In conversation with Wendy Walton, head of global private clients at BDO
Wendy talked to TARGETjobs about her long career at BDO and her tips for success.
Over her 33 years with BDO, Wendy has gone from starting as a school leaver, working in the tax division, to partner to head of global private clients. She shared her tips for career success with us, such as:
Don’t try to be a perfect parent or employee
‘I’ve realised that there's no such thing as a perfect mum,’ says Wendy. ‘And in the workplace, you also have to let a little bit go sometimes and accept that you can't do everything completely perfectly all the time. That took a bit of time for me for me to get used to. But when my daughter went to university, she said to me that I was a positive role model who helped show her how to be independent. That was nice to hear.’
Learn how to deal with failure
‘I failed the partner process back in 2009,’ Wendy explains. ‘That taught me a lot – I think it was the first time that I'd really failed at anything.’ Despite feeling ‘grumpy for a while’ about it, she dealt with the situation by asking for detailed feedback from the leadership team. She was given four clear objectives. ‘I went and ticked them off, and then came back the following year and was successful.’
Lean on and value the support offered by your employer
In addition to the qualifications essential to her role, BDO has given Wendy the opportunity to pursue others outside her core work. ‘I’ve also had lots of leadership training,’ she explains, ‘and had the opportunity to attend Harvard for a week… it was pretty cool to be there. I've also had mentoring, coaching and sponsorship; they're all slightly different, but all really, really important.’
After she had her children, Wendy considered going part-time, but realised that it didn’t suit her. The long commute to work each day, however, was eating into her time, so she proposed continuing to work full time, but working at home one day a week – something that is not so unusual now but was quite forward thinking 20 years ago. It’s helpful to have a flexible mindset at the beginning of your career too. Wendy explains that if you find yourself in a sector that you don’t feel is working for you, there’s no need to panic: ‘There is such a huge choice at BDO. If something is not for you, then have a look around and see what else there is – we’re flexible about allowing people to move between teams.’
Learn how to boost your self-confidence
‘Think about what you're struggling with,’ Wendy advises. ‘Ask yourself, have you been in similar situations before? How did you deal with them? What worked? What did you learn? Somebody told me once if I was going into a situation where I felt nervous, I should have a good think about a time when I felt confident, or when something went really well, and visualise that before I went into that situation.’
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Nobody can be expected to know everything; it is okay to look beyond yourself. ‘Wherever you are, if you feel that you're hitting a barrier, or coming up against a barrier, ask somebody for help,’ Wendy says. ‘In the workplace, seek out your mentor or sponsor – you'll always be given help.’
Look after your wellbeing
A few years ago, during a time when, she realises now, she was probably working too hard, a chat with two friends about the need for some exercise, fresh air and space, prompted Wendy to take up running. ‘The three of us started together,’ she explains. ‘We couldn't run for even a minute to begin with, but we quickly got up to 5K. And then we did a couple of half marathons together.’ Wendy then participated in the London Marathon and still enjoys running regularly as she recognises its benefits to her mental and physical wellbeing.
Rely on your colleagues
‘The people here at BDO are amazing, a fabulous team. We all look out for one another. We have our ups and downs and we support one another.’
‘Make the most of all of the opportunities that you can, and do the best that you can do. Of course it is definitely important to get your exams under your belt if you are following one of the exam routes, but get involved with different projects as much as you can.’
Learn from the example of others
One Friday night, when she was a new starter, Wendy woke up in a panic, worried that she had got a number wrong in a communication. ‘I was anxious about it all weekend, she says, ‘but when I went in and spoke to the partner on the Monday, he was just so calming and cool, reassuring me that mistakes happen. We learn from mistakes. It was okay. That’s when I learned that there’s no culture of blame at BDO.’
Work out your priorities
‘When you embark on a new career, it can be full on,’ says Wendy. The key to coping? ‘Pace yourself,’ she says. ‘Take a long-term view. Over a long career, sometimes your personal life takes priority, and sometimes work takes priority. The key is to be really clear about your non negotiables and what your boundaries are.’
Watch the full webinar for more on Wendy’s job role, careers advice and how BDO has supported her career, as well as her answers to live questions on the day. Lucy Boyd, resourcing adviser (early in career) at BDO, was also on the webinar, answering applications questions.