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Emma Harvie – Customer Success Manager

INTERVIEW: DAVE SINYI

Emma Harvie is a Customer Success Manager at Achievers, based in Melbourne, Australia.  She was interviewed as part of Tell Her Story’s ongoing partnership with Achievers Women’s Network (AWN). The series highlights women leaders at different stages of their career throughout the organization.

Everything Emma speaks about is tinted with optimism, and the ability to look at the best possible positive outcome from a situation.  Speaking with Emma is an exercise in intense exposure to positivity, passion, and self-motivation. Emma does not make excuses, but refuses to accept things as they are. Challenges are where learning happens; setbacks are a great opportunity to reassess; and, it’ is always a good time to focus on self-improvement.Where change needs to be made, Emma is the first to roll up her sleeves, and lead the ‘we-can-do-it!’ way.

Emma’s approach : Get clear on your vision of what you want, and then get clear on what you need to do to get there and start ticking off those things one by one.

On education:

EH: “After secondary school, I wanted to do either graphic design or photography. I couldn’t decide – so I did both, because I am an overachiever.  I got an apprenticeship at a local newspaper doing design for ads and editorials and studied photography part time, but it was just a diploma.  I’ve done courses since, in design, web design – all sorts of different things – but no actual undergrad degree; so, at 36, I went to university.  I couldn’t get any credit for my work experiences – I had to start at the beginning.

On starting university at 36:

EH: I felt like I’d reached a point in my career where I couldn’t even get an interview for a job without ticking a box.  But I was also a conscious of studying something I was passionate about, and wanted to learn about. I’d gone from graphic design to studio management to account management, to retail for a while (which is where I got into the people development), and more of the HR stuff I do now, and was like, ‘I don’t know what to do with my life – what’s next?’  I’m always looking for the next thing. I always want to be working towards something. I decided I wanted to study, part time, because I couldn’t afford to not work full time. So, I did a business degree, with a major in marketing.

On career motivations:

EH: I’m mostly motivated by recognition. I was very clear I wanted to use my skills for good and not for evil. I didn’t want to work on marketing for a product I didn’t believe in.  Or for a company whose values weren’t aligned to mine. I needed some experience and was prepared to put in the hard yards to get where I needed to go, but I was really lucky I found Solterbeck (Achievers affiliate) early on in my degree and was able to use my skills for good.

I enjoy working in such a positive side of HR.  For me it’s about creating that employee experience and brightening someone’s day. And we just happen to have a tool that facilitates that.

On learning and working as a woman:

EH: I’ve been pretty lucky, in that I’ve worked with great people, and had opportunities regardless of my gender. I worked in the print industry for a long time, it felt very much like a boys’ club. There were client nights, for example, I didn’t go to, because it wasn’t appropriate for a woman to go. Yeah – very much a boy’s club, at times.  More recently, I see it still exists – you look at Australian politics as an example, where it’s massive. Part of me choosing who I work with, and the culture of an organisation, and doing a lot of that research before I actually accept a job, is to ensure I work for an organisation that shares the same values I do. I think there’s changes – I don’t think there’s enough change. We need to create more awareness.  Hire more women. Hire women into leadership roles. Develop women into leadership roles. Create flexible work environments, so that everyone can be a part of it.

On valuable life lessons:

EH: It’s probably to trust my gut: and I don’t always – as we don’t. But to know when something doesn’t feel right. Or to know that the butterflies excited kind of feeling can be good. That, if you’re taking a risk and things are a bit scary, that’s the opportunity for growth.  The other thing is being really clear on your values, and what’s important to you. I did some work to know what mine are, and it made decisions after that so much easier.

In a previous role, there was lots of feedback I received around having a voice: like going to a meeting and not saying a single thing, not voicing my opinion because I didn’t feel my opinion was valued, or that I had anything important to say, and now I probably take over meetings with my opinion. I feel much more confident and realise that I know my stuff and can voice an opinion. And it doesn’t have to be an opinion that everyone agrees with or that sits well with others and I’m OK with that, too.

On being confident:

EH: I am absolutely confident now. I believe very much in the power of language, and it comes from thinking about the impact your language has on other people.  When you think about bullying, and the effect it has on people, and how that stays with some people for life, or has tragic consequences: you should always be thinking about the power of language. Then there’s  the power of your language when you’re talking to yourself, or about your goals. Self-doubt is absolutely there.

On self-doubt:

EH: The self-doubt?  Absolutely! The conversation inside my head is sometimes very different to the conversation outside my head, and I wouldn’t want to hear anyone else speaking about themselves the way I sometimes speak about myself in my head. My goals are not ‘I want to…’, or ‘I’ll try…’ . They are ‘I will…’. I’m not going to ‘try’, or it’s not ‘kind of right’ – it’s either right or it’s not right, and ‘I will’ not ‘I’ll try’.

