Shifting career gears: From the art of ballet to the business of accounting
How a SAIT business student — and ballerina — transitioned from dance to Business Administration, Accounting.
The jump from one career to a new one can seem daunting, especially when your career is also your passion. Fortunately for first-year Business Administration student Natalie Chui, she’s landed some pretty big leaps before.
From a very young age, Chui had a passion for dance.
“I started dancing when I was three,” she says. “I danced for 24 years — most notably six years with Alberta Ballet. Besides dancing, I enjoyed the comradery and community. Some of the people I met are my closest friends today.”
As a student at the Alberta Ballet School, Chui performed in The Sleeping Beauty by Kirk Peterson, a career highlight that also led to her being hired at Alberta Ballet as a dancer.
For six years, Chui travelled with Alberta Ballet and performed in countless shows to audiences across Canada and the United States. But her favourite time of year has always been the winter holidays.
The most wonderful time of the year
“I have been dancing a version of The Nutcracker since I was five, and Christmastime is known as Nutcracker season in the dance world,” Chui explains. “For six weeks straight, the weekdays and weekends were filled with rehearsals or dedicated to performances.”
Chances are if you’ve seen a performance of Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker in the past decade, you’ve seen Chui on stage.
“With Alberta Ballet, we performed more than 25 shows a season across Canada. It was an absolute marathon, but it’s what made Christmas, Christmas! I got to travel, wear beautiful costumes, listen to incredible music and dance alongside friends.”
After six years with Alberta Ballet, Chui decided to hang up her ballet slippers to take a 10-month working holiday in Italy — where she earned her certification to teach English language classes abroad. When she returned to Canada, Chui signed up for several Microsoft Excel courses and discovered an interest in numbers and formulas.
With a newly discovered passion for numbers, Chui registered for the Introductory Financial Accounting I course through SAIT’s Centre for Continuing Education and Professional Studies. After completing the course, she was inspired to continue learning and pursue a career in accounting. She immediately enrolled full-time in SAIT’s Business Administration diploma program.
“I wanted to complete my studies as soon as possible in order to begin working again,” she says. “I was aware of SAIT’s options to transfer credits to advance and further my education.
“I was anxious to return to school after 10 years, especially with the integration of technology. But as a mature student, I was more engaged and saw the benefits of returning to school after time away. Now, I’m more motivated to learn about a subject I’m genuinely interested in.”
After her first month back at school, Chui was offered a full-time co-op position on an assurance team at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
“Being offered a co-op position at PwC was the equivalent to getting into one of the best ballet companies in the world. I was ecstatic, and I would not have this opportunity if it wasn’t for the accounting networking event put on by the SAIT Accounting Society.”
A further adjustment
Chui’s coursework and co-op were significantly impacted by COVID-19, forcing her to do all her classes and work remotely.
“When classes moved online, it was a very big adjustment,” she says. “Instructors had different approaches, but each approach seemed to fit the class and the teachers were very helpful throughout the process.”
Once Chui finishes her co-op work term, she plans to return to SAIT to complete her diploma and eventually pursue the Chartered Professional Accountant Professional Education Program (CPA PEP).
Reflecting on her experience over the past year and a half, Chui is full of optimism.
“There really has been no better time to be back at school or doing this co-op. This crazy time filled with so much uncertainty has been a great opportunity to better myself and develop skills and learn new things.”
Read more shifting gears stories — and write your own!
Read Jennifer’s story
After a hiatus from engineering to spend time at home with her kids, Jennifer was looking to get back into the workforce. Only this time, she wanted to set herself apart within an entirely new field — Integrated Water Management.
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