#WeAreMazars: Hemehra Sajid

This week in our #WeareMazars series we’re speaking to Hemehra Sajid, a Senior Internal Auditor based in Birmingham. Hemehra shares with us what made her want to become an internal auditor, what has contributed most to her success and how she faces challenges when times get tough.

 

Hi Hemehra, can you tell us about your role at Mazars?

I’m a Senior Internal Auditor primarily within the RAS public sector, where we deal with social housing, education, and police.

 

What made you want to become an Internal Auditor?

I wanted to pursue my career path to increase my confidence – I was a very shy, reserved and unconfident person. I recognised that I needed to come out of my comfort zone and interact more with people, although I’m still seen as an introvert.

 

What are three things and three people who have contributed most to your success?

My faith and patience: everyone has their time and I’m a firm believer of this – things will happen at the best time for you. I have to thank my best friend Kieran for referring me to Mazars, as well as Narinder and Rob for hiring me! I owe much to my family and friends for their support and encouragement for me to chase my career goals.

 

What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?

One lesson I’ve learned about leadership is to only look down if you are helping someone up. I have a great management support network and I strive to be one of them, so that I can help to develop others too.

 

What’s one of the biggest advances you’ve seen at Mazars over the past 5 years?

I think that the firm has made a lot of progress with its diversity agenda. I love that Mazars and Management actively seek colleagues to develop and support which makes me proud to be part of Mazars and especially my team!

When things get tough, how do you keep yourself going?

Every day I make a point of taking a minimum of 10 minutes to be silent, breathe and have gratitude. I pray daily, which helps myself to remain calm and be strong. I am now also confident enough to approach the management team when I need support – otherwise I see every task as a challenge and try to turn any negative experiences to positive ones.

 

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders?

Listen to those around you and especially junior members of your team. Help to develop junior team members to help them play to their strengths. Essentially, you can bridge the gap between junior and senior staff.

 

What can Mazars do to create a culture of inclusion?

Awareness is fundamental – many people are only “somewhat” aware of important dates and times in various faiths. To even take time to wish them in their celebration means a lot. I would like to see the firm celebrating all faiths’ occasions to ensure understanding, awareness and respect is at its highest amongst us.

 

Thank you to Hemehra for taking the time to speak to us.

A road map for protection against cybercrime security

International cybercrime is becoming a big business and a primary corporate risk, boards are grappling with understanding its complexities and ensuring robust defences are in place against hackers.

At a recent Centre for Audit Committee and Investor Dialogue (CACID) meeting – a joint initiative between Mazars and institutional investors – we discussed the policies and procedures that boards need to have in place to combat the risks facing corporations and why they need to go further than simply complying with the new regulation.

Nicolas Quairel cybersecurity

Discussions touched on:

Clear policy and procedure

Boards need to start from the critical IT assets and understand how they could be affected by various cyber-threats. This step is crucial in light of new data protection rules (General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR) which came into force in May. It is essential for boards to show the regulator that effective protection is in place and demonstrate that steps taken to achieve it.

Compliance

The tough new regulation is certainly sharpening minds with its aim to establish Europe-wide standards on cybersecurity. GDPR requires companies to make sure the personal data of EU citizens and residents is effectively protected and secure. Surveys have indicated that many companies are still unprepared for the tougher rules on the protection and storage of personal data that GDPR requires.

One of the mistakes boards often make, is to believe that a threat to cybersecurity ‘is only IT-related’ rather than a business risk.

Board expertise

Best practice approaches include boards appointing a member with specialist technology or cybersecurity experience who is able to understand the complexities and vulnerability of the company and explain to the rest of the board, audit and risk committees, the security and data protection measures needed.

Smaller companies, which might be more constrained by costs than their bigger counterparts should bring in external cyber-risk advisors. Waiting until ‘someone kicks the tyres’ before investing in training or specialists is no longer an option.

Disclosure controls and procedures

Boards also need to make sure they have a clear post-breach plan of action and that regulatory reporting of data breaches follows the right procedure to meet the new GDPR requirements. New guidance from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the disclosure of cyber-attacks will be helpful for companies scrambling to meet GDPR rules.

Dealing with investor concerns

The new regulations are encouraging investors to ask sharp questions and expect boards to give informed and detailed answers that provide assurance. One large institutional investor present at the meeting explained that if they do not have enough confidence in the level of cybersecurity resilience, they will not invest in the company.