Part of overcoming self-doubt and accomplishing your goals is  surrounding yourself with the right people. You make choices about  who you hang out with, and who you spend time with, and in a sense who you surround yourself with at work, as well. You surround yourself with people who will lift you up. But also, I think having some coping mechanisms – so whether that’s going for a walk, or going to the gym, or buying yourself something nice – whatever that treat for yourself, or coping mechanism might be – be aware of that and use those when you need to.

On introvert versus extrovert:

EH: I’ve done personality tests throughout my career, and I always get the same results: INFJ. And if you Google that…that is me. I am social in small groups; I like time by myself; I can present to a client and look absolutely professional and nail it and say super intelligent things; and then I’ll go and spill my drink down my front.  It just is 100 percent who I am.

I absolutely have been in jobs where that ‘being social’ thing, and the massive amounts of client entertainment, and all of that was expected. I thought I needed to get over myself, or to change who I was, in order to fulfill that role, and then I realised that just wasn’t the culture I wanted to work in. I didn’t like being in that boozy, ad agency, kind of culture, because that wasn’t who I was. At the time, I was like, ‘I need to learn to like this, to be more like to be successful in my career’, and then as you get older you start to realise that life’s too short to work in a job that doesn’t fulfill you; doesn’t fill your cup.  We spend a lot of time at work, and we spend a lot of hours doing what we do. I think it’s important you enjoy it, and it energises you, motivates you, and inspires you

On challenges facing women in the workplace today:

EH: Working for a global company there are definitely challenges in working with people from different countries and different cultures, and that their view of women in the workforce might be different to ours.  There are challenges even down to the way you dress in the office. I don’t have kids, but there are a lot of challenges for women with kids in the workplace, and finding balance, and working flexibly, and all of that as well.  

We’ve come such a long way – women weren’t allowed to vote and weren’t allowed to work once they got married.  We have absolutely come a long way, but…

On how men can help:

EH: By being an advocate for women, and being a voice for women. Standing alongside women in the tech industry and helping to set them up.  Being an advocate, being able to call out when things aren’t right, or when there’s a case of discrimination, or inequality – being that voice alongside women’s voices, to stand beside them.  Stand up, speak up. Everyone needs to.

On best advice to others:

EH: Get clear on your vision of what you want, and then get clear on what you need to do to get there and start ticking off those things one by one. Make them small and achievable and make them measurable.  And don’t be afraid to ask for help. The people who’ve made the biggest impact on my career, and life in general, are the people who’ve acted as a coach and just asked me questions.

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Weixi Wu – Financial Analyst

INTERVIEW: CARRIE TANGUAY / PHOTOGRAPHS: SAMIRA HAFEZI

Weixi Wu is a Financial Analyst at Achievers. She was interviewed as part of Tell Her Story’s ongoing partnership with Achievers Women’s Network (AWN). The series highlights women leaders at different stages of their career throughout the organization.

Weixi is a quiet hustler! While she speaks softly and is a self-proclaimed introvert her accomplishments so early in her career do the talking for her. She’s been working since she was 13 and was the first in her peer group to get her CPA, CGA designation and definitely lives up to her LinkedIn moniker of “Accounting Superstar”. After spending an hour with Weixi I realize I’ve only begun to scratch the surface as she says there’s “work Weixi” and “outside work Weixi”.

Her story represents all the women who strike a balance between big goals and big dreams! Weixi’s intense work ethic is fed by her passion to travel and to be in a position to support her family. She works long, hard hours and the pay-off is travel, adventure and providing for her parents’ retirement.

CT: Tell me a bit about your background.

WW: I grew up in China, my family immigrated to Canada when I was 10. We spent the first few years in Canada in North York – I went to elementary and middle school there. It was a change from back home, different languages, different friends…it was challenging. I was eventually able to get used to it. When I was younger I was on my own a lot both my parents were working hard. My dad programs machines and my mom is also an accountant. I have one brother who’s 12 years younger than me. I used to pick him up from daycare everyday.

I’ve been working since I was 13. I started at Kumon by helping the instructors marking people’s homework and then I started tutoring. It got me through middle school, high school and university. I worked there until I started working at Achievers.

Everything I do right now I do to ensure when they retire they’ll be okay. That sense of responsibility towards my parents – I think that’s an immigrant thing to be honest. Our parents took care of us when we were younger, there’s so many things they gave up for us, I just want to make sure they’re taken care of.

CT: How do you self-identify?

WW: I identify as an immigrant and a woman of colour. Growing up, I went to a few schools where there weren’t many kids of colour. I was made fun of for my accent and features. Eventually, I learned to be proud my heritage and it made me stronger. One thing about moving to Toronto is that there are so many immigrants it wasn’t an easy transition but when you look around you see a lot of people going through the same thing and that helps.

Within the accounting world it’s not an issue at all – it’s a very diverse field in terms of gender and backgrounds.

