Our people: Barbara Robertson
Barbara Robertson is a fairly new addition to the Deloitte Private team, and is based in Dunedin. With an interesting and varied background in law, governance and leadership, she’s enthusiastic about the unique opportunities of our Private space. We took the time to catch up with Barbara to find out more about her work and her experience to date...
How long have you been at Deloitte and what is your role?
I'm an Associate Director in Tax & Private and have been with Deloitte for around 14 months.
How are you finding it so far?
It's great, it's so different to what I used to do. I have previously led teams within one company, and haven’t worked specifically as a consultant in this kind of role before.
How did you get to where you are in your career?
I started my professional career with a law degree, which equipped me with a lot of useful skills but I didn’t want to follow a conventional career in law. I’ve chosen to branch out – from legal roles, to running operational businesses, then into senior leadership positions, leading large teams and advising executives. I’ve tried to take roles that apply to at least one of three things - I get to work for an inspiring leader, I get to do work that really challenges me, or I get to help a team, client or customer do something different or better.
My role at Deloitte follows these lines. My family and I had just decided to move back to New Zealand after living in Melbourne for a long time and after noticing the job advert, I thought it could be a really good use of my skills. I'd been doing a lot of different roles and because I'd been in senior roles on the client side, I knew I could bring some insight from that as an advisor.
You’ve had some extensive experience in governance. Do you have any advice for those working in board roles?
It’s fundamental to realise that when you're in a governance role, you're not running the business or operations. Initially when I started in different advisory roles that was a challenge for me, because I have a bias for action and I wanted to do as much as I could to fix and transform the company. However, I realised that sometimes you have to frame your ideas and experience differently, so that management can learn from you in their own way.
Also if you accept a board or governance role, you have to be good to go. Often in a corporate role, you can take on something new and with the right sponsorship and support, you can learn in the role. However, just because you're good in business doesn't mean you'll be good in governance. You need to make sure you’re prepared before you put your hand up. Do your research and understand your value in relation to the company’s purpose and goals.
In an effective board, is it important to ensure that you are aligned as a team or should there be space for a difference of opinions?
It's a bit of both. I think great boards are where you have diversity of thinking and experience but at the same time, everyone still has to be aligned in their understanding of the key areas. Also, you have to know who you are and be self-aware. Often for myself, I’ve learned to know when to dial it up and down, so I'm still me but using my energy in different ways to suit the team dynamic.
Ideally everyone should be their own authentic self, but play within a shared framework to get some great traction together.
What achievement are you proudest of in your career?
I was very proud to get my MBA whilst in full-time senior positions, which was 3 and a half years of really stepping up and challenging myself. I’m proud that I’ve been able to balance pretty complex and consuming roles with a happy home life, while still keeping up the ‘lifelong learning’.
What is your favourite way to spend the weekend?
Exploring Dunedin at the moment and reconnecting with New Zealand after being away for 18 years - it's like being on holiday every weekend!
Was there anything specific you’d missed about New Zealand while you’d been living in Melbourne?
The sounds and colours. The greenery and bird song in New Zealand is just beautiful and I forgot how much I’d missed it. Especially in Otago and Southland, where it's so lush with so much amazing native bush. It's something about New Zealand that I didn't realise I loved so much until I was away from it.
Jen Scouler works in the Deloitte clients & marketing team across digital content and social media. She also works closely with Deloitte Private.