Take action

The current challenging and complex environment of organised cybercrime, malicious software and dark-web activity means many boards will need to raise the bar to protect personal data and meet the requirements of all stakeholders in the near future.

 

This blog is an excerpt of an article, “A road map for protection against cybercrime security” which appears in the Spring 2018 edition of Board Agenda. The full article can be found here.

 

By Nicolas Quariel

#WeAreMazars: Natasha Ryan

In celebration of Brighton Pride this weekend, we’re speaking to Natasha Ryan, a Tax Advisory Director from Birmingham about what it means to be an LGBT ally. In this candid interview, Natasha describes what being an LGBT ally means to her, and explains how those who do not identify as LGBT can still support LGBT voices.

 Natasha Ryan Mazars

What is your role?

I’m a Director in the Entrepreneurial Business and Private Client Tax Advisory team. It basically means I advise individuals, their businesses and their families.

How long have you been at Mazars?

I’ve been at Mazars for almost two years.

Why did you choose this career?

I never set out to be a tax adviser – it just sort of evolved. I studied a Maths and Accounting degree, joined a graduate scheme with an accountancy practice and never looked back!

Why did you join Mazars?

An ex-colleague persuaded me to join! He’s now retired but despite this I’m pleased I chose to join Mazars. My Mazars experience has been really positive and I think it’s genuinely a great firm with great people.

What do you think non-LGBT people can do to be allies to the LGBT community?

It’s important to remember that we all have many elements to our identities. For me, being an ally is about listening to and learning from someone else’s experiences. It’s about showing respect and acceptance despite our differences.

Why does Pride matter to you?

Because my family matters. As a 16 year old my nephew has a lot to think about, not only has he just completed his GCSEs but he’s just been diagnosed with social anxiety.

His anxiety is part of who he is, yet how he’s feeling is undoubtedly connected to exploring his identity. Being lesbian, gay, bi or trans can feel like extra pressure for young people particularly if they feel that those around them might react negatively to who they are. This worry can be very damaging and lead to a sense of isolation.

Although telling him I love and care about him goes a long way, I wanted to show my support. Taking part in this year’s Pride March with his mum and sister was a visible symbol of our unconditional love and support.  So that’s why #PrideMatters to me.

What do you think prevents people from bringing their whole selves to work?

The reality is, for many, the subject of workplace identity can be a tricky balancing act. On one hand, you want to approach your role and your ultimate career goals in a way that will best help you achieve your ambitions. On the other hand, you don’t want to create an artificial or disingenuous work persona that’s so far removed from who you really are that you make yourself miserable.

At work I think we all, sometimes, can be afraid of being ourselves. Especially when there’s concerns that this could have an effect on our career.

The main objective is likely to be a balance; using your workplace instincts and your true sense of self to become an effective and genuine colleague.

 

Thanks to Natasha for speaking to us. Remember to check back next week for another #WeAreMazars interview.

Sustainable Expectations: how the ESG investment agenda is shifting

Investors are placing environmental, social and governance issues at the top of their agendas, and they expect companies to do the same. They are increasingly looking for companies that have adjusted the balance between short and long-term value creation to develop strategies that lean toward sustainable outcomes and provide societal good.

US investment house BlackRock has been taking a lead in this area, their CEO, Larry Fink, has written to companies reminding them that he sees his firm’s responsibility to engage and vote with them as more important than ever. He wrote “companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers and the communities in which they operate.”

Quarterly reporting, activist shareholders and the immediacy of investor demands can combine to force directors to take decisions that, while giving a quick response to an immediate issue, might have longer-lasting consequences.

Much of this comes down to good stewardship. In the UK, the Financial Reporting Council’s Stewardship Code, first published in 2012, sets out how stewardship aims to promote the long-term success of companies so that the ultimate providers of capital—the investors—also prosper. The primary responsibility for stewardship rests with the company board, but investors also play an important role in holding the board to account over the fulfilment of its responsibilities. However, the code is directed in the first instance at institutional investors. They are expected to do more than vote; those that sign up to the code commit to meaningful engagement with companies over matters such as strategy, performance, risk, capital structure and corporate governance.

