Sandra Sproule - Chartered Professional Accountant at ExxonMobil Canada

Sandra Sproule

Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) ExxonMobil Canada

I was born/grew up in: Holyrood, NL

I now live in: Holyrood, NL

I completed my training/education at: I started in the General Studies Program (science focus) at Memorial, then transferred to UBC where I completed a Bachelors of Human Kinetics (BHK). Upon graduating from UBC, I struggled to find meaningful work and decided to return to school to upgrade my courses. Taking a completely different direction, I completed two years of business courses at Camosun College in Victoria to obtain the pre-requisites required for the Chartered Accounting program. In January 1998, I commenced working with KPMG as an articling student and successfully wrote the Uniform Final Exam (UFE) in September 1999.

What you do at work?

I am the Hebron project accounting manager. I work with my team to steward all project expenditures and ensure we stay within budget. It’s a $14 billion project so this is a lot of responsibility. It has been like raising a kid - watching it come full circle to completion with first oil on Nov 27th, 2017! I am responsible for ensuring that the monthly, quarterly and annual costs are submitted on a timely basis to headquarters in both Calgary and Houston for consolidation. Routine and ad hoc financial analysis is prepared to help understand the expenditures and communicate opportunities for cost savings. In addition, I oversee the audit of the project costs by the joint venture owners, Province and external auditor.

I feel very privileged to be part of this project which will create new opportunities for local people and the province for many years to come. I report to our offices in Calgary and Houston and our financial information is consolidated into the company’s financial report. My job is to make sure we stay on budget and have the approvals in place before funds are spent. I also interview & recruit at Memorial University in the business program and am involved in in-house training programs.

When I was a student I enjoyed:

How does what you do affect people’s lives?

My company has been operating in NL for 25+ years in oil and gas industry. We were the first oil project in eastern Canada. When I look at changes that have taken place in the province during this time, it is easy to see that we have made a major impact. The most obvious is that we have created significant career opportunities for the people we employ and those in oil related businesses, retail and the real estate industry. The royalty regime has contributed significantly to the provincial revenue. Also there are many spinoffs such as the increase in real estate sales, restaurants and other local business. These are all influences that have helped improve the NL economy. I am happy that our company values corporate citizenship and has donated funds to many worthwhile causes including MUN, MI and CONA and more specifically, the Let’s Talk Science program. It feels good to be part of that.

What motivates you in your career?

I love helping other people. Being involved in training and recruiting allows me to work with new employees and help them be successful. I enjoy working in a team environment and collaborating with co-workers in the engineering, commercial, legal, tax and insurance areas. Most importantly, I enjoy the opportunity be involved in several community service activities including the United Way, Habitat for Humanity, East Coast Trails, etc.

The ExxonMobil workplace provides amazing challenges that keep me stimulated – there is never a boring day! Always lots of excitement. We typically get rotated every few years to broaden our knowledge of the oil & gas business.

When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:

Describe your career path to this career.

In high school I liked science and math. After I graduated high school, I entered Memorial University planning to do a bachelor of science. I also liked participating in sports and learned about, what was then, a new area called kinesiology. As Memorial did not have a kinesiology program then, I started to look elsewhere. While I was in university, I worked with the naval reserves. I met my husband while on summer program and then transferred to UBC, which did have a kinesiology program.

I really enjoyed the kinesiology program and worked on some interesting projects including one where we used a hyperbaric chamber with high performance athletes. When I graduated, there was not a lot of work in this area. So I took some time to figure out what to do. I went back to school to get some computer background as that was a skill I did not have and computers were becoming very common in the workplace. One of the courses I took was accounting. I liked working with numbers and figuring out things to solve problems. I really loved the course and thought this would be a more flexible career if I had a family later.

I enrolled in Camosun College in Victoria, BC. While there, I took the prerequisite courses for the Chartered Accounting program. When I completed those courses, I applied to KPMG (chartered accounting firm) in Victoria. I worked with them while doing the rest of my program. Then I transferred to Vancouver and later to the Cayman Island with KPMG. While there we got hit with category 5 hurricane. I came home because the islands were devastated. Eventually I went back to the Caymans but with a new company, Deloitte and Touche. Here I was a senior manager with the internal financial accounting team working on the partnership accounts. 

I really enjoyed working there but the policy in Cayman Islands is that non-residents have to leave after 7 years unless have key employee status. Since my kids were ready to start school, my husband and I decided to return to Holyrood. I did some contract work from there. Then, out of the blue I got a call from Hibernia. I had an interview and started work in revenue royalty role (e.g. figure out payments to government). The work was challenging and involved a lot of analytical calculations ensuring compliance with our regulatory and joint venture agreements. Then I moved into this project management role with the Hebron project. We are almost at the end of the project now and then I will likely get another project but not sure what it will be or where.

What activities do you enjoy outside of work?

I love to play volleyball, participate in a local dart league, and engage in some volunteer activities (e.g., Treasurer of United Way fundraiser at work, Treasurer of Legion, and support local Sea Cadets corps fundraisers (Chase the Ace)).

What advice would you give to a young person interested in a similar career?

Stick with the math and science courses because there are so many different jobs available. And these jobs are well paying with lots of opportunity to move around globally. It is great if you know what you want to study when you leave high school, but if you are not sure then try to keep your options open while you are experimenting. The more education that you have, the better your opportunities. Hard work and perseverance will lead to success no matter how difficult the program.

Volunteer activities are very important to demonstrating commitment to your community and can be a major factor in securing employment – do not underestimate the value of these opportunities! For me helping others has been a big boost to my confidence and have given me a chance to improve my skills.

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