To celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th, this week we will be bringing you a series of guest blogs from leading senior females in Accounting & Finance across Commerce and Industry. They will be discussing their success, career defining moments and what advice they would give to another female looking to pursue a similar career. This is what Alison General Manager, Operations Finance at Scentre Group, had to say.
Alison Flemming is currently the General Manager, Operations Finance for Scentre Group (owner and operator of Westfield Shopping Centres in Australia and New Zealand). In this role Alison manages a team over of over 50 staff in Leasing, Operations, Facilities, Car Park, Media and Marketing Finance.
Alison commenced her career at PwC before going on to spend the next 15 years working in Commercial Finance roles for corporates, before joining Westfield (now Scentre Group) in 2008. She initially joined the Finance team before accepting an operational role in 2010. During that time she managed a number of Assets in the NSW portfolio and was most recently Regional Manager, looking after 5 large Assets in the Western Sydney region. In this senior operational role, Alison led a team of over 160 people to help 1600 retailers successfully transact with 85 million customer visits annually.
What would be the key things that allowed you to get to where you are today, and what do you attribute your success to?
- I feel very fortunate to have been presented with some amazing opportunities right throughout my career, but I think it’s that I’ve worked really hard to make the most of each and every one of those opportunities that has helped me get to where I am today. In all my Accounting & Finance positions, I’ve always made sure I have a thorough understanding of the operating business I’m working in and I know that’s played a key role in me being able to have commercial conversations and a seat at the table in strategic decision making. I think knowing the business is fundamental, but it’s something I constantly see people over look. Focusing on just being good at the numbers will only get you so far. Being good at the numbers AND being able to apply them to business situations is a much more valuable proposition.
- Secondly, I really love working with and developing people. I’ve been helped and supported by some great leaders in the past and I try and have the same impact on the people that work for me. People are capable of some pretty amazing things if they have the right support and work environment. I love figuring out what people need to thrive, creating that environment for them and then watching them shine. Their success is my success and it’s so much fun watching them achieve.
- Thirdly, I’ve never been afraid to ask questions and say that I don’t know something. I’m incredibly curious and I believe that there are no dumb questions, just lots of opportunities to learn something new. I’ve never been too proud to ask if I don’t know something or if I need more information and I’m sure that’s how I’ve managed to learn so much about all the businesses and industries I’ve worked in.
Have there been any career defining moments or lessons?
A few years ago I had the opportunity to move into a leadership role within our Operating Business. It was a big test of my leadership skills, and it forced me to realise I’d relied so heavily on my technical skills up to that point in my career. I went from leading a team of accounting professionals to leading a team made up of people with very diverse backgrounds. I had to think a lot harder about what would motivate each individual and then work with them in that way. I think this has made me a better leader and I’m much more focused on treating my team as people rather than employees as a result. The more you give your people, the more you get from them… and everyone wins.
What advice would you give to other ambitious females looking to pursue a career in Accounting & Finance?
Say yes and figure it out later. When opportunities come up, grab them with both hands and lean in. Don’t spend time wondering why an opportunity has come about, just make the most of it and show people that you deserved it. Seek out mentors, be genuinely open to feedback and always self-reflect on what could be done differently or better the next time. Lastly, it’s really important to have fun along the way. We spend so much time at work and life is too short not to enjoy what you do. Absolutely work hard, but have some fun and create some great memories too.
Celebrate International Women's Day with us