Last year, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published an in-depth review of responsible business conduct for institutional investors, setting out key considerations for due diligence under the OECD’s guidelines for multinational enterprises. By carrying out due diligence in line with these guidelines, the OECD believes that investors will not only avoid the negative impacts of their investments on society and the environment, but will also avoid financial and reputational risks, respond to the expectations of their clients and beneficiaries, and contribute to global goals on climate and sustainable development. The OECD has commented that “Increasingly, failing to consider long-term investment value drivers, which include environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, in investment practice is seen to be a failure of fiduciary duty”. Institutional investors are changing their own internal procedures in light of the OECD’s guidelines; they are now approaching quoted companies and saying that they can’t invest in them until they are on top of their ESG agenda. ESG is no longer a sideshow…we see certain investors really trying to make a difference.

 

This blog is an excerpt of an article, “Sustainable expectations: how the ESG investment agenda is shifting” which appears in the Spring 2018 edition of Board Agenda. The full article can be found here.

 

By Richard Karmel & Anthony Carey

#WeAreMazars: an interview with Tejal Bhogaita

In our first #WeareMazars interview, we spoke to partner Lindsay Pentelow who shared his perspective on what Mazars can do to create a culture of inclusion, the advice he would give to the next generation of leaders and what Pride means to him.

This week we’re speaking to Tejal Bhogaita, a Corporate Assistant in the Tax Advisory team who is based in Milton Keynes.

Hi Tejal, can you tell us about your role at Mazars?

Since joining Mazars two years ago I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of work. Initially I worked in our private client team and I’ve now rotated into corporate tax. In addition to this, I’m a part of our applicant mentoring scheme and a point of contact within the Milton Keynes office as a pre-onboarding buddy for new joiners.     

How did you get started in the accountancy profession?

I completed a dual qualification in Masters of Accounting and Financial Management, and was part-qualified in chartered accountancy (ICAI) in India.

After getting married I moved to the UK, and decided to start studying for the ACA rather than completing my ICAI qualification and then converting to the ACA. So, I joined Mazars as an ACA graduate tax trainee, and later transitioned into a joint program for ACA/CTA.

How has living in different countries influenced you and your approach to work?

Having lived in three different countries (Oman, India and now the UK), I think one of my strongest qualities is agility – I easily adapt to new environments. This has helped me in developing friendships, and in adapting to various working styles within my team very quickly.

What do you think makes a good leader?

Leadership includes qualities like being a strategic thinker and influencer while remaining approachable. A good leader has the ability to encourage contributions in any form from all within the team to achieve a target. This is something for me to work on as I progress in my career.

What keeps you motivated you at work?

I believe problem solving motivates me the most. I usually apply this skill in advisory projects where I try to understand the client issue and its parameters, and develop solutions that fit within those parameters.

Of course, a focus on constant learning and improvement makes me what I am today. I believe in absorbing, learning and implementing the knowledge I gain and constantly seek feedback to improve. My ultimate motive is to exceed client expectations – internal or external.

Do you have any mottos that you live by?

One of the mottos that I try to live by is “each one, teach one”. Each person that I meet has something that I can learn from – be it professional or personal. This has helped me to develop my skills and remain open minded so that I can keep learning.

Can you tell us about a time when you really felt like you made a difference at work?

Well, there have been many significant moments, but the most memorable one was when in my first year, I suggested an idea for an advisory report which later developed into one of the options within our final advice. At the time, it felt novel to come up with such an idea despite being the junior most member of the team.

What advice would you give to those who are starting out in their careers?

I would say: know your goals and strengths. Take small steps. Challenge yourself when ready. Look back at your achievements; this will make you more confident. Keep improving!

Finally, what do you think Mazars can do to achieve greater gender parity, and more broadly, create a culture of inclusion for everyone in the firm?

I think gender parity can come from developing a mindset of acceptance and respect for diversity. Instilling these values will also help in eradicating cultural barriers, and breaking down stereotypes.

 

Thank you to Tejal for taking the time to speak to us.

Automation and Digitisation – The Future of Outsourcing

The use of shared service centres (SSCs) has grown over the decades – the model, however, is on the brink of radical change.

SSCs act like a normal organisation and have targets they must reach like any other organisation, such as performance, cost management, efficiencies and so on.

There are now more than 350 SSCs around the world, and more than 40% of these have 100+ full-time employees. Between 2013 and 2015 we saw a fall in the number of SSCs in Western Europe, Canada and the US, where labour costs are high, and a rise in the number of SSCs in Asia. According to research by Everest Group, more than 70% of US Fortune 500 companies now use shared services or outsourcing models for their finance and accounting operations.

Organisations are so comfortable with SSCs today that the range of functions that they typically handle is increasing steadily. Finance function processes remain by far the most significant, but this is closely followed by HR processes, IT services and, to a lesser but increasing extent, procurement and tax. We’re seeing clients wanting to add more services to SSCs including billing processes, supply and others.

