Careers

In conversation with… Emma Noonan

Jul 22, 2020
Emma Noonan, Chair at CASSI, shares her time management tips and the key to her early career success.

What do you love about your job?

There are many aspects of my job that I enjoy, particularly the learning opportunities, challenges, and variety in the tasks I am assigned. However, what I truly love about my job, and what I really value is the people. This is the real differentiator between each firm, and I have been fortunate to work with strong and supportive teams during my time in KPMG. When you are faced with a problem at work, it’s great to be able to turn to a colleague and reach a solution together rather than struggle alone. The teams I have worked with have supported me, challenged me, and taught me everything I have learned so far in my career. So really, I have them to thank for the love I have for my job.

What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made?

Deciding to study with Chartered Accountants Ireland to become a qualified Chartered Accountant was the best career decision I have ever made. When I was in college, I was on the fence as to what I wanted to do and I found the idea of studying for another three and a half years very daunting. However, my decision was final when I did an internship with Risk Consulting at KPMG, where I saw the direct benefit becoming a Chartered Accountant had on working life in terms of both career development and career potential. I am now in the midst of my contract and I am delighted with the choice I made.

How do you organise your time?

That is a great question, and I welcome all suggestions! Scheduling everything I must do for the week ahead (both professionally and personally) in my diary works best for me. It has become a habit at this stage, and I always have my diary with me – it’s a great way to get an overview of my weekly plans at a glance. Every week, I write down what I need to achieve so that by 5.30pm on Friday, I will feel as though I have had a productive week. This is something I learned from Pat Divilly and it is a really useful exercise when I feel like I’m not getting enough done. Every day, I align my daily to-do list to my weekly objectives and prioritise each item. To achieve this, I write down realistic and specific to-dos. The more specific I am with my to-dos, the easier I find it to meet my weekly objectives and, as a result, feel more productive. For me, it’s essential to distinguish between my short-term and long-term goals. I can’t achieve everything I want in one day, so I try to bear this in mind as I set my daily tasks to meet my weekly objectives.

What has been the key to your career success to date?

I have had some small wins in my career so far including passing my CAP1 exams, being elected as CASSI Education Officer, and being elected as the Chair of CASSI this year. My goal at the moment is to build a varied skillset, which will benefit my career in the future. To me, this means taking every learning opportunity I can get my hands on and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

That’s a tough one! I’ve received advice from several mentors and my team in KPMG. However, the one that stands out is: seek to learn. Throughout my career, and with thanks to my firm, I have been exposed to a number of learning opportunities. These range from working with high-profile clients to learning key technical skills such as SQL, POWERBI and Excel. Educational opportunities are extremely important to me and in terms of my career, I endeavour to continuously upskill – sure, that’s exactly what the training contract is for!

If you were to change one thing about your professional life, what would it be?

Ironically, it would be to have more time. As I settle into my new role as CASSI Chair while working and studying full-time, I find myself struggling to have some downtime. This boils down to time management and what I am currently prioritising. So for now, I’d change how long it takes me to re-order my priorities!

What lessons did you learn about yourself, and your work, during the pandemic?

I have learned several lessons from both a personal and professional standpoint during COVID-19. However, my two key learning points are: communication and work-life balance.

The fundamental role of face-to-face interaction in my daily job became very clear to me as we shifted to working from home, full-time. I learned the importance of open and continued communications, be it client-related or simply a discussion with a team member. In such uncertain times, an email or weekly catch-up really makes a difference when it comes to clarifying the company’s direction of travel for the months ahead.

It was interesting to see how smoothly we shifted to online platforms and this has been key to increasing the frequency of communication in recent weeks. That said, I look forward to getting back to the office to see my colleagues, as it’s hard to beat a face-to-face interaction. But for the time being, the likes of Microsoft Teams is an excellent substitute.

As a result of COVID-19, I also found myself out of the routine to which I was very much accustomed. It came as a bit of a shock when I realised that working from home wasn’t going to be a short-term thing and I struggled with the uncertainty I was facing. From this, I learned the importance of building and maintaining a work routine as well as factoring in down-time to catch-up virtually with friends and family. It took some time to get used to my kitchen/office hybrid, but I’ve settled in nicely to my new routine.