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. 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 Carla Webb-Sear, Group General Manager at Fairfax Media, had to say.
Carla is currently the Group General Manager of Finance at Fairfax Media. Starting her career at PwC, Carla spent 10 years with the firm progressing to Senior Manager, before moving to EMI Music as Financial Controller. In 2007, Carla joined Fairfax Media as Group Financial Controller, looking after the consolidated financial results for the business. She moved into a more commercially-focused role as Finance Director looking after Fairfax’s metropolitan and regional publishing and printing businesses, before being promoted into her current position with responsibilities spanning financial control, finance operations, procurement and M&A activity.
What factors do you think have been critical to the success you have achieved in your career?
"• Seize opportunities – I’ve challenged myself to do things outside my comfort zone and realise the advantages of any environment I’ve been in so as to get as diverse an experience as possible. Sometimes opportunities have been sought out and other times I’ve been asked.
• Find an environment that works to your strengths – a company’s culture and management can set you up to thrive. I’ve now worked with two companies for over 10 years. Considering the size of organisation and the pace of change that works for you is important.
• Invest in developing those around you – use your leadership position to help others progress in their careers. It benefits both the individual and keeps you focused on what’s important as a leader."
What initiatives have you experienced within an organisation that you believe have helped you?
"Working in larger organisations has given me the opportunity to move around the same group as well as move countries. From starting my career in Adelaide, PwC provided me with secondments to New York, Sydney and London. Fairfax Media has allowed me to move from Corporate roles working on two public listings and many cross-functional projects to take on a divisional role as a driver of the company-wide transformation program. I believe the ability to maintain a strong network within a large organisation allows you to be involved in a lot of interesting and challenging projects, allowing you to further build your skills, expertise and gain a variety of perspectives.
I have also been given the opportunity to work with an executive coach. This was a good experience to help me understand myself better and focus on the type of leader I wanted to be during a time of significant complexity and change."
Can you highlight any career defining moments?
• A number of years ago, changes in management provided me with an opportunity to take on Investor Relations. While it was an area that required me to very quickly get up to speed and not afford many mistakes (at least publically), it turned into a great opportunity to stretch my skills and challenge myself. It provided me a renewed confidence in backing in my abilities.
• When it came time for me to take maternity leave a few years ago I was enjoying being both a new mum and wanting to stay engaged at work. While initially I think people found bringing a sleeping baby into meetings a bit unconventional, it felt very normal to me. A flexible manager and understanding work environment helped make it possible for me to take on a new role during a period when others had suggested I would need to put promotions on hold."
What advice would you share with females on how to progress their careers within Accounting & Finance?
"Be honest and comfortable with the fact that there is no right way to do work-life balance. What’s most important is staying true to what is important to your family and your own values – and it is a choice. This helps you make decisions around how fast you might want to progress and what types of roles you are willing to take on, as there will always be compromise needed somewhere along the journey.
Maintain a good network of likeminded people who are at different stages of their careers. You want to have some close enough to relate to you and others far enough ahead to motivate and inspire you."