Robotisation (automation) and full digitalisation are giving SSCs new options and this trend has accelerated since 2015, as IT suppliers offer more mature solutions. There are more possibilities to automate transactions (robots) and to go paperless (digitalisation with multichannel platforms). One of the consequences is that labour costs, and the location of SSCs, has become less important. Some Western companies are taking the view that it’s better to robotise and digitise rather than to locate its SSC in India. The advent of cloud computing and digitisation has made the virtual SSC model a tangible possibility for companies.

Advantages

The benefits are clear— automation means that SSCs do not need as many people, bringing labour costs down significantly. Combine that with homeworking and there is a greatly reduced need for a significant physical SSC presence, with all the cost that this entails. This will not be the right approach for everyone; the cost of transitioning from a physical to virtual model could be prohibitive, which means that the virtual model will inevitably be a more attractive option for companies that do not already have an SSC established.

Risks

There are, of course, risks involved in SSCs, and one of the biggest, whether in a virtual model or not, is HR. Working in an SSC can be boring, so one of the biggest issues is how to retain people. Homeworking can act as an important incentive for employees and attract more candidates to SSCs, but there is a danger that a virtual model could exacerbate retention problems if people become isolated. There are other risks as well. Security is a concern when documents are digitised, and it is also important to be aware of the different requirements in various jurisdictions concerning digital archiving and paper originals.

Automation and digitisation are changing the nature of SSCs in other words, but the basics of the business remain the same.

This blog is an excerpt of an article, “How automation and digitisation are driving an outsourcing rethink” which appears in the Spring 2018 edition of Board Agenda. The full article can be found here.

 

 

By Caroline Couesnon

Caroline Cousenon

#WeAreMazars: Lindsay Pentelow

#WeAreMazars – a new series by Mazars to showcase talent from across the firm

​Over the past few months, we have been interviewing women from across the business as part of our #WomenAtMazars series, and we now want to open this up to hear from the diverse array of voices we have in the firm.

As London Pride is on Saturday, we’re kicking off our first #WeAreMazars interview with Lindsay Pentelow, a Tax partner based in the Milton Keynes office and at the moment, he is chairing the Tax Leadership Group. He is also a member of the LGBT Champions Management Group and a Stonewall Ambassador.

What was your goal or vision for your career?

I tend to avoid the word ‘career’ because it makes it sound more planned than it has been. It has, in any event, come in and out of focus at different times as other things have become relatively more or less important. I’ve always seen it as part of a portfolio of things, and so far as the working part of my life is concerned, it’s always been more important to be able to pursue areas or ideas which interested me, follow my curiosity and to be always learning new things, rather than to attain a particular objective.

What is a typical day like for you?

Ideally as flexible as possible so I can focus on things I’m best at and which I think also allows me to make the best contribution I can. A diary full of meetings feels incredibly uncomfortable to me. I like it best when I can look at my diary and see that in two weeks’ time it’s empty. Then I have time to think about clients: what they need, what their challenges are, how new tax developments affect them and how I can use them, as well as how I can do new things.

It’s that creative part of tax which I like – making complex things simple for clients and creating ideas that add real value.

When things get tough how do you keep going?

That is a really interesting question because it assumes that we should keep going when things get tough. As someone who has had fairly fragile mental health at times in my life, it has been really important to learn to recognise when to keep going, and when to pull back and know that, for a bit, keeping going is absolutely the last thing you need to do. Having said that, being the sole earner for a family of seven kind of concentrated the mind.

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders?

The same advice I would give to anyone: try to live your own life rather than following a pattern you think others expect of you.

However, it’s specifically relevant to leadership in our business because top down hierarchical models of leadership are increasingly redundant. The real questions are along the lines of: how can you lead collaboratively? How do we turn our business into a creative business since it is only that which can’t be replaced by algorithms? All of which requires new thinking and a type of leadership based on vulnerability and our dependence on one another, rather than trying to maintain the notion that the leaders have all the answers.

I think there is a direct link between people being able to be themselves at work and their creativity, and I think this is something that millennials understand.

What do you think prevents people from being themselves at work?

Speaking from my own LGBT perspective, I would say the expectation of hostility which is usually soundly based on previous experiences of hostility. That’s why the LGBT lanyard, whilst such a little thing, is so powerful – it signals acceptance, inclusion, a safe space. We need to be able to create these ‘signals’ for others who might otherwise feel excluded too.

