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Accounting is sexy, and I’m here to prove that

This one-time fairy performer, Lauren Thiel, has merged all her life loves into her accounting career: creativity, finance, and independence.

My Story Katarina Taurian 27 March 2019
— 6 minute read

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

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My first job was as a fairy. I have always loved performing and this job was as a character suit minder, dressed as a magical fairy. It was simply the best job ever. Once I realised I did not have the risk appetite to pursue a full-time career in the performing arts, I decided to study Tourism and Event Management. I worked at R.M.Williams, where my dad was the COO, while I was studying, and then to get relevant experience, I moved on to an events management role at the Inglewood Inn.

I kept dancing all the while, and this led me to meeting Craig Egan, head of Adelaide Comedy. I worked with him casually on emails and spreadsheets, and help to set up his Xero file. This is when I discovered a love of accounting and an appreciation of the life-changing positive impact our skills can have on small business. I signed up to study Commerce, got myself a Vacationer and then Graduate role with KPMG Adelaide (audit).

I simultaneously started my own practice (‘side hustle’) called “The Real Thiel” which focused on bookkeeping for creative small business owners. Before long, I realised while I loved the industry, but audit wasn’t for me. I got a job in Business Development and Investor Relations at Duxton Capital (Australia), and discovered my EQ, passion for people, and selling abilities.

My side hustle grew to the point where I signed up with Accodex; they provide me a network of support, back-end software, education, motivation, and a whole lot of encouragement. They make me look good! I now dedicate a full day each week to this, and the other four days to Duxton. I love what I do, the people I work with, and the clients I get to help.

What personal wins and struggles have impacted your career?

I have struggled to face the reality that one simply does not graduate and instantly get to ‘run the show’. I am a very driven, intelligent and motivated woman, so I get frustrated when things (or people) are not working in the way I believe they should. I have had to learn patience, how to listen, how to work with others... These are all really important lessons for me and I know they will make me a better leader for when I do get to run the show myself.

I also failed the first tax exam for CA, which was embarrassing and totally my fault for not putting in the effort initially. I am proud to say I learned that lesson too and eventually attained my Chartered Accounting membership and qualification. From a business perspective I am proud to say my company has grown five times over this last financial year in terms of revenue! That is a huge win for me! Also, from everything I can tell, my clients like me and what I do... and in the end, that is what matters.

I have an extremely encouraging family who have instilled in me a lot of confidence – this has aided me since I was very young to know that if I set to my mind to something I can achieve it. I have a very understanding partner who knows I have to work late nights and travel and that my brain is constantly running at a million miles per hour. I struggle to relax. I do not know what balance is, only work/life integration. He has been exceptionally understanding, encouraging and motivating for me and my business.

I have also been very lucky in terms of the people I have worked with and for, on the most part. Craig Egan in the early days let me see the inner workings of his business, and learn the ropes in a really hands on way. This is invaluable – you just don't learn that stuff at university. My co-founder of Bey Dance (a dance school I used to own/run) trusted me with the finances of our company, and this gave me my first real experience of being an entrepreneur, employing people, managing work and time across multiple states.

My team and boss at KPMG pushed me to be the best I could be, and taught me the value of hard work and time management... they also showed me what life can be like when you work in the big end of town. We work hard and we play hard. They always made sure their staff were well recognised, rewarded, inspired and that their career development was a high priority. I hope to be like them and to run a loving, caring, high-performance firm like they do one day.

My current boss, Ed Peter, is an exceptionally visionary, inspiring leader and a wonderful honest man. He has taught me about the value of honesty, having a fail-safe environment for encouraging innovation and growth, and of recognising individuals strengths. He saw something in me that I didn't know about myself, and fostered those skills to his and the team/business' benefit.

Were your salary expectations realistic when you started out?

LOL. I was paid well and fairly for my graduate position, however because of my inflated sense of self and my misconception of what ‘full-time’ work might pay, this did not meet my initial expectation.

I don't think anyone gets paid what they would like to get paid until they are maybe 5 or more years into their career, or if they run their own business/buy in to being a partner. I think we need more bonus/commission/equity-based compensation plans available to align interests, motivate staff, and allow people to be more in control of their pay.

What advice would you give your graduate self?

Chill out. You are not as old as you think (I graduated at 23). You will be recognised, rewarded and your career will progress. You will find (/make) your place in the world. Find your purpose, and proceed with confidence. But don't get cocky.

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

I think we need a super cool, fresh, fun, personality to represent for our industry. We have Steve Jobs for technology, we have Beyonce for music, we have Elon Musk for science and space, we have Michael Jordan for sport... we have no one to encourage young people to study math and business, to want to be accountants.

People still perceive us as boring, straight, difficult to understand and too expensive. We literally speak the language of money, and have a skill set that every single human being and business on the planet can get value from. How is accounting not sexy? Together with other we have the ability to change the world for the better; we can provide others with the data, info, budgets, forecasts, structural advice etc so they can make it happen!

Is your job fun?

Some days! Most days. Some days I get a difficult client or a challenging accounting problem, but if I didn't have that then I would get bored. The tough days make me better! I basically have two jobs now – Duxton and The Real Thiel.

The Duxton job is awesome because I am constantly learning news things about the finance industry, equity markets, agriculture etc. This job has literally taken me around the world, more than once, so that is pretty cool! I also get to meet some very successful people which is a unique opportunity.

The Real Thiel is fun mostly because it's my baby – I get to make the decisions, I am in control of my workflow and ultimately, the buck stops with me. It is really motivating to know that what I produce is helping another small business owner to gain more confidence in their financial position and the future of their business. Also, being an accountant for creatives means my clients are super cool and fun – I have photographers, designers, venue managers, performers, personal trainers, hairdressers and even a donut food truck!

Does your job look like what you expected it to?

Absolutely not. I thought I would be working in KPMG New York office, wearing $300+ shoes, going to fancy dinners but working 15 hours a day. I am thankful my job doesn't look like this, but I do know this is reality for a lot of big four accountants.

What is your favourite part of your work?

My clients. I love that what I do makes someone else feel more in control, that they know what is going on in their world and finances.

 

Accounting is sexy, and I’m here to prove that
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