Reflecting back on my career whilst we’re in the middle of the Brexit negotiations is quite poignant, because it reminds me that some of my earliest career choices were made at the time when the UK was preparing to go into the Single Market. I studied French and German at University and when I was thinking about what to do afterwards, I decided that gaining a qualification at a large firm with European offices would mean that I would be able to put my language skills to good use and possibly even live in Europe. Another part of my decision was wanting to follow a university boyfriend to the East Midlands, and the large number of accountancy firms based there made them an attractive proposition.
Things didn’t quite go as planned from those early decision points. The university boyfriend and I parted company before I even started work, but once I’d started at PwC, I could see a world of opportunities open up and always grasped those whenever they came my way. I did take early advantage of the firm’s international network, and after qualification went on a secondment overseas. But by then, I was making decisions with my (now) husband, and for him English speaking territories were more appealing, so we moved to New Zealand for 2 years, which is a part of our lives that we both will always cherish.
We returned to the UK in 1996, and although to the outside world I’ve only had one ‘job,’ I’ve done so many different things in PwC that have provided me with a wealth of roles and experiences. Some of the most challenging are also the ones you learn from the most and the years I spent in our capital markets team in London probably fall into that category. Fast paced, challenging deadlines, high profile transactions but a real chance to demonstrate all the qualities of leadership that took me through to Partner.
I’ve worked with businesses of all shapes and sizes and across many different sectors, but have always been curious to understand the business and to get to know the people, so that variety of day to day experience is probably the one thing that I love most about the job and is a key part of my role as regional leader for Wales and the West Country.
Undoubtedly there have been challenges along the way and some of those have been around being a women in business. Society has changed so much though in my time at work - young women at work today laugh when I tell them that I was really nervous about the first time I wore trousers in the office! I was already a senior manager and was worried what the senior partner might say if he saw me that day! But on a more serious level, progressing my career while having 3 children has certainly been interesting at times. When I had my first child in 2001, I returned to work 3 days a week and in a business unit of 500 people was one of only 3 working mothers.
I certainly experienced situations where partners were reluctant to put me on client assignments due to my part time arrangements, and it took some time of demonstrating how I was able to juggle my commitments to convince them that the arrangements would work. I’ve also of course experienced some of things that can hold women back in the workplace - both learning to develop my own skills and confidence but also challenging the perceptions of some men.
But ever since I first got involved in our Women’s Network in 2002, I’ve been convinced that PwC as an organisation have been determined to lead the way on creating a working environment where women can flourish and achieve success at the very highest levels in the firm.
In recent years I’ve also got involved in a number of external networks to PwC - I’m on the CBI Council for Wales and TheCity UK’s chair for Cardiff. I’m also hugely proud to be the Prince of Wales Ambassador for Responsible Business in the South West
One piece of advice I give to younger women is to think about opportunities to get involved in things outside work - whether school governor, local charities - all these not only of course can be really rewarding in their own right but they also hone skills that are really valuable in the workplace and give broader perspective outside the “day job”.
So, if I go back to the 22 year-old at the top of the page thinking about career options, I would never have believed that I was embarking on a journey that would take me to where I am today. And what I do now know is that there will be some other interesting stops along the way before the journey is done. I’ve always been eager to try new things and to explore opportunities and these are the key qualities that I encourage all people at the start of their own journeys to show….. And the destination will become clearer along the way!