What can Mazars do to create a culture of inclusion?​

Well firstly we should continue to do all the things that are being led by diversity groups and allies. Broadly, these help to break down the sometimes negative stereotypes that are attached to abstract labels of difference – whether that’s around ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, faith or any other differentiation. It allows everyone to see the person and not the label. The Muslim Network sharing food for Eid recently was a great example of this sort of initiative.

Where we have to ‘step up’ is by making sure that we’re aligning all of our business procedures and processes to that aspiration of diversity and inclusion in every area of the firm. It’s about challenging those often ingrained assumptions about how we do business. As an example, one of the targets we want to achieve is more women at partner level. As we do this, we need to ensure that we’re challenging traditional gendered leadership models and creating space for new or different approaches to doing business not simply expecting more women to approximate to those traditional gendered leadership models.

The theme of this year’s Pride celebrations is #PrideMatters. Why does Pride matter to you?

I suppose the obvious answer is that it’s better than fear and shame.  We have made huge progress in LGBT+ rights in the UK but we can’t take anything for granted nor restrict our view to the UK.  For example the recent national LGBT+ survey showed that:

  • 2 in 5 LGBT+ people had experienced a homophobic, bi-phobic or transphobic incident in the last 12 months;
  • 2/3 of respondents said they avoided holding hands with a same sex partner for fear of a negative reaction; and
  • So called ‘gay conversion therapies’ continue to be lawful.

This to me is why Pride matters.

A big thank you to Lindsay for taking part in the #WeAreMazars series. We will be publishing more interviews over the coming months so stay tuned.

If you are interested in reading the report that Lindsay refers to, please click here.

#WomenAtMazars: Amy Reynolds

Celebrating #WomenAtMazars

36227 WomenAtMazars Linkedin cards_Amy Reynolds

Next in our Celebrating #WomenAtMazars series, we’re speaking to Amy Reynolds, a Tax Partner based in Bristol.

Don’t forget to catch up with the previous interviews in this series with:

Tell us about your journey to and within Mazars?

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.

#WomenAtMazars: Hayley Brightmore

Celebrating #WomenAtMazars

36227 WomenAtMazars Linkedin cards_Hayley Brightman

Next in our Celebrating #WomenAtMazars series, we’re speaking to Hayley Brightmore, a Senior Manager in Mazars Deal Advisory based in Manchester.

Don’t forget to catch up with the previous interviews in this series with:

Tell us about your career path to date.

After starting a degree in Pure Maths, hating it, running away to Spain for a year, returning and graduating with a degree in Accounting and Finance, I started my career at a small, one office firm in Stockport, preparing accounts (using pencil and paper) from bags of invoices and receipts. I’m not as old as that makes me seem…

I moved into external audit at RSM Tenon halfway through my ACA training contract and joined Mazars as a newly qualified Senior in October 2013. I joined the Transaction Services team and I am now a Senior Manager focusing on assisting corporate (mainly owner managed and SME) clients, banks and investment houses on acquisitions and investments.

What motivates you, what values guide you?

I love to learn and I’m in the perfect environment to do that. Transaction Services is a project driven environment with each client’s needs being unique. I love the feeling of completing a particularly challenging piece of work and getting a great result for the client – especially if that means saving them a huge amount of money!

We have a great MDA team in Manchester – the team vibe and the support we give each other massively motivates me to work hard.

I value straight-talking honesty, drive and a sense of humour!

What qualities have enabled you to get you where you are today?

One of my team told me the word to describe me would be tenacious – I think that was a compliment. I’m very driven but I also strongly believe everything happens for a reason – some of my biggest lows have led to opportunities that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

I used to get frustrated by my lack of confidence so I developed a ‘what’s the worst that could happen’ approach which is much more effective (in all reasonable situations). A lot more doors seem to open when you focus on opportunities rather than obstacles.

I’ve always tried to be genuine rather than attempting to remould myself into a persona that better fits my role and the world I work in. Rather than be a limitation, in a world full of slick-talking corporate financiers, the occasional (frequent) ridiculous question and complete lack of common sense has proved to be an excellent ice-breaker and foundation to building good relationships!

Over your career who have been the people that have mentored or sponsored you? Why and how did they have an impact?

I’ve only recently begun to work with a formal mentor – prior to that I’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked for and alongside people who have challenged and supported me.

