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From the Hungry Cowboy to Deloitte: How this accountant dealt with career curveballs

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From the Hungry Cowboy to Deloitte: How this accountant dealt with career curveballs

A career in accounting for Deloitte partner Liz Westover has involved some personal and professional curveballs, but her passions and frustrations have landed her in a fulfilling role in Melbourne. 

My Story Katarina Taurian 27 March 2019
— 2 minute read

Where did you start your working life and where are you at now?

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My first part-time job while I was at school was at a fast food joint on George Street, Sydney called “The Hungry Cowboy” (yes, we had to wear cowboy hats).

I am now a partner and national SMSF leader at Deloitte Australia based in Melbourne.

What personal wins and struggles have impacted your career?

I was a mature age student and graduate. My daughter was three months old when I started my undergraduate degree and I had two young kids by the time I commenced work six years later as a graduate in a mid-tier accounting firm in Sydney. My husband and I divorced early in my accounting career (in the middle of my Professional Year (PY)), so most of my career was as a single mum. I was lucky I had a very supportive boss in that first role who believed family always came first. He was also the person who encouraged me to specialise in an area within accounting – I chose superannuation.

Were your salary expectations realistic when you started out?

I’m not sure I had any great salary expectations when I started – I was just happy someone was prepared to take a chance on a mature age graduate. However, as my career progressed, I was prepared to back myself on my value and worth. It’s not always a comfortable conversation talking about money, but if you know what you are worth and you are realistic, you are far more likely to get a better outcome.

What advice would you give your graduate self?

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Grab every opportunity when it comes along including creating your own opportunities. Build and nurture your networks from the beginning. It’s been amazing watching the careers of people I know and the roles they have now – great connections to have!

If you could change one thing about the accounting profession, what would it be?

I was always frustrated by the focus on technical skills and lack of focus on other skills early in my career. Generally, you would be promoted on your technical skills, yet were given no training or experience in terms of managing people and undertaking business development. So it’s great to see this is changing. Deloitte Australia has a strong culture of providing such support for all staff members and sharing the experiences within the team so everyone has the chance to have a go and learn from each other’s successes and failures.

Is your job fun?

I’ve only recently joined Deloitte Australia, but I already enjoy the people and the work environment. More broadly, I love being part of the SMSF community. I get to work with some wonderful people who operate in a very collegial way, and many of them I consider to be good friends.

Does your job look like what you expected it to?

Yes it does, but there are always daily challenges and curveballs, which is actually what I like about it.

From a career perspective, I didn’t know what superannuation was when I started my first accounting job! However, the more exposure I had, the more I enjoyed it. By the time my first boss suggested I find something to specialise in, superannuation and SMSFs was an easy choice. I think the message there is keep an open mind about where your career may lead you. Find what you enjoy, look for the opportunities and don’t be afraid to explore them.

What is your favourite part of your work?

I really enjoy being part of the advancement and development of my industry. I can engage with the regulators, government and Treasury to provide feedback and input on the direction of the industry. It’s great being part of the solution rather than just sitting back and accepting what is.

Visit Finni for more accounting career tips and advice.

From the Hungry Cowboy to Deloitte: How this accountant dealt with career curveballs
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