Stand out and succeed: Leadership tips for Accounting & Finance - Yvonne Martins
As part of our ongoing commitment to our specialist communities, we interview accomplished leaders on a monthly basis to bring you insights on their career progression and advice that will help you progress your career further.
Yvonne Martins is a senior finance professional with over 25 years’ experience, specialising in finance and tax. Yvonne began her career as a tax graduate with the Big 4 and then ventured out into industry to broaden her skillset.
Yvonne has held senior finance roles in various industries, ranging from healthcare, infrastructure and utilities, and currently is CFO of an IT consultancy business. Yvonne is a Chartered Accountant, holds a Masters in Tax and has completed the Australian Institute of Company Directors course.
1. What factors do you think have been critical to the success you have achieved in your career?
There have been several factors critical to the success I have achieved in my career. The two key ones I want to share are:
- Entering the workforce as part of the cadetship program with Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC) provided me with the opportunity to work and study part time, which improved my time management skills and reinforced my enjoyment in the field of tax (if anyone can say that!).
- Working with great leaders that provided a safe environment to continuously learn and grow in my roles and provided great experiences that challenged me. I really felt that these situations provided me with the best opportunity to grow professionally, especially when I left the profession and was broadening out beyond my tax technical expertise.
2. What's the most valuable piece of advice you have received in your career and how did it help you?
There are so many valuable nuggets of gold that have helped me in my career progression that I will treasure and never forget.
The most important one is we are all leaders in our lives, so if something is bothering you, think like a leader. This helps me when I get stuck on something that is bugging me, to think and act like a leader, think of different perspectives and find a solution to the issue at hand.
Another one, which is quite cliche, is to back yourself. Whilst you may not have had the prior experience, the opportunity that has presented is there for you to embrace. Believe in yourself that you will be able to achieve whatever is coming your way.
Also another valuable piece of advice that I preach to my children and also try and practise myself is the three C’s - connect, contribute, create. Find moments everyday to connect with someone and always make a positive contribution. By combining this connection and making a positive contribution, you will have created a positive outcome in your everyday way of life.
Finally, a piece of advice that has helped me and draws on my many years as a consultant to other businesses is that a great business consultant can come into any business and within 3 months should be able to identify the business drivers and what are the critical business issues. So the advice here that I tell myself is to continue to be that ‘great business consultant’ in any job I hold - elevate my thought process to start with the helicopter view and then dive deeper into the business issues.
3. What's the most challenging situation you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
I’ve been fortunate that any challenging situation I have faced in a work environment has been overcome thanks to being surrounded by a great team, and I have learnt not to be afraid of leaning on them during challenging times.
One challenge I have felt myself is the many setbacks faced when transitioning beyond a tax specialist and going for interviews for broader finance roles. People were quick to judge the tax technical function as a subject matter expert and give reasons why I was not CFO ready, given my lack of breadth of experience in other finance functions such as FP&A and commercial finance. I took that feedback and tried to get as many finance experiences as possible to bolster out my skill set.
4. If you were starting your career now, what would you do differently?
There are probably two key things I would do differently if starting my career now.
I would do an overseas exchange prior to starting a family. I remember finishing the Chartered Accountancy program (called the Professional Year back in the day) and seeing all my colleagues jet over to the UK or USA whilst I stayed in Sydney. I finally decided to go abroad and worked in New York, but had to make some difficult sacrifices and one of those was being away from my three kids during part of that exchange. I constantly tell my three teenage boys now to go and study abroad or find an opportunity to work overseas in the earlier years of their careers.
The second thing I would do differently is do a rotation in another service line whilst working at a Big 4 firm. I joined as a tax graduate and continued to deepen my tax specialist which I enjoyed, but I never exploited the opportunities within Big 4 to rotate into another service line before deciding to go out into industry.