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Why accounting is about far more than crunching numbers in isolation

Ontario Tech researcher John Friedlan dispelling accounting stereotypes and inspiring a new generation of students


Society holds many stereotypes about certain professions and occupations. The world of accounting is no exception.

Many outsiders assume accountants are 24/7 math nerds with no interest in anything beyond numbers and balance sheets, locked into a boring and tedious career. But Ontario Tech researcher John Friedlan, PhD, says these myths could not be further from the truth.

“Young people often misunderstand who accountants are and what they do,” says Dr. Friedlan, FCPA FCA, an Associate Professor with Ontario Tech’s Faculty of Business and Information Technology. “Certainly fluency with numeracy is a vital component of the overall skill set, but so is the capacity for high-level critical thinking and problem solving. Accounting is very much about being able to communicate and provide clarity to others about complex information.”

Dr. Friedlan has devoted more than a quarter-century to training future managers and accountants. He’s written an introductory financial accounting textbook widely used across the country, and one of only a few produced domestically. A chartered accountant since 1980, in 2018 he became a Fellow of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario (CPA Ontario), one of the profession’s highest distinctions.

“Interestingly, accounting did not become a passion until after I finished my undergraduate degree in science (genetics) at McGill University in Montreal,” says Dr. Friedlan. “I got into all of this quite by happenstance. But I am sincerely proud of receiving this CPA Ontario career recognition from my peers.”

He completed his master’s degree in Business Administration at York University in Toronto, and his PhD at the University of Washington in Seattle.

His focus now is on ensuring Ontario Tech Accounting students are inspired to be the best they can be.

“The nature of the profession continues to evolve, and technology is a big part of that. I want my students to think critically about balance sheets and net income, and be able to navigate the sea of financial information in front of them.”

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Media contact
Bryan Oliver
Communications and Marketing
Ontario Tech University
905.721.8668 ext. 6709