Having the right flair and education is only the very beginning of a fruitful career. To reach higher ground, it also takes professional acumen and a wealth of personality attributes.
Ayesha Macpherson, tax partner, KPMG Hong Kong is a case in point.
Ms Macpherson was born in Hong Kong, and though she attended secondary school in the UK, she foresaw a career in Hong Kong and China. Considering business-related options, she judged it would be best to be a specialist. Therefore, at the age of 13, Ms Macpherson decided to become a tax accountant.
With such foresight it is easy to assume Ms Macpherson studied accountancy at university, but having discussed accountancy with industry professionals, she discovered the field was changing, with companies looking for people with different training and backgrounds. "Study something completely different, and it will help in an accountancy career," they advised. As a result, Ms Macpherson studied mediaeval and modern history at the University of London.
Upon graduation Ms Macpherson joined KPMG in the UK. Even during the interview process, she felt strongly that a long-term relationship was being developed. Her education background was not the deciding factor. "They were looking for people with the right competencies," she says. These included communications, problem solving, and interpersonal skills.
Subsequently, Ms Macpherson entered KPMG's audit division. Once she qualified as an accountant, she began specialising in taxation, which proved to be what she was looking for. After five years in London, she embraced an opportunity to join KPMG's Hong Kong team with open arms and great anticipation.
In 1998, Ms Macpherson became a tax partner specialising in corporate taxation. To her, teamwork is key for climbing the corporate ladder. "Hard work is important and there are no detours," she says. "You succeed because people around you want you to. They give you opportunities, and support you. In our profession, teamwork is everything."
A partner in her own right, Ms Macpherson undertakes several jobs at once, with opportunities to serve many types of business, and work on many transactions at any one time. She feels the opportunity to learn is everywhere, especially when working with top business leaders. Projects may last a few days, or weeks, or even years, and working with people in other companies for long periods provides a platform for friendship, which adds to overall job satisfaction.
At times, Ms Macpherson heads to China, mainly for meetings with clients, as well as with staff from KPMG's 10 offices on the mainland. "There are also conference calls and that means less travelling," she explains. "This is more environmentally friendly, and better for maintaining a work-life balance."
A life-long learning advocate, KPMG offers a multitude of classroom sessions, mentoring and on-the-job-training to its many talents. Although Ms Macpherson still attends some lectures herself, she now passes on her extensive knowledge to colleagues through various channels including the 1060-page tome Hong Kong Taxation, which she co-authors.
"I'm part of the third generation of tax partners working on the book," reveals Ms Macpherson. The first edition was published in 1981. A new edition has been published each year since and Ms Macpherson became co-author in 2004.
"We see it as knowledge sharing because it's read by a lot of students and our professional counterparts," she says. The current 26th edition includes a new chapter on international taxation.
Ms Macpherson also devotes considerable time and energy to community service. She serves on a number of government committees, including the Women's Commission, the Financial Reporting Review Panel of the Financial Reporting Council, and the Lump Sum Grant Independent Review Committee.
Aside from this, Ms Macpherson also finds time to chair KPMG's community service committee, which was established in 2003, and has helped build a strong relationship with the Society For Community Organisation (SoCO).
Initially, only around 15 volunteers helped out. This number has grown to around 500 today and an array of initiatives are ongoing and in the pipeline to support community projects.
For its efforts, KPMG won the Outstanding Partnership Project Award from the Hong Kong Council of Social Service last year. "It was a rewarding experience," Ms Macpherson says.
Reflecting on her career to date, Ms Macpherson says, "There are always new areas to develop and everybody should be looking to take on new responsibilities. You can't stand still."