me: reading (I alternate between a fiction and climate solutions books); out for a walk near our local beach or nature preserve, or on the Peloton; getting together with friends & family; watching National Treasure for the 100th time; volunteering with Engage Long Island community initiatives; and enjoying good puns.