Why work abroad?

Aug 06, 2019
Five Chartered Accountants consider the benefits of working overseas and share their tips for those who wish to broaden their horizons.

Paul Murray

Title: Commercial Manager – Sales, Programming & Operations
Company: Seven Network
Location: Sydney, Australia

There are great personal development opportunities in multicultural nations such as Australia. I was fortunate enough to enter the market here at manager level thanks to my Big 4 background and extensive client exposure, something that wouldn’t usually happen in Ireland. Having started my career in Rugby Australia, I am now responsible for $1 billion in revenues and $500 million in costs at Seven Network, the most-watched free-to-air television network in Australia, and manage a team of seven women who all hail from different countries. The diversity in our team has really helped me develop from a people management perspective.

My top tip

Reach out to recruiters before you make the move abroad. This gets your name into the market and generates early opportunities. It also saves time, which is important as Sydney, in particular, is an expensive place to move to.

Sarah McEneaney

Title: Partner, Digital Talent
Company: PwC
Location: Chicago, US

I’ve spent my whole career living, working and travelling all over the world. I would encourage anyone to take advantage of these opportunities, whether they present themselves or you have to create them. Working with people from so many cultures, and navigating situations and solving problems – often as a “minority” – are skills that are difficult to acquire without living them. Working overseas can allow you to have impact at a global scale – my experience has truly borne that out. As PwC’s Digital Talent Leader in the US, I am responsible for future-proofing our workforce of 50,000 colleagues and considering the impact of technology on the firm’s people strategy.

My top tip

A professor of mine once said: “Beware of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that come along every single day”. I wish I had heard this sooner, but I’m becoming more judicious in what I say yes to and what I decline. Oh, and get more sleep – that’s the true magic for better work.

Caoimhe Toouli

Title: Partner, Audit and Assurance
Company: KPMG
Location: Sydney, Australia

I left Ireland in 2002, bound for Silicon Valley on an international secondment sponsored by KPMG. I really only wanted to go for 12 months, but had to commit to 18 months and I haven’t looked back. In my view, diversity of experience is invaluable for professional development. You can only grow when challenged by new situations, new people and new environments. Working overseas completely tests one’s ability to adapt and respond to change and difference. For me, working overseas in places like Silicon Valley and Sydney exposed me to much larger capital markets than in Dublin, more complex corporate structures and different cultures. This challenged and enhanced my experience, ensuring I continued to learn and develop throughout my career. As change is the only constant, you must remain open to change and continually adapt your managerial style. But if you are thinking specifically of working overseas, my one piece of advice would be to back yourself. Don’t be afraid to change direction; talented people will succeed anywhere in the world.

Matthew Britton

Title: Manager, Financial Planning and Analysis
Company: Abu Dhabi Investment Authority
Location: Abu Dhabi
 
During my four years in Abu Dhabi, I worked for a sovereign wealth fund. The role involved running the strategic financial planning process, evaluating investment projects and providing management with performance insights. My team boasted 11 nationalities and the company itself employed people from 65 countries. This in itself was incredibly interesting, but it was also very rewarding from a communication perspective. 

Navigating cultural nuances and understanding how to influence effectively in a diverse environment has certainly benefited my career. In addition, the mission of the organisation is to secure the wealth of future generations so in a sense the “shareholders” are not even born yet. This brings with it a very different mindset to that of a PLC and learning to adapt to that culture – and, more importantly, to respect that culture – was a valuable learning.

My top tip

There is an understandable tendency for Irish people to gravitate towards other Irish people when living and working overseas, but being overseas gives you a great opportunity to develop a wider international network – something that needs to be nurtured from an early stage.

Margaret Berney

Title: Senior Financial Analyst
Company: Tarion Warranty Corporation
Location: Toronto, Canada

Moving to Canada certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone, both professionally and personally. Learning from a new culture has expanded my skillset to that point that I now excel in my role and work extremely well with all colleagues, irrespective of their nationality or background. The move also impacted my outlook on work as I no longer see difficult situations as a challenge. I tackle them with confidence and this is perhaps attributable in part to the new environment I work in and the different philosophies and approaches I encounter each day. The only thing I would do differently in terms of my career overseas is to do it sooner.

My top tip

If you have an inclination to work abroad, follow your gut instinct and make it happen. Most won’t regret the decision and even if it doesn’t work out, you can always move home having learned from the experience.

You can read more about living and working overseas in Chartered Accountants Abroad, the publication from Accountancy Ireland for Chartered Accountants Ireland members abroad.