Meet Barb MacIntosh, university controller

Her job title speaks for itself.

If you ever have reason to venture behind the doors of Centennial Hall, you will find an often-unseen group of hardworking staff who really make the University run. One of these individuals is Barb MacIntosh, the university controller. Given her title, you might think that she holds an important and powerful position – and you would be right.

MacIntosh arrived at Mount Allison in 2011 as the assistant controller, moving to the controller position in 2014. She says that the major focus of her position is “the processing of money coming in and money going out.” MacIntosh, a chartered professional accountant, works with a list of responsibilities that is actually much longer than this, including financial reporting internally and externally to many different parties, like funding agencies, the bank, Canada Revenue Agency and the IRS. She is also responsible for actions on treasury and investing. “Our endowment fund is large; it’s up to about $190 million, so I make sure that we have a good policy and are investing [the fund] according to our policy.” MacIntosh also oversees cash flow in the operating budget as it fluctuates throughout the year, as well as “insurance, risk management, reviewing contracts to make sure liabilities are covered … quite a variety of things.”

MacIntosh says this variety is probably her favourite – and the most challenging – aspect of her job. “Sometimes, you’re really just getting into something and you have to drop it because something else has become a priority. I’ll think, “did I do the best I could have on this project?’ because I had to let it go and move onto something else.”

When reflecting on career ambitions, MacIntosh wanted to find a place to work where she would enjoy the people and feel like she could make a contribution, which she said she’s found in her team at Mt. A.

Before coming to New Brunswick, MacIntosh studied at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax where she completed her bachelor of commerce with a major in accounting. “I found it made sense, it was easy, I just kind of clicked with it,” MacIntosh said. “It was a little more black and white than some of the other subjects and it just seemed to be a good fit. After that, I started articling with KPMG in Halifax and did my chartered accounting designation.”

MacIntosh said that being a chartered professional accountant offers a lot of career flexibility, which her own career demonstrates: “You could teach, you could work in industry, you could work in public practice – I have done all those things.” After articling in Halifax, MacIntosh taught at Saint Mary’s full-time for a year, and then part-time for a few more. “I then started a small accounting practice with three of my female colleagues from Saint Mary’s. Our clients tended to be small businesses.… We joined women-in-business organizations and met lots of people in that way.”

After that, MacIntosh worked in industry for two different film production companies; first, in Halifax for Cochran Communications (known for Theodore Tugboat), and then in Toronto at Owl TV (known for The Big Comfy Couch). “After that I worked for the regulatory body for [chartered accountants] in Ontario, first as a practice advisor and then as director of member services.” After MacIntosh moved to New Brunswick late in 2007, she continued working for CPA Ontario part-time, and later began working at Mt. A just over three years later.

I asked MacIntosh what, if anything, she would tell her undergraduate self, looking back. “This was a good chance to reflect back on my career,” she said. “I think I would say that to maybe be willing to take a few more risks and not always take the safe and easy route.

“When I had the small accounting practice, it was still public accounting and I wasn’t enjoying it. I didn’t want to stay, but I’d started this, I had all these clients now, I felt guilty about leaving them.” MacIntosh said that she’d gone out with friends and they encouraged her “not to feel guilty, just to make the change. Get up the guts and make the change. So I think that’s kind of what I would say – take a few more risks.

“Having said that, I know I’ve been very lucky that the minute I ever started looking for something new, something popped up. For the most part, every one of [those opportunities] has worked out well; they’ve each provided a bit more learning, increasing skills, meeting wonderful people, so it’s all helped to make my whole career.”

Catherine Turnbull
Now in her fourth year of an honours degree in philosophy, Catherine still subsists on a continuous cycle of good coffee and cheap wine. If she’s not in the office inserting Oxford commas wherever she can, she might be climbing a mountain or procrasti-baking.