Was Finance/Tax always your career path?
I started out doing an arts degree, but switched into commerce. As soon as I encountered tax at university I really enjoyed it so from there it was a clear goal to progress through audit to tax.
What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced along your career path and how did you overcome this?
One of my biggest challenges has been juggling personal life, family and career. There were times when I had to make a tough decision because I had the opportunity to take on projects that would be very demanding on my family life. Weighing two things that are so important to me – my family and my career – was very difficult, but I always aimed to find a balance. That doesn’t mean both things always get equal time. Some weeks you spend more time at work and some weeks you spend more with your family, but overall you need to find a balance that you’re happy with.
For me, I had a supportive family and I think for a lot of women who are entering the workforce now there isn’t the same expectation that they will have to take on as much at home. I also found ways to put in the hours needed without compromising my family time. I can work from home, start early, or go in on the weekend, so I can achieve my work goals as well as meeting those family obligations.
What technical skills do you think are integral to role?
You need to keep up with new developments and rules. You may not know them in every detail, but you should have a sense of where they fit in the bigger tax environment and how they will impact your clients or employer.
What attributes/characteristics do believe are integral to the role?
Be forward thinking. I always have my eyes on the next issue coming around the curve. That enables you to be proactive, and better prepare and support your team and clients.
I think communication is key. You have to be able to communicate with upper management about what is changing, the implications for the business, and how you are finding or implementing a solution.
What is your advice to someone who is moving up the ranks in the field and wants to pursue a management/executive career?
When I started I got a lot of tax exposure doing restructuring for mergers and acquisitions, but I see a lot of newer people coming out of the CA program without really encountering a lot of tax work. I recommend staying in public accounting longer to get broader exposure, beyond provisions. If you don’t know the rules and how tax aligns with other functions then you will struggle to succeed in a tax role.
How important is it to be exposed to all areas of the business?
It’s a good idea to learn the business so you get the understanding you need for projects. For example, in the last five years transfer pricing has become more important so the role isn’t strictly tax, it’s about understanding the transaction.
Financial institutions are complex and diverse. Understanding those complexities will help you manage risk and make better decisions.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
I love working on a really effective team. It’s very rewarding to work on a transaction when everyone has their area of expertise and you’re working together to get the best result. I like being involved in the deals and the challenges, and seeing it all come together.
In your opinion, how important is networking?
Networking is important for learning what other companies are doing, getting best practices or other insights. It can also be important for your career so you know where the opportunities are.
Is there anything that the next generation should know?
Tax is always changing so it’s a very challenging and interesting career with lots of opportunities for variety and growth. You can choose the path that best suits you, and find lots of different kinds of success.
What advice would you give to the next generation of professionals aspiring to become a Tax leader?
Spend more time in public accounting. Being in tax if you only know compliance is tough. Reaching a senior public accounting role will set you up for success better than moving quickly into tax.