A+M’s Shudan Zheng discusses her exchange at New Zealand firm Gilligan Sheppard

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Adams + Miles Accounting and Assurance Manager Shudan Zheng

One of the many advantages of being a member of AGN International—a global association of independent accounting firms—is the ability to access expertise and experience the world over for our Canadian clients expanding abroad, or to assist organizations growing into our domestic market. It opens doors for the exchange of ideas, best practices, new projects and even talent.

On the latter front, many AGN-affiliated firms engage in accountant exchanges, allowing team members to relocate to experience what it’s like to live in another country and to work with another firm. When Adams + Miles Accounting and Assurance manager Shudan Zheng learned that she had an opportunity to spend three months living in Auckland, New Zealand and working at the tax and accounting firm Gilligan Sheppard, she jumped at the chance. In return, Adams + Miles will welcome a Gilligan Sheppard accountant in future.

The exchange program is designed to not only expose our team members to different systems and processes, but to also provide opportunities for career growth. It’s our way of enriching team members’ workplace experience, making it as meaningful as possible while delivering a well-rounded, comprehensive service experience to our clients.

We sat down with Shudan to discuss her exchange, why she decided to head Down Under and what she hopes to bring back to the A+M team:

How do you think your responsibilities will differ at Gilligan Sheppard?

While I’ll be working in accounting and assurance, I’m not exactly sure what my day-to-day responsibilities will be. I like the idea of adjusting to Gilligan Sheppard’s operational needs and deliverable requirements, providing value however I can.

In terms of the work that I’ll be doing, I don’t expect significant differences other than on the tax front. I’ll need to learn about New Zealand’s tax code and adjust to the fact that they don’t really have a tax season as we do in Canada. On the accounting side, I think things will be very similar because their local accounting standards are all extracted from international standards.

What prompted you to want to do the exchange? Have you ever worked abroad before?

No, I’ve never worked internationally since moving to Canada. But I do think the desire to travel and explore is in my genes. When I was a kid growing up in China, my family moved around a lot because of my dad’s work, which was project-based. We moved provinces every couple of years. When I relocated to Canada, I didn’t really think moving was all that unusual; it was second nature to me. So, when I heard about the opportunity to do this exchange in New Zealand, I took it. I’m fascinated by people from different cultures and different professional backgrounds, exploring new cities and even trying delicious new foods. New Zealand is a beautiful country that I’ve always wanted to visit.

What do you think you’ll learn working in a different country and culture?

First, I’ll need to figure out how an accounting firm operates in New Zealand. From what I’ve researched, the pace is different compared to Canada. The reason is that we have tax deadlines, and I want to learn more about how and why their approach is different than ours. That’s important to study because there are many changes coming to public accounting in Canada in the future, so the more I can learn about how another firm operates, the greater the insights that I can share with the team at A+M.

What other important lessons do you think you’ll be able to bring back to A+M?

I think it’s all about the insights into workflow management, client management and client structure. We have a very stable domestic client structure at A+M, and my understanding is that Gilligan Sheppard’s client base is more global. They have a partner with a similar background to mine, so they do work with a lot of Chinese clients; I can’t wait to meet her.

I’m really happy to head overseas with about 10 years of public accounting experience in Canada, because I know what I want to learn, and I think I’ll be able to offer Gilligan Sheppard a lot of different ideas from the Canadian perspective.

Why do you think it’s important for accountants to travel and explore other cultures and immerse themselves in other accounting models?

For me, it’s more for personal reasons. My ultimate career goal is to become a partner and that requires a lot of professional growth. Working and travelling globally is a precious opportunity for me to learn.

It’s also important for us to take these incredible opportunities when they’re offered. I didn’t realize how excited my A+M team members were about my exchange—especially knowing that they may have the chance to do the same. That’s a very attractive part about working at this firm for any accountant that’s looking to explore other cultures and enjoy a life-changing professional adventure.

The Adams + Miles team

For more on life at Adams + Miles, contact a member of our team.