Guest Blog - Women in Accounting & Finance: Terese Wood, Westpac

Dominic Bareham 07.03.2019

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 Terese Wood from Westpac had to say.

terese_wood_westpac2.pngProfile:

Terese joined Westpac as Head of Finance Westpac Retail & Premium in August 2018. She leads a team of finance professionals and provides end to end business performance and productivity insights, Advice and Solutions to the Group GM Westpac Consumer and leadership team.

Prior to joining Westpac Terese held senior roles across other leading Financial Services organisations. This included various CFO roles at Insurance Australia Group and CFO and EGM Claims roles at Suncorp.

Terese commenced her career as trainee graduate at Coopers & Lybrand in Perth, Western Australia working part-time whilst studying for a full-time Commerce degree. She then completed her Professional Year and became a Chartered Accountant as soon she finished her degree. She is the mother of two teenage wonderful girls and loves being very active including playing and umpiring netball, attending the gym, running and snow sports. She has also recently taken up cycling and will complete the Westpac Tour deCure in early March 2019.  

What are the key habits that you feel make you successful?

First of all its important to look after yourself- if you aren’t in the best of health both physically and mentally you can’t possibly be at your best. Wellness is very important and having a sense of balance between your work and personal life. I like to exercise pretty much every day and it keeps my head clear and I feel ready to take on any challenge.

Be curious and always think about what’s possible rather than why things can’t be done.

Have Fun – This is critical because life can be too serious sometimes and if you are not having a laugh along the way then your time at work and out of work can wear you down. If by chance this is a constant then it may be time for a change!!

Good listening skills are vital- this is something I have had to work on a lot and continue to work on. Instead of getting caught up in your busy world take time to sit and listen to other people’s perspective and sometimes just be there for your team, colleagues and friends.

Fail fast – try new things and take risks but don’t let things fester.

What's the most valuable piece of advice you have received in your career and how did it help you?

Early in my career, I was told to be brave and even though I didn’t think I would be successful in obtaining a certain role to at least put my hand up. I did think that other colleagues had more experience than me in the organisation and that there would be very little chance of me being given a go. Thankfully I took the advice and actually was successful in being appointed into this role and it was a role that I did for over 4 years – it was challenging but I like to challenge myself and if I am at the point when I stop learning then its time to move into another role.

The other piece of advice is how incredibly important it is to have a coach or a mentor or just someone to speak to during your career to test things out and tell you things from their perspective. Don’t underestimate how very useful they can be particularly when there are challenging situations and you are not quite sure how to deal with certain challenges.

What's the most challenging situation you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

I do believe that the hardest time was when I was made redundant. There was a natural feeling of failure and also a loss in that it was a company and a role that I admired a lot and had made many friends in the organisation. When you are fully invested in a role and all of a sudden this is taken away it can be difficult to adapt to this.  Jobs are no longer for life now and this is very likely to happen to many of us in our career. In terms of how I responded – I actually took a break, had a holiday and had the opportunity to be around more for my daughters- one of whom was studying her HSC. After a short period of time (about 4 months), I then took the time to reflect on my career and to understand what sort of role I wanted in the future and reached out to a number of people who I had as either coaches or mentors, most of whom were informal to also seek their advice. It certainly can be mentally difficult, as there can be lots of ups and downs during this process but it is important to keep reinforcing to yourself your own self worth and abilities.   

How do you approach making a difficult decision?

For me it’s making sure I have enough of the facts as possible, even in ambiguous situations, understanding the “ for’s ” and “ against “ arguments, thinking about it from all the different aspects, including how would this look if this was presented in the newspaper, and also seeking the opinion of key stakeholders to get their perspectives. At the end of the day sometimes we do make the wrong decisions and you need to take accountability for this but if you have approached it in the right way then you admit you were wrong, rectify the situation, process the key learnings and then move on.

What do you believe will be the most in-demand skills over the next 10 years within Accounting and Finance and why?

It quite possibly doesn’t exist now but I do believe that skills similar to that needed by a data scientist with a very commercial overlay will be invaluable.  A data scientist is someone who has extensive analytical data skills and can solve complex problems or have the ability to explore the problems that need to be solved. Overlay this with someone who has both extensive commercial and strategic acumen and I believe this will be in high demand in the future.

I think the other skill or discipline is around the resilience to changing environments and abstract learning will be crucial.

Join in on the conversation on Twitter for this years' International Women's Day using the hashtag #BalanceforBetter

Dominic Bareham's picture
Director
dbareham@morganmckinley.com.au