UTM commerce student lands position at top accounting firm

Connor Kelly selfie
Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - 11:40am
Sharon Aschaiek

Hard work, skill and determination have helped U of T Mississauga student Connor Kelly land a job at one of the world’s leading accounting firms. But his path to this big opportunity was also facilitated by the knowledge and connections he gained at UTM.

Kelly, 21, is completing the fourth and final year of a Bachelor of Commerce degree with a specialization in accounting. This fall, after he graduates and earns his Chartered Professional Accountants designation, he will start working as an accountant in the Toronto office of KPMG.

It’s the kind of early professional momentum many post-secondary students dream of, and for Kelly, it all began in his second year, when he noticed a flyer at UTM. The ad was promoting Ace the Case, a two-day workshop led by KMPG that is geared to first-, second- and third-year commerce students seeking an accounting career. Students learn how to develop their case writing, analysis and presentation abilities, and participate in a case competition.

Kelly’s strong performance in the competition got him invited the summer after his second year to KPMG’s summer conference, a three-day affair exposing students to the company’s operations, culture and career opportunities. Kelly also attended similar events held by the city’s other top accounting firms. The events also cover internship opportunities the companies offer to students the summer after their third year.

The employees Kelly met at KPMG made an impression on him, and he decided he wanted to pursue their summer internship. What increased his chances on that front was his participation in Show Me the Green, an environmental sustainability case competition hosted annually by UTM in partnership with the Undergraduate Commerce Society. The event involves 20+ teams from different Ontario universities coming up with new initiatives that are economically profitable and environmentally responsible.

Kelly and his teammates’ idea involved enabling organizations to reduce their use of disposable batteries by replacing them with USB power cells. The cells resemble a standard battery and can be similarly inserted into electrical equipment, but feature a rechargeable USB that can be plugged into a computer. The judges — representatives from major financial and accountancy firms — were so impressed with the idea they awarded the team first place.

While the win allowed Kelly to stand out among applicants to KPMG’s summer internship program, what also helped was a good word from Doug Varty. A UTM alumnus, Varty mentored Kelly and his team members throughout the UTM case competition. After the win, Varty wrote a letter of recommendation for him to his contacts at KPMG that mentioned his team’s winning performance.

“It definitely helped to know Doug and to have that positive interaction with him during the case competition,” says Kelly.

Last summer, the 55 paid summer internship spots at KPMG’s Toronto office attracted approximately 2,200 applicants — Kelly was one of them, and he was successful. Being chosen as an intern allowed him to apply to the company’s highly coveted Global Internship Program, which gives participants the chance to complete half of their experience at one of the company’s international offices, with KPMG paying for flights and accommodations. Kelly secured a spot in the program, and as a result, spent six weeks last summer working at KPMG’s office in Dublin, Ireland. While there, Kelly stayed in a downtown waterfront apartment, was shown around the island, and got to work on projects involving financial firm JP Morgan Chase and a private hedge fund.

 “I had always planned to go — my family’s originally from Ireland — so it was a perfect fit. It was an amazing experience,” Kelly says.

Connor is grateful that UTM helped open doors for him to professional opportunities. And he is confident that his academic training will give him a strong foundation for his career.

“The extensive coursework really prepares you for the accounting designation exam,” he says. “The workload is hectic, but it’s very rewarding.”