Home 5 Career Spotlight 5 Celebrating International Women’s Day: An interview with Jessica Teague
International Women's Day Interview with Jessica Teague

Celebrating International Women’s Day: An interview with Jessica Teague

by Jessica Teague

8 March 2024

To celebrate International Women's Day 2024, we had a delightful chat with Jessica Teague, a remarkable female partner on our Ecovis team. At Ecovis, we value gender diversity, equality and inclusion and take pride in ranking fifth for the highest percentage of female partners within the Accountancy Age Top 50+50.

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2024, we had a delightful chat with Jessica Teague, a remarkable female partner in our Ecovis team. Jess shared her perspectives on gender equality and leadership, her sources of inspiration, and advice for women interested in a career in audit and accountancy.

 

Hi Jess, it’s great to chat with you on International Women’s Day! Let’s start by asking what inspired you to pursue a career in accounting? Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a partner in our firm?

I joined Ecovis in 2010 after completing an Economics & Accounting degree at University of Southampton. I really enjoyed my degree and wanted to learn more about Accountancy as I am naturally inclined towards working with numbers. I applied for numerous ACA training contracts at a variety of different firms but was drawn to Ecovis’s culture. Even just through the interview process, I felt that the firm had something special, and I really wanted to be a part of the team and was delighted to be offered a job.

Throughout my career at Ecovis, I have had the privilege of working with a wide array of businesses, presenting a number of challenges and learning opportunities. This diversity in experience has kept my days vibrant and fulfilling. As I navigated my way through from achieving my ACA qualification to embracing the various roles of a Manager and becoming a Partner, my fascination with the technical aspects of accounting has deepened. The process of delving into the nuances of accounting standards and practices, and applying this knowledge to real-world scenarios, has been incredibly rewarding. I thoroughly enjoy trying to solve a problem, discussing potential options or issues with others and I find overcoming obstacles or finding the right answer for the scenario very satisfying.

Beyond the numbers, my drive is also powered by a genuine desire to make a positive impact on others’ lives. The prospect of not only assisting clients in navigating the complex world of accounting but also through training and supporting colleagues at Ecovis. I have always really enjoyed the responsibility associated with helping develop the skills of our team.

 

Who has inspired you throughout your career?

Throughout my career, I’ve been inspired by several individuals who are both within Ecovis and also external to Ecovis, each contributing in their own unique way to my professional journey. All the partners at Ecovis, past and present, have been incredibly inspirational. Over the thirteen and a half years I have been at Ecovis the influence they have had on me has extended beyond the professional realm, teaching me lessons in resilience, humility, and the importance of giving back and being available to help others as much as you can. It has not just been the knowledge they imparted, but in the example they set on how to lead. The firm has also supported my thirst for continuous learning, encouraging me to delve deeper into the subject matter and to view each challenge as an opportunity for growth. Beyond the technical skills, they instilled in me the value of ethical practice and the impact our profession has on society.

If I had to pick one person, I would say that Kate Barekati has been a huge inspiration to me. Since joining Ecovis I have worked very closely with Kate. She had just qualified when I joined, and I was very lucky to be allocated to Kate’s jobs. Right from the beginning Kate invested so much of her precious time in training and supporting me. I still remember working with her onsite at various media clients and she would draw very neat diagrams to explain basic accounting concepts and to help me with my audit testing. She has provided me with invaluable support and guidance throughout my time at Ecovis and I continue to appreciate her feedback, opinions, and advice.

 

What initiatives or strategies do you think are important for promoting gender diversity and inclusion within the accounting profession?

Promoting gender diversity and inclusion within the accounting profession requires ongoing commitment and effort from all levels in an organisation and should focus on creating a culture that not only welcomes but celebrates diversity at all levels.

I believe that actively promoting flexible working arrangements and work-life balance policies is essential. The accounting profession, known for its demanding schedules, particularly during peak audit seasons, can pose significant challenges for individuals striving to balance professional and personal responsibilities. By offering flexible working hours, remote work options, and supportive leave policies, firms can create a more inclusive environment. This not only aids in attracting and retaining talented individuals but also contributes to a healthier, more productive workplace for everyone.

I think it’s also important to highlight success stories within the profession. This serves as a powerful tool for inspiration and by showcasing the achievements of women, and other underrepresented groups, so that there are tangible role models to motivate others. As mentioned above, I have benefited from (and continue to benefit from) seeing several women act as role models which has inspired me to keep focused on my personal goals.

 

Can you share a memorable success story or accomplishment from your career that you’re particularly proud of?

Aside from gaining my ACA qualification, the most memorable highlight of my career is becoming a partner in the firm. This milestone was not just a personal achievement was incredibly humbling and an honour. It’s a privilege to be a partner in a firm that can celebrate its culture where empathy and understanding drive our interactions and decisions. I am proud to be part of a firm that delivers on what it has been promised whilst also strives to deliver quality – I believe that integrity and reliability should always be the cornerstones of our professional ethos. Furthermore, I appreciate being a partner within a firm that is passionate about empowering change and giving back, not just within the confines of our industry but in the broader community as well.