Working under Neil Robinson (Transaction Services Partner in Manchester) has had a huge impact on my career. The learning curve has been exponential over the last 4 and a half years. As well as improving my vocabulary with ridiculous words, Neil has genuinely invested in my development and from day one made me feel as though I am an integral part of the team, that my thoughts and opinions matter and that my voice is always heard.

What has been the most defining point in your career to date?

Moving to Mazars Transaction Services from external audit at RSM was genuinely a leap of faith. I think this was the first of numerous instances where I’ve thrown myself right out of my comfort zone and hoped for the best. Each time I’ve done this the results have been so positive – I think we can all be guilty of allocating ourselves inherent limitations that probably don’t exist.

 What does leadership mean to you? And what makes you a good leader at Mazars?

I think a great leader is a role model who inspires others. I’ve admired certain qualities in others throughout my career and tried to emulate certain skills and traits I have been impressed by.

I think a good leader recognises the differences in individuals and is able to adapt their approach to their team’s development based on this. I think it’s important to recognise that a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work.

I hope to lead by these rules in the future and to be a leader that encourages challenge and free-thinking. I see the personality diversity we have in our team and how well that works – disagreements and challenges are constant but it’s all done in a supportive and inclusive manner – everyone’s voice counts.

What advice would you give to other women for progressing at Mazars?

Look forward instead of around. Focus on the positives and enjoy the job – ambition and drive should feed from this.

Be yourself in order to build genuine, solid relationships. My obsession with aliens and conspiracy theories may sound odd but has given our team plenty of hours of entertainment!

And don’t be afraid of failure – everything happens for a reason!

What can be done to achieve gender parity at Mazars?

There is also definitely work to be done on a social scale in order to support women returning to work after maternity leave given the increasing disparity in more senior roles. Hopefully the full effect of initiatives like shared parental leave etc. will be felt in the near future. Ultimately I think we all have a collective responsibility to ensure that diversity remains on the agenda and that where possible we do our bit to support this. Some of the most rewarding women’s events I’ve been to have been attended by a number of men also – maybe this is something that could be encouraged more.

Thanks to Hayley for sharing her journey with us.

Check back next week for another segment of #WomenAtMazars.

#WomenAtMazars: Beth Dodson-Wells

 

Celebrating #WomenAtMazars

36227 WomenAtMazars Linkedin cards_Beth Dodson-Wells

Next in our Celebrating #WomenAtMazars series, we’re speaking to Beth Dodson-Wells, Director of Talent Acquisition and Development in the UK.

Don’t forget to catch up with the previous interviews in this series with:

Tell us about your journey to and within Mazars?

I started my career in HR working at NatWest head office and then Woolworth PLC and joined Mazars in 2003. I’ve had a variety of roles at Mazars, from HR Manager for what was then the Chilterns region, and being the HR advisor to the OMB Board, to projects such as implementing the HR system and project managing the offshoring of HR Services to our team in Delhi. I am now the lead on Talent Acquisition and Development.

What have been the enablers that have helped you get to where you are today?

A very supportive family, a willingness to work hard and learn and resilience.

Over your career who have been the people that have mentored or sponsored you? Why and how did they have an impact?

I’ve had a number of informal sponsors and mentors in my career. The best are encouraging but also challenging. I’ve learned that the best support doesn’t have to come from formal mentors or people more senior than you. Be open to learning from anyone. I learn from my team all the time and friends and colleagues like Fiona Revell – who is always supportive and helpful. My family keep me on the straight and narrow – helping me keeping things in perspective and giving me that all important balance.

Has Mazars been able to accommodate for your needs?

Six years ago we adopted two boys – I took a full year off (we needed it) and came back part time. This gave me an opportunity to do something different and develop new skills, both at home and work! I’ve been agile working ever since and work full time now.  I am trusted and supported at Mazars to manage my time as I need to. I’m very proud to be an adoptive mum and proud that I’m still developing myself at work at the same time.

How would others describe you at work?

Honest and approachable and usually have a smile on my face. Prepared to admit when I’m wrong. Having high standards and expectations of myself and others. Always looking to learn.

What advice would you give to other women for growing and progressing in this organisation/starting their careers?

Learn from as many people as you can, look for opportunities and be really proactive about your development. Be yourself.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?  What would you do differently?

Get some international experience early on, take a few more risks, be really single minded about your development.

 

Thanks to Beth for sharing her journey with us.

Make sure that you come back to the Mazars blog each week to hear from more inspirational #WomenAtMazars.