For our February Employee Spotlight feature, we’re introducing FISPAN’s Corporate Controller, Dana Tong. Dana joined FISPAN at the height of the pandemic in 2020, having previously worked in the accounting field for several years with local businesses in Vancouver. Since then, Dana has successfully built FISPAN’s accounting and finance departments from the ground up. In her role today, Dana establishes and implements all financial policies and functions across the company, specializing in revenue projection, expense budgeting, treasury management, payroll, full-cycle AR and AP supervision, and more.
After graduating from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of Economics degree and a minor in Business Administration, she went on to successfully complete the UBC Diploma in Accounting Program, and is well on her way as a CPA candidate for 2022 — good luck, Dana!
Let’s get to know a little more about Dana, what inspires her to live life to the fullest (in and outside of work), and how accounting brought her into the world of FinTech.
Dana celebrates the 5th FISPANniversary with a derby-themed team celebration.
How long have you been with FISPAN, and what's your typical day as a Corporate Controller?
I’ve been working at FISPAN since the first summer of the pandemic, right before we celebrated our fourth FISPANniversary in August. I wouldn’t say there is a typical day for me since every day brings new challenges and mountains to climb. I deal with regular accounting practices including AR, AP, payroll, treasury practices, month-end journal entries, revenue recognition (the list goes on), as well as FP&A (financial planning and analysis) work like revenue forecasting, budgeting, and external and internal reporting. FISPAN is currently in its year-end mode which means closing the books for the prior fiscal year, beginning our financial audit, working on some government grants for R&D, and everyone’s favourite, ✨ tax season ✨.
These are many of the tasks that keep our business running and generally happen behind closed doors. The more fulfilling tasks come with implementing new programs that help keep our business agile—our most recent accomplishment being a corporate credit card system and a dynamic planning tool.
What is the biggest misconception people have about your position?
That you have to be great at math or complex calculations. Accounting and financial planning is more about applying the correct framework to a situation, so the most important factor is having the context from the responsible party within the organization in order to select the correct treatment. Every item has a trickle-down effect, so you have to know how to predict the ways each of your decisions will impact the company at large.
What led you to a career in FinTech?
In the accounting world, and many other “back office” roles, it typically doesn’t matter whether you are passionate about the industry you are working in. A debit is a debit and a credit is a credit whether you are selling SaaS software, a used car, or a tube of lipstick. Quickly, I found that when I was working towards a job that I wasn’t passionate about, I lacked the motivation that fuelled me to look forward to each work day.
When I set out looking for a role in FinTech, I knew that I would be excited about using technology to implement process improvements, which was something that I am sure many accountants haven’t encountered in their previous workplaces. Oftentimes, when you ask accountants why something is done a certain way, the answer is frequently “because it’s been like this for over 20 years.” Unfortunately, many industries’ accounting teams still operate this way today, so moving into the FinTech space has really allowed me to make changes and build processes in a matter of months that would have otherwise taken years to generate buy-in at other organizations.
Dana joins Fi-Fitness members James Dowell, Helen Bezverhaia, Claire Robinson, and Claudia Ivanova for a rainy day run along the Vancouver Seawall.
Do you have a favourite part about working at FISPAN?
The one thing I cherish most about working at FISPAN is that the Innovation and Product teams lean on my (painful) experiences as an accountant, and base some of our product features on my complaints recommendations as a result. This aligns closely with our ethos that we are building products by listening to those who actually use the solutions.
What has been your biggest growth opportunity from working at FISPAN?
I was pretty lucky to join the company when I did, as I was the first full-time employee in the finance department. Since then, I have been given what seems like endless growth opportunities. My mentors here at FISPAN have been amazing at providing me guidance and career possibilities for my future, and have connected me with their extensive networks across the industry. They’ve always promoted continuous learning in any scope, and that’s something I always carry with me when opportunities for growth arise.
What are your passions and hobbies outside of work?
I am the definition of the “master of none.” I like to try a little bit of everything, but there is no craft that I believe I have mastered or have exceptional skill at. I have tried tons of hobbies, including trail running, spin classes, swimming, and biking, usually because I try to keep active as I spend a lot of time sitting at my desk.
This year I joined a soccer team, which is a sport I have never played before. I also got a calligraphy learning book for Christmas that I am making my way through. There are too many hobbies to list, but two others that stick out are curling (at the Port Moody Recreation Centre) and glass blowing classes at Terminal City Glass.
Stepping outside the comfort zone: From glass blowing to soccer, Dana is always ready to try something new.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Leave your comfort zone! Growth doesn’t happen within the bounds of what you know. It happens when you challenge yourself and try what usually makes you uncomfortable. As you embrace and tackle more uncomfortable tasks, they begin to no longer feel like big mountains to conquer, but rather, little hills that you know you can walk up—sometimes slowly, but at least you’ll have the confidence to do it.
What motivates you personally and professionally?
I want to make the most out of our short time on earth; every day in every way. This is what keeps my calendar constantly booked up. I have a much better mood when I am constantly engaged and have things on my checklist that I need to get done. I guess you could say I thrive in chaos.
What is something you’re planning to do this year that you have never done before?
This year is going to be a busy one as there are a lot of things planned that have been postponed for a couple of years (6 weddings and a family vacation). My main goal, however, is to get more consistent with my running. I joined a trail running club during the pandemic and would like to do my first ever trail running half marathon by the end of 2022.
We invite you to get to know Dana further by checking out her LinkedIn and exploring the many career opportunities we have here at FISPAN for those ready to take a step outside of their comfort zone.