Secondly, a particularly unexpected but rewarding moment was when I was named the winner of Accountancy Age 35 under 35 in 2021. I was not expecting it. It wasn’t just a personal achievement; it reflected the support the firm has given me and the firm’s commitment to excellence.

I also feel very proud to be a Responsible Individual (title given by the ICAEW which authorises me to sign audit reports) and so gaining the title was a memorable moment. The audit profession has an important role to play in wider society and the economy and I take great pride in being part of a firm that is committed to ensuring that we play our part in delivering high quality audits and restoring public trust in the profession. Despite the challenges and scepticism surrounding our profession, there’s a clear pathway to enhancing its reputation through our collective, small yet impactful actions.

 

How do you balance your professional responsibilities with other aspects of your life, such as family and personal interests?

Finding the perfect balance between professional responsibilities and personal life is a continuous journey for me, one where I don’t always strike the right equilibrium. I readily acknowledge that there are moments when work takes precedence, however, my passion for my work often fuels this imbalance; I genuinely love what I do, I want to help others and I care about the outcomes.

Over time, I’ve come to understand that continuous long hours at work do not necessarily equate to higher productivity or better output. This realisation has been pivotal in reshaping my approach to ensuring I have some balance, take breaks, and reserve energy for my personal life. Exercise is a critical component of my rest and relaxation. Carving out time for physical activity is not just a commitment to my own health but I also find that this is a powerful tool for my own mental clarity. My dog, Wallace, also will not allow me to forget his lunchtime walk on the days where I am working from home.

 

What advice would you give to young women who aspire to pursue a career in accounting or strive for leadership roles?

Whilst I would say that having confidence in your abilities is important, it’s equally crucial to maintain humility and openness to continual self-improvement. Also, try to embrace every challenge as an opportunity to strengthen and enhance your skills. You will need resilience in this profession and the best piece of advice I have ever received was to view each mistake as a powerful learning opportunity (thanks Stuart Hinds). As someone who hates to fail, I acknowledge that this can be very difficult, but this perspective has transformed how I cope with failures, and I try to see these as small stepping stones towards success and personal growth. The leaders I respect the most are those who openly discuss the mistakes they have made and can demonstrate what they learnt from that experience. I am convinced that adopting a reflective attitude and welcoming feedback can significantly boost an accounting career and can transform you into a leader who will be respected for their experiences. This openness also cultivates a capacity for adaptability and growth.

Embracing a commitment to learning is also very important as you navigate through your career, especially when aspiring to leadership positions within the ever-evolving landscape of accounting. I remember believing that once I had the ACA qualification that I would never need to study again – I was very wrong. I am pleased that I was wrong because the continuous learning has been one of the favourite parts of my career. This field is continuously transforming, there are always new regulations being discussed and released, technologies are evolving rapidly, and methodologies and approaches are changing as well. To remain at the forefront, it’s essential to engage in lifelong learning. This means not only keeping abreast of the latest developments through attending training session, understanding new technologies and reading industry literature but also deeply listening to those around you and integrating their feedback into your growth plan.

While honing your technical accounting skills and knowledge is vital, the power of soft skills should not be underestimated. Effective communication, empathy, and the ability to process complex situations with a clear mind are very important. These skills improve not just through practice and experience but also through reflecting on your interactions and outcomes. Actively seeking and thoughtfully considering feedback from peers, leaders and clients provides invaluable insights that will help to refine problem-solving and analytical capabilities.

 

As a female leader, what do you think are the most important qualities or skills for aspiring leaders to develop?

I believe that the path to effective leadership is built on a foundation of several key qualities and skills that aspiring leaders should consciously and continually developing. I have mentioned above that continuous learning is very important given that accountancy and audit is constantly evolving, and staying abreast of new technologies, changes in regulations and methodologies is crucial.

Communication skills are critical for any leader. The ability to articulate ideas clearly, listen actively, and engage in meaningful dialogues with different people at all levels throughout our firm and also at our clients is vital.

In addition, I think that integrity and ethics form the bedrock of trust. Leading with honesty and maintaining high ethical standards in all decisions and actions sets a powerful example and ultimately will promote a work environment where transparency and accountability are valued. This ethical approach ensures that you not only achieve your goals but do so in a way that is respectful and fair, which I feel is essential for long-term success and reputation.

I also believe that adaptability and resilience are equally important, especially in today’s fast-paced and often unpredictable business environment. The ability to pivot in response to challenges, setbacks, or changing landscapes, and to do so with a positive attitude, is invaluable. Resilience is also required so that you can navigate through difficult times, learn from experiences, and ultimately emerge stronger.

 

At Ecovis, we value gender diversity, equality and inclusion and take pride in ranking fifth for the highest percentage of female partners within the Accountancy Age Top 50+50. Learn more about International Women’s Day.

 

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