Making accountability personal

Thomas Straley, Accounts Payable Manager

Thomas Straley is one of the people lucky enough to find their dream job and follow that path all the way through their career — with 20 years of experience in Accounts Payable, Thomas feels like he is exactly where he needs to be.

VPFO Strategic Direction 3
Enhance our sustainability and financial accountability

Thomas Straley is the Accounts Payable (AP) Manager in UBC’s Financial Operations team, within the VPFO’s Finance & Integrated Services division. Financial Operations has a broad reach across the university, touching the day-to-day experience of thousands of students, faculty and staff. If you have ever ordered or paid for goods or services, been reimbursed for an out-of-pocket expense, or used a UBC VISA card, you have likely interacted with Thomas’ team.

Passionate about continuous improvement, Thomas and his team of 40 constantly find opportunities to make processes easier and better for the university community, in turn enabling excellence in teaching, learning and research at UBC.

In this Q&A, Thomas shares why the VPFO’s strategic directions and values matter to him, and how he delivers his best for UBC through professionalism, commitment and accountability.

What does Strategic Direction 3: Enhance our sustainability and financial accountability mean to you?

“We continuously find ways to make payment processes better and easier at UBC.”

– Thomas Straley

In thinking about strategic direction 3, UBC is a steward of a large amount of public funds, with close to 1.6 billion dollars moving through our Accounts Payable function in 2021. While this is only one piece in the big picture of UBC’s overall financial accountability, our team sees it as a huge responsibility and we feel proud to play a role in strengthening the university’s accountability and supporting decision-making through valuable insights.

In a time of rising costs and inflationary pressure, it is now more important than ever to make sure we know where taxpayer dollars are being spent across UBC, so that we can determine if those dollars are delivering maximum value.

Which one of the VPFO’s values (Excellence, Integrity, Respect, Accountability and Safety) do you identify with most?

Accountability is a value that matters to me both personally and professionally. At work, we all have a role to play in making UBC what it is: an exceptional place for research, learning and engagement. It is important we know what that role is and how we can perform it to the best of our abilities.

Thomas Straley and team at UBC Technology Enterprise Facility

It takes a dedicated team to make a difference.

You chose to take your photo at Technology Enterprise Facility (TEF) 3. Why is this location meaningful to you?

While it may not compare with the central part of campus, you get the full sea-to-sky experience from our balcony at the Technology Enterprise Facility (TEF) 3, overlooking all of UBC with the mountains on one side and the water on the other. I like to step out to the balcony when I need a moment of peace in the midst of deadlines.

It is so wonderful to have our team at this one location, connecting and continuing to do great work for the university.

What are some of your proudest achievements during your time in the VPFO?

I feel most proud when I’m able to apply my expertise to support our community.

I recently had the opportunity collaborate with partners and stakeholders across UBC in the development of the university’s Indigenous Finance Guidelines, which help promote payment parity across UBC for Indigenous partners, as well as to ensure their payments are processed in a timely manner. I felt honoured to be part of something this big, and to make a meaningful impact.

Another achievement I’m especially proud of was decreasing our transaction turnaround time from 16 days to 3 days following the centralization of the Accounts Payable team a few years ago. It was so rewarding to be able to use my past experiences to improve processes at UBC.

For you, what makes UBC different?

The scope and breadth of the organization never fails to amaze me — you truly get a bit of everything at UBC. It’s amazing to see all the projects and research being done at the university, touching every possible topic. Anything you can think of, UBC is working on.

There is never a dull day at the university. If you find yourself having a dull day, you should ask yourself: what am I not doing right?

Thomas Straley outside on the UBC campus

It’s amazing to see all the projects and research at the university. Anything you can think of, UBC is working on.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

As someone who is currently doing his CPA while working full time and caring for two young children, my advice would be to get the education part of your career done while you are young!

A typical weekend for you is?

My life is mostly centered around my kids. When I do get free time for myself, I am a referee for a local high school football team. It keeps me active and allows me to work with young people.

Can you tell us one thing people don’t know about you?

I worked as a tour guide at the Texas State Capitol for five years throughout university. I led guided tours at the Texas Governor’s Mansion when George Bush’s Presidential campaign was underway.

I used to be terrified of speaking publicly and I’d like to believe this experience built me up to be a better and more engaging manager.