Talent Journeys: RSM Academy and Faces of RSM


In keeping with its mandate to recognize, promote and develop its internal talent, RSM Canada recently invested in its talent through two talent initiatives, the RSM Academy and the Faces of RSM. These programs have been designed by RSM International, and formally rolled out to RSM Canada, to engage RSM employees and invest in their futures as well as their careers.

The following article highlights the journeys and provides details on the experiences of several RSM Canada employees: Sean McNama, who took part in the RSM Academy, and Mariya Honcharova, one of the four RSM Canada associates chosen to participate in the Faces of RSM.  


Sean McNama with his RSM colleagues at the Academy

The Journey to the RSM Academy - Sean McNama

The 2018 RSM Academy is a soft-skills and leadership conference joined by RSM leaders from around the world. We spent time collaborating on how best to apply RSM's vision and sharing our ideas and insights into client and market opportunities. Understanding cultural differences and learning the strengths each of us can draw from them was one of the highlights of my experience. Taking part in the RSM Academy marks an experience that will carry me forward in my career and will assist me in supporting RSM's continued presence as the first-choice advisor for the middle market.

Networking opportunities

As an international firm, RSM offers its clients complete global service. The power of being understood is not simply a marketing term; it is how the firm operates. Attending the RSM Academy gave me the opportunity to collaborate with RSM professionals who practice in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe. Meeting those individuals not only grew my network around the firm, I learned about local expertise, which I can now, in turn, facilitate for my clients. As practitioners, it has strengthened how we refer work internally and serve clients who require international expertise more effectively.

Highlights from individual sessions

As part of the Academy curriculum, I took part in a number of valuable sessions and seminars designed to develop our capabilities in specific areas. One, in particular, was a session related to culture and communication, taught by a previous leader of RSM in Europe. The seminar provided insight into how to work more effectively together, specifically in regards to meetings. The RSM host recommended circulating a pre-read to meeting participants to review beforehand, as part of our preparation materials, and also to plan for and execute debrief sessions afterwards. Initially this recommendation is counterintuitive, but I found that thinking apart first and then bringing our novel ideas together to form them into actions to be very effective.

Key takeaways

One of the main learnings I took away from the Academy occurred during a seminar about presentations. Here, I developed an enhanced ability to listen to clients and learn what their needs actually are. Oftentimes, as a professional, I know what the right answer is and I jump on it; however, in so doing I don't necessarily hear what might be unique about the client's situation. This session helped me to tailor the solution based on actual needs versus what the standard scenario may be for a given problem nine out of ten times. In continuing to develop the skills needed to deliver the power of being understood to our clients, I found this particularly useful.


From a succession perspective, the RSM Academy serves a very beneficial role for the firm. While RSM does not mandate any kind of succession planning per se, with the RSM Academy in place training future leaders, organic succession occurs. This enables the next generation of leadership to form when it makes sense strategically and ensures that RSM is ready for the future.

From a personal perspective

While development seminars such as the RSM Academy are not unique — many firms invest in the leaders of the future in this way — I found it is different in that the focus of the Academy is on understanding RSM values and applying them through the development of international networks. Eighty per cent of the attendees would be non-partner and the Academy provided a way for me to meet the global senior leadership of the firm in a less formal manner and bring all of us close to the strategic vision of the company.

Additionally, the soft skills I developed within the seminars have given me the opportunity to utilize them with my clients in my own practice. I am proud to be a graduate of the RSM Academy, which was, for me, an incredible opportunity to meet aspiring RSM leaders.

The Journey to becoming a Face of RSM - Mariya Honcharova

Henry Yi
Fayola Lawrence
Raj Singh
Mariya Honcharova

In June of this year, myself and three other professionals, Henry Yi, Fayola Lawrence and Raj Singh, from RSM Canada’s audit, tax, consulting and operations teams took part in a professional photo shoot in London, U.K. We were joined by an international contingent of RSM staff members to serve as brand ambassadors and become the face of the brand. Leveraged across the globe, ‘The Faces of RSM’ will appear on the firm’s digital and print marketing materials, showcasing actual employees and infusing the RSM brand with authenticity and humanity.

A dream comes true

Visiting London as part of the Faces of RSM photo shoot was a fantastic experience, both personally and professionally. I love travelling and this experience – my first trip to the U.K. – was a dream come true. Up until now, travelling for work has been quite rare for me; in general, I mostly deal with Canadian clients so I am now beginning to move outside the box.

My husband and my eldest son accompanied me to London; when I wasn't busy being pampered, talking to a professional photographer, feeling like a model and meeting new people, we explored London as well as the surrounding countryside! London is a super amazing city and the time spent with my family was wonderful.

International networking

Professionally, it was so rewarding to meet colleagues from offices around the world, including the U.K. office, build my internal and international networks, and share stories. The in-person experience really can't be matched. In particular, I met several colleagues from the United States and it was wonderful to connect the email with the person! Thanks to this trip, I’ve been exposed to more service lines and met employees in other functions; this has broadened my understanding of what the firm does.

This trip was also an opportunity to connect personally and professionally with the employees from our Toronto office who I work with on a daily basis. There is not always time available during the working day to learn more about my own colleagues so that was an added bonus.

A new experience

While this trip was exceptional in a number of ways, the most unique aspect for me was the exposure to creativity that this trip afforded me. Having a technical job, I'm not always aware of the creative side of the business. Doing something completely creative such as this photo shoot allowed me to see the process of marketing and public relations close up. It provides a well-rounded view of the firm behind the scenes, outside of my regular duties.

My colleague Fayola echoed my feelings. “Since we work in the technical side of the business and things are often busy, it can be easy to lose track of what the rest of the business is up to. This trip gave us an inside view of marketing and public relations and why it matters so much.”

Our brand is our people

The initiative behind the Faces of RSM speaks to the culture of RSM and its devotion to developing talent and promoting people who work hard. RSM chooses to represent its brand through us, its people, rather than through an abstract image. We love who we are and the talent we work with is amazing - so for me this is the best image of our brand, rather than hiring models.

Raj, another of our analysts chosen to visit London with me said it succinctly: “No other firm showcases its employees in this way. And we were all thrilled to be recognized as the face of the brand.”

What the future holds

I can foresee a number of opportunities arising with the individuals I met in London.  I aim to not only collaborate on client work with the people I’ve met but also make an effort to stop by their desk while travelling in the future and find out how their life has been since we made the trip.

We also have some opportunities to see the folks we met again sooner than later, as my colleague Henry noted: “Our firm will be hosting the RSM World Conference this year, and some of our international team members will be coming to the international tax symposium in Toronto. We are all looking forward to continuing our association there. It's a great opportunity to deepen the relationships we established in London and build our international team.”

All in all, our professional networks have been greatly enriched and we feel well-equipped to contribute to greater collaboration between RSM member firms as a result of this experience.

Canada's Sean McNama (centre) with his RSM colleagues at the RSM Academy.


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