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My surprising career in accounting started with $25k

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My surprising career in accounting started with $25k

From working at the local deli to starting her career on $25,000, Robyn Jacobson explains how her guiding love of tax and people has sustained her long and successful career in accounting.

My Story Reporter 27 March 2019
— 4 minute read

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

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My first part-time paid job was at the local delicatessen in Eltham. My first career role nearly 30 years ago was a holiday-intern during my Commerce degree, which became a full-time position following graduation, in the audit division at Arthur Andersen, Melbourne.

I then worked in a number of accounting firms – including BDO Nelson Parkhill and Boyd Partners – in business services, tax, superannuation and litigation support. In the late-1990s, I ran a series of GST seminars which led to me becoming a full-time professional tax trainer with Webb Martin in 2000. After 5 years with Webb Martin, I left and established my own tax training business, Cyntax Pty Ltd. As sole director, I led a team of quality tax trainers and writers delivering training sessions in the four Eastern states of Australia. In 2011, I sold my business to TaxBanter, where I continue to provide tax training to accounting firms and tax agents nationally.

My training role has expanded and now includes advocacy — including writing submissions and participating in consultations on tax policy with The Treasury and tax administration with the ATO — media interviews, and roles as editor of the Banter Blog and host of TaxBanter’s popular podcast Tax Yak. I am also a regular commentator on tax matters on LinkedIn and Twitter, with a broad following.

I sit on a number of committees of The Tax Institute and CPA Australia which allows me to give some of my time, drive and energy back to the profession that has given me so much.

What personal wins and struggles have impacted your career?

Without doubt, establishing and running my own business was one of the most significant and proudest periods in my career. There were challenging times, as there are for anyone who runs a small business. What allowed me to push past these challenges was a strong self-belief and open and honest professional judgment which I believe is important in any profession.

I have also had strong mentors over the years who I trusted and who supported, encouraged and believed in me. They provided me with counsel and the sounding boards which I believe were invaluable in my professional development.

Were your salary expectations realistic when you started out?

My starting salary was $25,000 p.a., the going rate for graduate accountants at the time. I knew that hard work and experience would eventually lead to greater work opportunities, promotions and salary increases, so I’d have to say yes. When I graduated in the early-1990s, the impact of the economic recession in Australia was also affecting accountancy roles, so I was fortunate to secure full-time work in what was then a challenging environment.

What advice would you give your graduate self?

  • Work hard.
  • Never stop learning.
  • Don’t be mediocre.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Aim for the top; don’t think you’ll achieve any less or you will do just that.
  • Maintain your dignity and integrity at all times.
  • Don’t burn bridges; the profession is small and you may just end up working with former colleagues in another workplace years later.

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

If I may be permitted two things:

1. I would like to see the professional bodies working more cohesively together, with more collegiality, to be a representative and united voice for the whole profession.

2. I would like to see more women in senior accounting and tax roles within the profession. While the gender balance is broadly equal at the junior levels, there is still a disparity at the senior levels.

Is my job fun?

I love my role. I have been passionate about tax and the delivery of practical, engaging and technical tax training sessions for more than 20 years. That passion is evident in each and every one of my in-house training and conference sessions. I love taking ‘the technical’ and explaining it in a fun, interactive way, so that practitioners walk away from my sessions with a better understanding of the issues. Client relationships are a big part of that enjoyment for me. Yes ... tax can be fun!

Does your job look like what you expected it to be?

Not at all. I was 15 years old when I decided I wanted to be a Chartered Accountant. I pursued that dream, and it became a reality. But I never imagined that all these years later, I would: be a full-time public speaker, in a senior training role, travel nationally, participate in high-level government consultations, chair committees of our professional bodies, engage regularly with the media and know that my technical commentary via various social media platforms is followed, shared and valued.

What is your favourite part of your work?

I enjoy the diversity of my role; it is always technically challenging and interesting due to the constantly evolving nature of tax law and policy, and I have many opportunities to ‘make a difference’ to the tax profession.

I enjoy giving something back to the profession in the form of government consultations and my various voluntary committees roles, including chairing CPA Australia’s Victorian Public Practice Committee and co-chairing The Tax Institute’s Victorian Women In Tax Committee.

I think it is important for all new professionals to have a mentor as they embark on their career, and if in any way I can assist or mentor those who wish to follow in my path, or carve their own, I happily oblige.

Finally, I work with wonderful colleagues at TaxBanter, and I am fortunate to have the support of many competent professionals who assist me and my fellow training colleagues deliver high-quality sessions. This ranges from the skilled writers who produce our technical content to our dedicated marketing and production teams who provide further support including the post-production of our regular blogs and podcasts.

 

My surprising career in accounting started with $25k
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