Travelling the world, finding true love, and settling down in Australia sounds like a fairytale, but it’s a true story for Alice Lee, and it all started with an accounting designation. “When I began taking accounting courses in high school, I never would have imagined myself working for a large construction company in Australia,” she said.
Alice Lee is enjoying the life that she
has created for herself in Australia.
Lee in front of Flinders Street Station in Melbourne.
With a natural gift for numbers and a keen interest in business, Lee went straight into the business program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, Canada, after finishing high school. Majoring in accounting led her to become a certified management accountant (CMA), and she hasn’t looked back. What piqued Lee’s interest in becoming a CMA were the management and teamwork aspects of the program combined with learning the “soft skills” that are essential in today’s business environment. “In such a highly competitive business world, it is important for a company to find people who can help improve the company, not just do the books,” said Lee.
A VARIETY OF OPTIONS
Although she didn’t realize it at the time, Lee’s international career started at age 20 when she accepted an entry-level accounting position with PCL Constructors in Edmonton. While at PCL, she completed the CMA program and received her designation, which spawned her love of working for a general contractor, specifically, PCL. “I love being part of a project team,” said Lee, “working with everyone from engineers, superintendents, and quality coordinators to clients, and then seeing the end result.”
During her first 10 years at PCL, Lee gained a wealth of knowledge while working on a variety of projects and sites that took her from Alberta to Saskatchewan, California, and Arizona.
After her first 10 years with PCL, Lee took a one-year sabbatical to travel the world—Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Australia. It was during the last leg of her adventure in Australia that she met and fell in love with an Australian man. “I decided to follow my heart to see where it would lead me, and I handed in my resignation to PCL and stayed in Australia,” said Lee.
The adventure continued, as Lee spent the next few years traveling around Australia and working odd jobs—including as a barmaid in a pub and a roustabout in a sheepshearing shed. And that Australian man, well, he is now her husband.
RETURNING TO PCL
Unexpectedly, in January 2012, PCL’s Australia Operations asked Lee if she was interested in coming back to work for the organization, this time Down Under. The Victoria Comprehensive Cancer Centre project in Melbourne that PCL was involved with required an accounting manager with previous PCL experience. “My husband and I decided it would be a great opportunity, packed our bags, and headed to Melbourne,” said Lee.
Lee’s current role is much broader than accounting. Lee liaises with PCL’s North American Head Office on human resources, immigration, and training matters. Although the fundamentals of accounting are the same everywhere, there are different rules in every country, and every day is a learning experience for Lee. “I try to attend as many courses and sessions that allow me to learn more about all aspects of Australian legislation,” she said, “whether it’s new immigration policies, international transfer pricing, or changes in tax legislation.”
LIFE DOWN UNDER
As for learning to live Down Under, Lee has picked up a lot of cultural points from her husband, such as learning to talk like an Australian and to love Aussie Rules football and cricket. For Lee, a noticeable difference between North America and Australia was the Australians’ laid-back culture. “After living and working alongside Aussies, I’ve learned to relax more, and I’m much happier for it,” said Lee. “Things still get done, but the balance between life and work seems much more reasonable here.”
A big perk for Lee is the Australian weather. “Here in Australia we have beaches, sunshine and, at worst, rain in the winter,” she said. Lee has also taken advantage of her close proximity to Southeast Asia, and has explored many different cultures and countries there.
For now, this world traveler’s feet are firmly planted in Australia, but who’s to say what the future holds. “To me, home isn’t a physical place; it’s wherever I am as long as my husband and son are with me.”