Today is International Women’s Day, and to show our support for this year’s theme; #PressforProgress; we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women from across Mazars.
Over the coming weeks, we’re going to be hearing from women in the firm about their careers, how they’ve progressed and what they’ve learnt along the way.
In our first interview in this series, we’re speaking to Helen Parker, a Director in the Entrepreneurial services team in London. She shared with us her career path at Mazars – from joining the firm as an audit trainee to her current role as a director.
Keep reading to hear how her grandmother’s words influenced and guided her, the mentors who’ve supported and encouraged her and how moving to Dublin to work with the global team on the EB strategy and Optimize programme has been a defining point in her career.
Let’s start with your career journey, can you tell us how you got started at Mazars and how you’ve progressed in the firm?
I did a BSC in Geography at Kings College London so not really connected to accounting. I realised that geography didn’t have much practical application to the working world and so I did an MSc in International Business and Management at Manchester University.
I joined Mazars as an Audit trainee in 2006 which was my first job after leaving university. I worked in the Audit department for eight years, where I progressed to Senior Manager.In March 2015, I went on a secondment as Project Management Officer (PMO) for the Head of Owner Managed Business.
In March 2016, I made the move to Dublin to work on the development of the Optimize programme – the first global bespoke programme in Mazars’ history. The programme is designed to help our EB clients identify all of the actions that they need to take in order to improve their performance and enhance the long term value of their business. As part of my global role, I am the PMO for Optimize training and delivery and this has taken me to Berlin, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, New York (three times) and Dublin to give training workshops.
In March 2017 I was promoted to Director and it was also at this time that we launched the pilot phase of Optimize in the UK. A few months later in June I moved back to UK, still as PMO, but to the now Entrepreneurial Businesses strategic market segment and with Gareth Jones now as the UK Head. I came back to UK to work more closely with Gareth on rolling out and embedding Optimize across our 13 EB offices. This involved lots of training – in total I have given training to over 300 people across Mazars globally.
Due to the success of the pilot, we are now rolling out Optimize in another eight countries and further developing the product offering. So at the start of February 2018, I moved back to Dublin so that Joe and I could work together on the development of Optimize 2.0. It is expected that I will be here for about six months.
What have been the enablers that have helped you get to where you are today?
My grandma was a very intelligent woman and was always frustrated that she grew up in a time that didn’t afford women the rights that we have now. She repeatedly told my sister and I that as women we ‘can do whatever you want to do’ and emphasised how lucky we were to have been born in a time when women have more opportunities.
My sister and I often reflect on the influence that her frequent sermons had on us – we are both head strong and career driven and we believe we have her to thank.
Where does your motivation come from?
My father worked for many years in the corporate world and in the last 15 years he and my two brothers have worked in the family business.
This has meant that business has always been at the forefront of family discussions – especially around the dinner table. And so I have grown up listening to the challenges, issues, operations etc. of businesses in the EB sector first hand.
The reason I love working in the EB sector and more specifically on Optimize is that we are making a tangible difference to privately owned businesses and the families who work in them.
Over the course of your career, who have been the people that have mentored you?
I will always be thankful to Jon Seaman and Neale Bussey in the London Audit department. Both had seen the advertisement for the PMO role back in February 2015 and encouraged me to apply. Both thought that it would play to my strengths and interests, which at the time were client relations, project management and BD – either that or they were trying to get rid of me in the Audit department!
Dave Smithson selected me for the PMO role and subsequently felt that I would benefit from doing a stint abroad – it was thanks to his encouragement that I ended up working with Joe Carr in Dublin.
Joe is a fantastic person to work with and he has an amazing mind – it has been an absolute privilege to have access to his thinking for the last two years.
And finally Gareth Jones who has been my UK ‘boss’ for the last 1.5 years. I think we make a good team and he has been really supportive along the way – especially with my move back to Dublin. I would argue whether he is my boss though!
What has been the most defining point in your career to date?
Moving to Dublin to work with the global team. What I have learned in the space of two years eclipses everything I have ever learned before.
I will always be thankful for the opportunity to work on such an exciting and innovative project and to work with such a great team of people from across so many of the Mazars countries. And Dublin is such an amazing city.
How would others describe you at work?
According to some of the people I asked, they said they’d describe me as:
What advice would you give to other women for growing and progressing at Mazars?
I firmly believe that we are all in control of our own careers and if you want something then you have to make it happen. I have never been held back by my gender and I have been incredibly lucky at Mazars that I have got most things that I have pushed for (within reason!)
The only area where I think we need to improve is I frequently sit in meetings where people refer to partners as ‘he’ and clients as ‘he’. I am on the warpath when it comes to this and immediately shout out ‘or she’ to correct people. I can see its starting to work which is good.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?
I’d spend less time being upset when I didn’t get my A Level grades.
Finally, as its International Women’s Day and 100 years of women’s suffrage, what are your thoughts as to how everyone (society more broadly) can do to #PressforProgress to achieve gender parity?
We have to be vocal, empowering and supportive – women of all ages need to be reminded that they can do whatever they want to do.
I have started this with my two baby nieces so fingers crossed it works.