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Guest Blog Post: City Alumna, Nancy O’Hare on working globally

Live the World, One Country at a Time

What has your career-path been: how did you get where you are today?

“I envisioned living overseas ever since my inaugural trip across the Atlantic at the impressionable age of 13. This nascent desire gained further traction throughout my undergraduate years and eventually attracted me towards the global business environment. Accordingly, I completed a 30-month Chartered Accountant programme with Deloitte Canada in 1999 and transferred to Australia to gain additional experience internationally. Financial advisory expertise is essential across several industries and remains a marketable attribute for the global finance professional.

Since leaving public practice with Deloitte, my career has principally focused upon the upstream oil and gas industry and spanned a broad spectrum of responsibilities within finance that includes corporate governance, financial reporting, taxation, commercial, budgeting, treasury and merger & acquisition activity.  As a recent graduate of the Executive MBA programme at Cass Business School with a 20-year blend of comprehensive management and advisory expertise, I consider myself privileged to have lived and worked across five continents that include such disparate countries as Australia, Switzerland, the Sultanate of Oman and Nigeria.”

What does your current role entail? What do you like most about your job?

“Prior to moving to the Nigeria office, I managed a team of 16 professionals in the Swiss-based head office that was responsible for the corporate reporting, systems accounting, joint venture and acquisition integration. The company grew quickly from a private Swiss enterprise to a Canadian public company, before being acquired by the Chinese state-owned company Sinopec. Each stage brought new demands upon the finance function and the integration of services across the organisation.

As the Principal Advisor for Addax Petroleum’s Nigerian operations, I managed a budgetary process involving $2 billion in capital and operating expenditures, while administering the corporate governance and internal control processes across the business unit. Facility construction projects and development drilling involves a myriad of challenges under a normal operating environment due to rig availability, operational delays and climatic conditions.  However, operational issues are amplified in emerging markets by unique factors such as convoluted government approval practices and local content constraints. Although these externalities are not financial matters by nature, there are direct impacts upon the total project cost, timing of cash flows, human capital, financing requirements, project controls and the overall commerciality of oil and gas projects. These dynamics require a strategic individual that understands the company operations, recognises the potential impact to the business and acts as a business partner to the operations management.  These factors also ensure that the working day maintains a vibrant and unpredictable nature to a continuous array of fresh challenges.

Beyond my direct accountabilities, I participated in several task forces relating to planning and integration initiatives, the financial evaluation of supplier contracts and the strategy around the procurement of Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading vessels. Unsurprisingly, I specifically valued the diversity that this latter position allowed, while working alongside senior leaders across the organisation.”

This type of work will suit someone who…

“A finance career can materialise into a variety of different roles.  In the early years, Chartered Accountants often find themselves working at a granular level that entails the analysing of information, accounting standards and industry guidelines, which lends itself to those who prefer to work within a guiding set of rules or principles. However, as one gains seniority, issues become more critical, complex and strategic, such that it is vital for individuals to comprehend the widespread implications across a business. At the executive level and in an entrepreneurial environment, a broader perspective is compulsory for successful finance professionals to quickly understand issues, provide tactical advice and navigate around any potential hazards.”

This type of work will not suit someone who…

“Despite the need for a strategic perspective at a senior level, a finance career within larger organisations is generally not suitable for individuals that are averse to a certain degree of structure in their workday or an unwillingness to investigate issues at a granular level. Complex financial and commercial issues often require extensive speciality knowledge, a meticulous review process and due care to ensure that the potential consequences are adequately addressed. Technical irregularities may trigger dire consequences for a company if they are not properly understood.”

What have you learned since you left university which you wish you had known while you were at university?

“From my perspective, a definitive career path is – more often than not – nearly impossible to plan in advance, since personal interests and industry expertise evolve over the course of one’s vocation. Opportunities regularly arise which were not previously anticipated, leading to remarkable personal and professional experiences that could not possibly have been envisioned.

Life as a global nomad is not without its challenges. A tangible risk to working as an expatriate in an international career is the threat of becoming disconnected from friends and colleagues as one moves around for new work opportunities. Concerted efforts to keep in touch with selected colleagues, regardless of where you reside, will hopefully combat this risk.”

Top tips for students who want to get where you are today

“The Chartered Accountant designation is a general requirement for many expatriate accounting positions as it establishes credibility and the qualification is often a requirement for work permit approvals in foreign countries. A MBA degree further enhances one’s capability to function at an executive level and is particularly advantageous for executive finance positions. Additionally, a proactive approach to new challenges, a business partner approach towards non-financial management and the ability to translate the ‘numbers’ into meaningful advice have greatly assisted in my own career progress.”

Employer Engagement Team

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