In conversation with... Alma O'Brien

Nov 09, 2017

You have been shortlisted for Management Professional of the Year at the IMAGE Business Woman of the Year Awards 2017. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, what does the nomination mean to you?

I am delighted with the nomination and feel very fortunate to have been shortlisted together with a group of such high calibre nominees who are leading the way in their industries. I am very aware that women in senior positions have a positive role to play in changing the ideals and expectations of the next generation of business women and in supporting these changes.  

You’re a Partner in tax with Baker Tilly Hughes Blake. Who did you look up to when you were building your career?

My dad died when I was very young, so my mother raised five of us on her own. Her strength and determination in ensuring that we always had opportunities to progress has been a huge inspiration to me and has always driven me to succeed in life.

In my career, I have been very fortunate to work with like-minded individuals who taught me to never just meet expectations, but to always aim to exceed them.

What are your biggest career successes?

One of the highlights of my career to date is becoming the first Tax Partner in Baker Tilly Hughes Blake. When I joined the company in 2009, Ireland was in the midst of a financial crisis. At that time, most of the tax work provided by the firm was mainly compliance, and was part of the accounts and audit function. Now we have a separate tax team of 11 professionals with a particular focus on providing innovative solutions to enable the best tax outcome for our clients.

While becoming tax partner has been a personal highlight, I am very proud of the tax team that I work with – the people who make up the team, along with interesting and varied work, have been my biggest successes. 

What trait do you think is key to building a good career?

Having a strong work ethic is key to everyone’s career. In the professional services industry, good client service must be a main focus as this is what the business is built on. Determination, resilience and being able to enjoy coming to work each day is always very important.

What advice would you give to other women coming into accountancy?

Don’t wait for opportunities come to you – be clear about what you want in your career and know your own worth. Your career can span many decades and the people who you meet along the way can be your greatest asset – ensuring that you maintain good working relationships with your fellow colleagues can be of huge importance. Equally important is being generous with your time, experience and knowledge. I have personally found that the benefits of this come back in abundance.

Alma O'Brien FCA is a Tax Partner in Baker Tilly Hughes Blake. The IMAGE Business Woman of the Year Awards 2017 are on 20 November 2017.