To celebrate International Women’s Day, we are shining a spotlight on Colleen Fysh-Beckham, a Senior Analyst on our Supply Advisory team in Canada.
Tell us your background, a little bit about yourself, and how you ended up at Edison Energy.
I went back to school when I was 25 to pursue accounting after losing my full-time job due to a sale of the company I was then working for. When I graduated, I went to a temp agency and was assigned to an energy company for 2 weeks while they did interviews to hire for the full-time position. At the end of the 2 weeks, the company approached me and asked if I would be willing to apply for the job as I had proven I could learn the complexity of the natural gas industry and asked the correct questions to understand what I was doing instead of just doing it. I worked there for 18 months when I was offered a job by a competing company, and I accepted. Flash forward 9 years and a few sales and acquisitions, and I am still with that same company!
What is your role at Edison Energy?
My current role at Edison Energy is in accounting. I facilitate the commodity accounting in the Canadian office for all clients, which includes invoice verification, allocation reconciliations, managing funds received through the ABC program from utilities, and coordinating payments to suppliers. I also create invoices and manage the billing program for our Montreal Office.
Share something unique to your role and a specific skill set that others may be surprised to know about.
Fun Fact – I create the French invoices to bill our Quebec clients, and I don’t speak French! About 5 years ago, our account manager in the Montreal office left. I jumped in and took over the invoicing of the clients, collecting and arranging supplier payments. Google Translate was my BEST friend. Since then, using my excel skills, I have created a new program to better manage the portfolio. This even resulted in savings to our company as we were previously paying someone to maintain the old program. I was also able to improve the methods by which many of our clients in the region receive and pay bills. Many companies in Quebec were a bit behind the times and still wanted everything by physical mail and paid by check. For a long time, they were not willing to change their ways. However, I used the postal strike to convince them to receive their invoices more efficiently by email, and most of them even pay electronically now!
Is there a project you feel most proud of in your career, and if so, what made this project successful from your perspective?
I would have to say the project that I feel I am most proud of is one of our Client’s Management Project. They have been a client with us for 15+ years, and when we started our engagement with them, we had a facility management system. Approximately 5 years ago, we parted ways with the company that was maintaining that management system database on our behalf. Each year we are required to do a year-end report for each of the 176 municipalities across Ontario, Canada, representing approximately 3,400 locations. I developed a program that maintains the accounts by municipality so at any point in time, we know how many accounts are active and how many municipalities are in the portfolio. I also updated the format of the year-end reports to tie into the new Client Management System, so it’s an easy copy and paste, which saves us hours of filtering through the accounts match them up to try and recreate the reports each year. The Client was extremely pleased with this new report and has requested a copy of their locations over the years to make sure their system matches ours!
What are some of the biggest challenges you face/have faced in this role or industry? How did you overcome them?
In Canada, we switched from having one Goods & Sales Tax (GST) to dealing with two taxes with the implementation of HST (Harmonized Sales Tax). To add to this complication, some provinces still used the GST while others used the HST, and we were charged based on where we physically purchased the gas, not where the facilities were located. Our original system was built to accommodate only the one tax so when the time came I had to be quick on my feet and create a whole new process and system to manage both taxes in excel until the program was able to be reconfigured by IT, a 3-month project. This was a great learning tool because when we migrated away from the DPS (Direct Purchase System) 5 years ago, I had the knowledge and expertise to create an accounting process/system in excel to process all the monthly invoices efficiently and accurately. One thing not a lot of people know about me is I love change, and in this industry, we see a lot of it. Over my career, I have constantly been changing and improving processes to meet the changing needs of the industry and clients.
What advice would you give to a peer who is looking to pursue a similar career path?
You must have patience, a hard work ethic, and not be afraid of change. This is an exciting, fast-paced industry that is constantly changing and bringing new challenges. If you want a job that’s the same from 9-5, this isn’t for you, but if you want to have a career you can grow with and love to be constantly learning, this is definitely a great fit!