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 and Finance. 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 Olivia Ho, General Manager of Finance at Macquarie Telecom, had to say.
Profile: Olivia is the GM of Finance at Macquarie Telecom with responsibilities covering end-to-end finance including financial control, forecasting and performance reporting, tax, accounts payable and receivable and payroll. She has a career spanning over 20 years in both Australia and the UK primarily in the financial services sector where she has held senior finance positions in the Commonwealth Bank, Rothschild and Barclays Bank.
What are the key habits that you feel make you successful?
- Starting my day with a positive attitude. As a leader this positive energy filters down to my team and is the key to success during challenging periods or when you need to drive out change.
- I do a lot of running and regularly enter half marathon races trying to break that elusive PB, so regular exercise is a key habit of mine that keeps me healthy and is a way to relieve stress. I often find I use a run as my thinking time to solve problems.
- Lastly, I regularly “Stop and reflect” by asking myself ‘What did I do well? What could I have done differently? Reflection helps with growth and development and I often ask my team these questions as part of their performance and development.
What's the most valuable piece of advice you have received in your career and how did it help you?
My early career was spent being “good at doing the doing” and I gained a lot of experience by being thrown in the deep-end of roles. It meant I had lots of experience but had never managed a team. I also didn’t even know if I wanted to be a leader or whether I would make a great manager.
When I returned to Sydney after an extended period in London, I spent some time working for a senior executive who first taught me how you build a team from the bottom up and then backed me into my first management role leading a team of 10. This opportunity led me to completely change course in my career to seek out leadership roles. I found I enjoyed leading a team of people, getting to see individuals grow and reach their full potential is very rewarding. For a person that likes to be a high achiever, the ability to achieve when you lead a team is multiplied.
This same mentor gave some great leadership advice that I continue to use:
- Stay positive;
- You can never over-communicate;
- Culture is built from the bottom up; and
- Trust your team, they will surprise you if you empower them.
The last piece of advice resonated with me and was an important lesson for someone that has always gotten their hands dirty and needs to step back and let their team do the work.
What's the most challenging situation you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
I had recently taken over a team that was involved in a large system integration. The project had not gone well and even though the financials hadn’t successfully been tested, a decision to go ahead on the next scheduled migration date was made.
Post-migration the full extent of the migration issues started to become evident and the clean-up exercise would require a lot of work over an extended period. I had 2 choices, join everyone else in complaining or take a positive approach in making sure we got through the challenge with a smile.
I implemented 2 changes, first my team and I met on a daily basis and second, I had a rule where we were not allowed to say the project name unless we had the word fun in the same sentence.
These 2 changes ensured we started each day with a positive mindset and created an agile approach to the project. It took over 6 months of long hours and weekends to rectify all the migration issues but we were still smiling at the end.
How do you approach making a difficult decision?
Don’t make a difficult decision blind and be prepared to get it wrong.
Before making a difficult decision, I will do as much research as possible which normally involves asking others for their opinion, I’m trying to get a different perspective other than your own which will either re-affirm what I’m planning on doing or offer a different point of view.
You also need to be prepared to get it wrong. Getting it wrong is sometimes a bit hard to swallow, but it’s also the times when you learn the most.
What do you believe will be the most in-demand skills over the next 10 years within Accounting and Finance and why?
Many companies have legacy systems and manual processes that have not kept up with the pace of change in technology. These organisations are facing tough competition and shrinking margins. To overcome these challenges, organisations will be looking for people with strong change management skills and the ability to communicate with varying stakeholders to drive out the necessary change.
These skills will become more important than the typical skills of a finance professional and we may find people strong in data analytics and machine learning working along aside statutory and tax professionals with fewer data entry roles.
Join in on the conversation on Twitter for this years' International Women's Day using the hashtag #BalanceforBetter