When I grew up I don’t think I experienced any gender inequalities from my family. I actually didn’t even know there were inequalities as everyone in my family worked and contributed fairly equally. My travels and studies educated me on the inequalities that women, especially women of colour, experience all around the world. And it is important to speak out against it, even if it’s just to those around you.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY: SAMIRA HAFEZI

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CT: Did you always want to pursue accounting? What about it appeals to you?

WW: My Mom suggested I pursue this. Numbers always came easily to me. It just came naturally. My parents moved closer to the University of Toronto so I would go there. I was lucky to be accepted into the accounting program. It’s really competitive.

If it wasn’t accounting, it would have been forensics but I didn’t have the science prerequisites. I watch so many detective shows and listen to so many true crime podcasts and I always wanted to be a detective (laughs). I took a forensic science course in university and I realized how much science is involved and decided I couldn’t do it. But if I can get paid to travel around the world, I would make the career change in a heartbeat.

CT: What do you like about being an “Accounting Superstar” at a software company?

WW: I really like the pace and the amount of different things I learn working in the tech space. Everyone wants to work in tech it’s the “it” industry right now. I work as a Financial Analyst and get to work with budgeting and forecasting for several departments at Achievers. I’ve been there for just over 5 years – I’ve had great managers that really helped me to start my career.

I started the CPA, CGA program as soon as I could upon graduation from university. I was the first to get the designation out of all of my friends. I finally accomplished the one thing I always wanted to do. In the accounting world once you have that designation you’re basically set and a lot of doors will open.

I’ve been working for over 5 years and I’m at a point where I want to figure out what I want to do next. Now I’m just trying to figure out how I can balance work and travel and unfortunately, accounting isn’t something I can do trekking through the rain forecast or diving in the Red Sea. I plan to drop everything and travel when I turn 30, I’m saving up for it now. I want to travel for as long as possible.

CT: You mentioned you love travelling! What was a pivotal moment for you when travelling?

WW: I love travelling. It started right after I obtained my CPA, CGA designation – I went to Europe as one of my first trips. I went by myself and it was a really great experience. Any time you take yourself out of your comfort zone that’s when you learn the most. It was an eye opening experience – different cultures and different languages – meeting people from all over the world. I would recommend everyone travel alone at least once in their life. I always tell people, you will never regret travelling, but you will regret not travelling.

It was during the refugee crisis due to the unrest in Syria, when I crossed into France from the Port of Dover, our bus drove past one of the camps that housed thousands of Syrian refugees. Even though it was mere moments that I witnessed this refugee camp from afar, I will never forget its sights and size. I have always known I am fortunate, but that was when I realized that most of us are too complacent with our ways of life. I realized there are many things I have that I had taken for granted, like having the means to travel and a job, home, and family to go back to once the trip is completed. I have since learned to truly appreciate the things and opportunities I have and any day to day issues I encounter are just minor inconveniences that will pass.

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CT: What advice would you give to your younger self or someone interested in pursuing accounting?

WW: There are so many people graduating in accounting every year from the CPA program. Try to find yourself in that – it’s so easy to lose yourself in the process. When I first started working I would work at Achievers all day, grab my books, go to Starbucks and I would spend the night there studying for my CPA, CGA exams until 5-6AM. I would go home shower and then start my workday again. Those were two long years and I felt like I completely lost myself.

Accounting has strict deadlines, if a report isn’t finished or doesn’t reconcile you have to stay and finish it. I’m fortunate that my manager is very supportive and will be there to help me but in general in my field it’s very common for people to stay overnight in the office. It’s part of the work. You have to work around the company’s month end and busy periods.

CT: What do you find most rewarding about being an accountant?

WW: All accountants will relate to this…when your reports reconcile (laughs). As long as I’m constantly learning, that is success basically. I’d never want to be stuck doing the same thing over and over again.

CT: Do you think you’ve faced any challenges in your career because of your gender?

WW: Thankfully I haven’t yet. At the same time, I don’t really let people walk over me. When I look at my manager and my manager’s manager they’re all men. It’s kinda hard because society expects something different out of women. Just by looking around me, there’s a standard that there is something off with you if you don’t want to get married and have kids. I do want to have kids, but if I had a child now that would put my career on pause until I go back to work and even when I go back what does that look like? The tech industry does require a lot more hours than your typical 9-5, that’s one difficulty you’d have to work around as a mother.

I’ve been lucky to be honest with my manager. And again I feel like a lot of things I’ve encountered in life is luck.

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CT: How do you strike a balance between who you have to be at work and who you are outside of work?

WW: There’s the professional Weixi and then there’s the outside of work Weixi (laughs). At work you have to be professional at all times, if I do get emotional at work I just hold it in and don’t show it at work at all. Outside of work growing up I loved different music – hip hop, soca, reggae-ton – I just like that side of life where you’re having fun and dancing. I go to the Caribbean once or twice a year because I love the culture, it’s very friendly and I love the music.

I spend so much time at work and that’s why vacations are so important to me. I don’t have that much time to myself otherwise.