As part of people2people’s ‘career insights blog series’ we speak with Megan Millman, a senior finance executive with over 18 years’ experience.
Megan started her career within a large accounting firm before moving into commerce, working for one of Australia’s largest and well-known brands. She quickly progressed into various high-profile leadership positions and led several multi-million dollar business improvement projects. She is currently a finance executive for an organisation who employ over 6500 staff, and she has played a pivotal role in leading this organisation through significant transformation. An impressive career by any standards; but how did this journey evolve? We asked her a few key questions to find out.
Did you always aspire to be a senior executive and did you have a ‘career plan’ from the start of your career?
I knew I was always going to be an accountant, and I had ambitions for a senior role in Finance, but I definitely did not have a career plan as to how I was going to get there. I did, however, regularly seek out new projects or new additions to my role that stretched my capabilities and exposed me to new things, and to people that had different skills and experiences that I could learn from. The two biggest leaps in my career came unexpectedly, at times when I wasn’t contemplating a change, and didn’t think I was necessarily ready for the next step up.
Did you have mentors and what influence have they had on your career?
I have never established an official mentor relationship, but there have been a number of people throughout my career who have acted in a mentor role, whether they realised it or not. Sometimes these were senior leaders who were inspiring in their leadership and ability to create high-performing teams, who I wanted to emulate. But I have also sought out leaders whose approach, thought processes, or style is the exact opposite of mine – these are the mentors that have challenged me to build my skills and to improve my ability to influence.
What has been your approach to leading a team through change?
I haven’t always gotten this right, and each time I’ve gone through a significant organisational change, I’ve learnt something else to apply for next time. For me, the most important thing is communication - communicate, communicate, and when you think you’ve said it enough times, communicate again. The team need to be constantly reminded of why the change is necessary, and what’s in it for them. They need to be kept up to date with progress and what’s coming next. Communication of the key messages needs to be in many different ways – written, verbal, big group meetings, and one-on-one conversations; on repeat all the way through to the end.
How have you managed a work/life balance?
I had a manager early in my career who told me bluntly that organisations will suck out every ounce of energy you’re prepared to give them, and that I needed to make sure I set my boundaries. I really took that to heart and I’ve made sure I prioritised my home life as much as my work life throughout my career. Before I had children, I negotiated a flexible working arrangement that allowed me to do some charity work once a week. I then negotiated this arrangement into my contract with my new employer when I changed companies. Once I had children, I negotiated another flexible arrangement that allowed me to still deliver a full-time role, but spend more time at home. Even now, in an executive role, I do school pick-up once a week and ensure I leave by 5pm most days, to have dinner with my family. I am fortunate that I have had a lot of support from my husband and extended family to help juggle all my commitments. I’ve also been fortunate to work for managers and organisations who realise that you don’t have to be sitting in the office 12 hours a day to lead teams and deliver outcomes.
Finally, what advice would you give to those looking to follow in your footsteps?
What’s worked for me is to accept new challenges, especially if they provide the opportunity to work in a new area or to develop skills that I haven’t yet mastered (or ever practiced!).