Inspiring others to leap over barriers: Profile on Thelma Siglos

“The CPA designation has given me a mindset to achieve big, hairy, audacious goals,” says Thelma Siglos. “It opened many doors and I chose to broaden my passion for service in various sectors. And as my career progressed, I love the fact that I contribute to good governance and financial integrity – work that is deeply satisfying.”

Notably, throughout a career full of opportunities, Thelma has volunteered considerable time and energy to providing opportunities for others.

The sixth child of 13, Thelma grew up in Manila, Philippines. She completed a bachelor of science in business administration with a major in accounting at the University of the East in Manila, followed by a master of business management at the Asian Institute of Management in the city of Makati. She moved to Canada in 1981, and today works as a financial integrity consultant specializing in forensic accounting investigations. She has held this role since 2014, when she retired from her career as a manager of financial integrity with the BC Public Service Agency. She is also a recipient of the CPABC Distinguished Service Award.

Transition to working in Canada
When she moved to Canada and began seeking employment, “being ‘new,’ ‘different,’ ‘overqualified,’ or ‘lacking Canadian experience,’ were some of the comments I heard,” says Thelma. “I also encountered bias. It seemed Filipinos were seen as educated and approachable but were often stereotyped as nurses and caregivers.” This motivated her to “show that Filipinos are also excellent accounting professionals because of their adaptability, service orientation, and focus on higher education. Math and accounting have a universal logic.”

She notes, “I felt that my master’s degree in business and work in senior roles were not handicaps but tools for success, though they were not obtained in Canada. I was confident that I could showcase my transferable skills and qualifications as a good fit, given the opportunity.”

“The firm [that I first worked with] agreed to support my application for CA membership by affiliation,” she continues. “They gave me a chance to prove that I could hone my skills and training to Canadian standards, and I worked to exceed their expectations. I could not have pursued this path without their support and guidance.”

Giving back
Throughout her career, Thelma has volunteered extensively, including with MOSAIC, the Law Society of British Columbia, and the Association of Filipino Canadian Accountants of BC (AFCA-BC), a non-profit organization based in Vancouver. Her roles with AFCA-BC include serving as founding president and director in 2008, and she continues to support the association as a mentor.

As a mentor, she says, “My support is mostly called for in two things: goals clarification and soft skills enhancement. Regardless of whether you are a new Canadian or not, soft skills are essential to understanding yourself, others, the environment around you, and your responses. These skills allow people to have greater self-confidence and to be better communicators, team members, and problem solvers.”

She continues, “At AFCA-BC, our conduct during council meetings and workshops promotes awareness of business governance and regulates professional behaviour over time. As our members who are new Canadians engage in these activities, I hope they can become more resilient and enhance their soft skills for communication, creativity, and relationships. At a social level, our warm welcome and support ease the many doubts and uncertainties of newcomers. Feeling a sense of belonging and rapport with peers is a confidence booster. Seeing others successful serves as an inspiration – no matter how hard it seems now, it can be done.”