I originally trained as an accountant in industry, basically because they offered me more money than in practice, however I always knew I wanted to go back to practice and so moved when I qualified. The job that came up at the time was Corporate Finance Exec with a small regional firm. Whilst doing that role I got interested in M&A tax and decided to do my tax exams, resulting in a move to another mid-tier firm to work purely in tax. I started in tax advisory, another unusual move, so have never experienced basic compliance training! I moved to Mazars in 2011 as a director in the Bristol office with a remit to grow the tax business and made partner in 2013 after growing the business and the team.
What motivates you and what values guide you?
Some people will think I am very odd at this point, but I have known what I wanted to do and where I wanted to get to since I was at primary school – and that was to be a partner in an accountancy practice (I believe in dreaming big!) Having this goal has motivated me all the way through my career and has kept me going whenever I have had bad days. Having that ultimate aim has always helped me to set out the stepping stones along the way. I believe that you have to push for what you want to achieve, but along the way you need to take time for helping others (as it will be repaid).
What qualities have enabled you to get you where you are today?
I believe that anyone who has worked with me will say that I am always approachable and helpful – I am very bad at saying “no”, but I think that helps make me who I am. I am very career driven – as mentioned above, I always had my eye on the end goal and have always worked determinedly towards it. However, I learned early in my career that my job could be quite stressful, and if I just went home at the end of the day, I would continue working and never take a break. My horses became my stress relief – I started with one, when she injured herself and had to have 6 months off, I managed to buy a second simply because I couldn’t cope with not riding! So now I own two old/injured horses and a third new ridable one since last year…..
Over your career who have been the people that have mentored or sponsored you? Why and how did they have an impact?
I was lucky to have three very strong mentors in my previous firm when I was beginning in tax: Tom Woodcock, who was a tax barrister and just kept giving me opportunities to work on interesting projects, developing my skills at the same time, and two non-tax partners, Keith Seeley and Mark Harman who were just brilliant in the marketplace and in front of clients, and who took me to loads of meetings and gave me a huge amount of experience. They gave me the confidence to be able to do it on my own, and to have broad discussions with clients and prospects rather than just talking about tax. A friend of mine, who also worked there, and I still say “think like Keith” or “what would Keith do” when faced with challenging or nerve racking situations!
What has been the most defining point in your career to date?
Making partner – and being the youngest partner at Mazars at the time at age 33. Unfortunately the day after was a bit of a slump of – “What now?!”.
What does leadership mean to you? And what makes you a good leader?
To me, leadership is all about being someone that people look up to – a positive role model. I like to lead by example and to give back to my team, in terms of time, opportunities, coaching and recognition. But in return I expect all of my team to be giving 100% back and to support me.
What advice would you give to other women for advancing in their careers?
Aim high! There is nothing wrong with aiming to be at the top of the organisation when you are just starting, as long as you can break it down into smaller steps along the way. It’s always a big tick in the box for me when I interview a new trainee and they can see beyond just qualifying. However, career progression has to come from the person, it’s never going to be handed to you on a plate – you have to be doing the right things and asking for it. I find it frustrating when someone complains that they haven’t been promoted, yet they haven’t completed their objectives or shown any passion and enthusiasm about going over and above.
You should also remember that everybody’s career path is different and there is no right way to go about it – I never went to university, I went in to my career back to front compared to most people, going from industry to practice and not starting in compliance and yet it never held me back.
The above advice is really relevant to anyone progressing their careers, but more specifically for women (and I appreciate this could also apply to men) – my advice is to learn to manage your work/life balance. I have two young children (and three horses) and I am very lucky that my husband has chosen to be a stay at home Dad plus starting his own flexible business, so I have limited childcare issues. However I still have the challenge of making time to spend with them (and still to ride), so I am resolute about leaving the office at 5 every day to get home before the boys go to bed and then work later on in the evening, I work at home some of the time and I try and pick them up from Nursery once a week. Plus I try to be creative about my time – when I had a client meeting in Brighton recently, my family came with me and spent the morning on the beach and pier and I joined them for lunch, plus had 6 hours chatting in the car with them all!
What can be done to improve gender parity at Mazars?
I think we need to make it easier for women to stay in and come back to the workforce – more funding for nursery care from the Government, more support from businesses with regards flexible and agile working and more support around returning to work – the only way we can get closer to gender parity is to increase the pool of talent.
Thanks to Amy for sharing her journey with us.
Check back next week for another segment of #WomenAtMazars.