Innovating Western Canada's largest winter festival

CPAs can be found in every industry, being experts at more than numbers – and they’re great with those, too.

Every month, CPA Manitoba spotlights the diverse and dedicated professionals that prove CPA is more than a designation. 

Being a CPA has unequivocally changed my life and helped me pursue what I've always wanted to do.

Darrel Nadeau, CPA, CMA always knew he was going to be a leader. He grew up on his family’s dairy farm in the francophone community of La Broquerie, Manitoba and had the motivation to help others from an early age. “When I was younger, adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I told them I was going to be the Prime Minister of Canada.”

With big goals and aspirations, he moved to Winnipeg and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Manitoba (U of M) with a double major in accounting and marketing. After graduation, he started his career as a Marketing Specialist at Investors Group. A year later, Nadeau accepted the role of Foreign Services Officer with the Foreign Affairs and International Trade branch of the federal government.

“It was a great role. I got to travel to places like Sierra Leone and Rome and meet incredible people during my time. However, I discovered in my adventures that I wanted to go back to school to round out my business background and find new ways to serve people closer
to home.”

In 2011, Nadeau accepted a role as Manager of Finance and Administration at the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (Canadian Centre). While taking on his new role, he also began working towards an MBA through the Asper School of Business, graduating in 2013. With much determination, he concurrently worked towards attaining his accounting designation and convocated that same year.

The designation itself provides immense flexibility and independence in choosing your own path – it’s kind of like those Choose Your Own Adventure stories.

“I am really thankful that I was able to gain both credentials because I knew it would give me a competitive edge in the job market and help in the long term. Being a CPA has unequivocally changed my life and helped me pursue what I’ve always wanted to do.”

After six years with the Canadian Centre, he was looking for a new challenge and found it in the job posting for Executive Director at Festival du Voyageur (Festival). “When I looked at the requirements and qualifications, I knew it would be a great fit and I was so fortunate to be offered the opportunity.”

Nadeau was appointed to the position in October 2017 and jumped right into helping facilitate the winter event, only a few months away. In his role, he oversees the entire organization, which primarily focuses on the yearly winter festival and the operation of Fort Gibraltar, a historical site inside the Festival grounds that gives historical tours in the summer.

“With Festival only a few months away, it was a great opportunity for me to see what was already in place and brainstorm for 2019. However, I was really appreciative of the team for being able to accommodate some of my last-minute ideas.”

Among them was the creation of Voyageur Pride, an inclusive celebration encouraging the Manitoban LGBTTQ* community to experience Festival.

“When I told friends in the community about my new position, they said they had never gone to Festival and I wanted to change that through Voyageur Pride. It was a great evening with amazing performances, including a two-spirited jigger perform as a headliner.”

Utilizing your CPA education to help give back to a non-profit is extremely beneficial because we have this incredible opportunity to make an impactful contribution to our community.

When Nadeau reflects on his past and the decisions that led him to where he is today, he often comes back to the value that his CPA designation has brought him.

“Having those letters after my name has helped me open the doors to my ideal career path. They have shown my employers that I am a professional who can strengthen any team I
work with.”

While Nadeau focuses more on overseeing and approving the balance sheets rather than creating them, he continues to find ways to innovate and improve, no matter the size of their impact. This is imperative for an established organization such as Festival, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

“My team and I are implementing new strategies to Festival this year that I’ve seen work effectively at other events. For example, while it may seem small, this year we’re bringing in third-party debit and credit machines for the beverage vendors. For years, it was predominately cash-only transactions with a few ATM machines that we ran ourselves. It was inefficient to reconcile the beverage cash floats multiple times a day to put money in the ATMs just for the money to come back and create this endless cycle. Thankfully, with this change and the introduction of a third-party ATM trailer, there will be way less running around,” Nadeau says excitedly.

Having those letters after my name has helped me open the doors to my ideal career path. They have shown my employers that I am a professional who can strengthen any team I work with.

When Nadeau isn’t providing leadership to multiple areas at Festival, including finance and budgeting, HR, strategic planning and financial sponsorships, he’s giving back to the community through volunteering. For the past three years, Nadeau has been involved with Pride Winnipeg, taking on a variety of senior roles and responsibilities. He’s currently the Fund Development Coordinator where he’s primarily tasked with securing financial support for the 10-day summer festival. Nadeau credits his experiences at Pride Winnipeg for helping him successfully head up Western Canada’s largest winter festival.

“I relied on some of my experiences at Pride as examples during my Festival interview, even though it was a volunteer-based position. Utilizing your CPA education to help give back to a non-profit is extremely beneficial because we have this incredible opportunity to make an impactful contribution to our community. Knowing that I’m able to make a difference with my skill set for those who need it is definitely an inspiration for me to continue to learn
and innovate.”

Nadeau stressed the benefit of flexibility and excellence when asked about what advice he would give to future CPAs.

“The skills you’ll learn from the CPA program goes way beyond tax or auditing. The designation itself provides immense flexibility and independence in choosing your own path – it’s kind of like those Choose Your Own Adventure stories. It opens so many doors with its automatic respect and professionalism and has helped me live a great life so far. Being a CPA has been the key to my success and I’m excited to continue giving back to others through
my experiences.”