Shirin Dattani
Senior Performance Analyst, Suncor Energy

Describe a typical day

My role requires heavy integration with the operations representatives at site.  I function as the one face of finance and as such, I have to bridge the financial story with the business activities.  Ultimately, the service I provide facilitates future financial decisions which at times can be challenging, as I have to interpret financial data for a non-financial crowd.

I also help the business identify cost savings opportunities that will add value to Suncor’s bottom line which unsurprisingly, as of late, has been a huge focus in the energy sector. I have to work with various functions such as Human Resources and Supply Chain to identify and help the business execute these initiatives.

On an annual basis, I also support the business with creating their 10 year financial outlook.  I have to ensure the buildup of our cost structure meets the desired target set by our senior leadership team.  This forecast is then used by the management team to assess future cash requirements for the company.  After the budgeting cycle is complete, we review on a monthly basis to assess how accurate our forecasts were and explain any variances.

Perks of your job and things you like about your current company.

Being in a large organization obviously gives me more opportunity to move around and experience different roles.  Suncor is unique in the sense that we have inter-functional opportunities.  For example, an Accounting professional is able to do a gig within Supply Chain should they wish to learn about that area of the company.  This opens up more doors and can significantly broaden your career prospects from the typical linear progression.

Another positive about Suncor is their commitment to actively seek and promote women in leadership positions.  Throughout my career at Suncor, I’ve come across many women in senior roles, some of which have become mentors and have helped shape my career.  Optically speaking, seeing women in these types of influential roles only affirms why I chose and continue to choose Suncor.

Proudest accomplishments both in and outside of work.

At work, my proudest accomplishment is doing a fly-in, fly-out role which I actively sought, as I knew it would help me grow. It is rare and unusual to have a finance professional working at site but this experience has given me immense insight into the day-to-day operations of a live plant, which is invaluable!

Outside of work my greatest accomplishment is learning to play golf.  There are many parallels between golf and the oil and gas industry, one of which is that both are looking to attract more women.  As a result, I’ve been able to meet many women on the course while taking in the most beautiful settings.

Thoughts on the future of the industry as it relates to your field.

I think the accounting/finance profession is at a cusp of change. The future trend seems to be more automation and quality analyses and less data manipulation. In addition, we’re seeing numerous functions being outsourced to other countries.  I think both these trends combined will force existing professionals and new graduates think outside the box as to how they service their customers.

Additionally, Suncor has recently adopted the new CPA PERT program, where candidates are able to earn their professional hours within the organization without having to work for an accounting firm.  I think this will make Suncor more attractive for new grads and CPA candidates.

Current community involvement efforts.

I am part of Suncor’s co-op student recruiting program, as I got my first accounting role via the program and thus, feel quite passionate about giving back.  More significantly, I also see my involvement in this program as an opportunity to handpick Suncor’s future talent, which is exciting!

I am also part of Suncor’s Mentorship program both as a mentor and a mentee.  It is such an amazing way to get a different perspective on issues. Formal or informal, I would highly recommend young women actively seek mentorship opportunities, as this has been an immense help in my own personal and professional growth.

Why YWE?

I attended a panel seminar organized by YWE about a year ago and after getting to know YWE and some of its members better, I started to understand the impact they were trying to make.  Being a young woman in energy (literally), I couldn’t help but be part of this change. I’ve always wanted to be part of something bigger and that is how I view YWE.  While the energy sector is massive, YWE has inserted itself into the picture and forced us to rethink what role do we play as women.

What are you reading?

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai