Maximise the opportunity

Aug 06, 2019

Three Chartered Accountants who work, or have worked, overseas share their tips for making the most out of your time abroad – whether you’re there for a short time, or for good.

Sean Keegan

Title: Senior Accounting Manager
Company: Dome Productions
Location: Canada

Having arrived in Canada in 2011, I started out in contract work as a Senior Financial Analyst. From there, I moved into more senior and permanent roles, and into media by establishing connections with fellow colleagues, their wider peer group and other Irish people I was introduced to. From both a lifestyle and career perspective, creating a new life in a new city isn’t without its challenges no matter how prepared you are. Cultural norms, office culture and local attitudes – while not drastically divergent to Ireland – have to be embraced and respected. Adopting a positive attitude and embracing elements of Canadian culture are critical if you wish to become part of the fabric. To maximise the opportunity that comes with working overseas, I would recommend taking a step away from your current work experience to try something new. Seeking out new experiences is one of the main reasons for moving abroad in the first place, so why not double down and seek to work as a Chartered Accountant in a new industry or area?

Gerald Buckley

Title: Finance Director
Company: Banc Sabadell
Location: Barcelona, Spain

Having met my Catalan wife in Ireland, we now live in Spain with our daughter. For me, the transition to life in Spain was a challenge as I didn’t speak Spanish. However, faced with the prospect of a standing start in a country that was struggling economically, I began establishing professional contacts and researching companies in Spain that were hiring people with experience of working in an international environment. To succeed, I knew that I couldn’t approach the move as a ‘stint’ overseas; anyone in this position needs to lay a solid foundation that enables you to deliver long-term. Many people at home were sceptical of the move as Spain had a particularly high unemployment rate at the time, and it was a tough process to be sure. But there are a few things I learned during the move: spend a lot of time evaluating why you are moving, as you need to have a degree of certainty when applying for roles; develop a local network in the area you plan to move to, as it’s important to connect beyond the confines of your comfort zone; have a strategy for the long-term, as those who integrate and have a strategy will have a better chance of success; and research the basics, as sometimes it’s the simple things like manners that matter most.

Aoife Duggan

Title: Senior Commercial Finance Manager
Company: Kerry Group
Location: USA

I had the fantastic opportunity to work for Kerry Group in the US for four years, initially as Treasury and Insurance Manager for North America and later as Senior Commercial Finance Manager. Being part of a large organisation meant that growing a network – both inside and outside work – was easier, as there are other ex-pats. Accept invites to meet up and make an effort to get out and join a club or sport; it will make settling in a lot easier and you’ll enjoy your time abroad. For me, getting involved in projects was central to advancement. Showing a willingness to take on additional responsibility opened up opportunities for me but as with any role, getting to know your colleagues/stakeholders and building a strong rapport is essential. I learned about local culture and regulations, for example, much quicker and knew who to collaborate with on specific tasks or projects as a result. If a friend was considering a move overseas, I personally would recommend moving abroad with a large company – one where there is scope for future roles and challenges as you grow in your career. Also, visa and relocation support services in large companies make the move much easier. Speak to people who have already made the move, it will help with the transition.

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