Empowering and Encouraging Women in Finance: an interview with Heather Darnell of http://www.ask-the-boss.co.uk/

Heather runs the accountancy and Finance Director consulting firm called BOSS.  She is the Finance Director for a number of London based businesses that do everything from skincare to property development to hotel lighting to investments.

Heather, how did you get into this. Did you train straight out of school/Uni or was it a more roundabout journey?

Totally roundabout!

I graduated from university with a Philosophy degree and my first job after graduation was temping as an Administrative Assistant in the Treasury department of a private company.  After the temp job was finished, I took a job as an Admin Assistant in the Finance department of their telecommunications division, where I fell in love with Excel (and Lotus 123!) and learned how to help the financial analysts build business models in Excel.  Over the next 10 years at that company, I learned so much from the people around me and was promoted first to financial analyst and eventually had held the positions in the UK division of IT Director, Chief Information Officer and finally Operations Director.

Once that company was bought out by a large UK bank, I took redundancy and started BOSS in 2003 with the aim of bringing my big-business know how to the small businesses around me in London.  As small businesses have no interest in outsourcing their operations, I focused back on my financial skills and that is what I have specialised in for 13 years now.

Can you explain what a typical day for you might be?

I usually spend a few hours with the BOSS team helping direct their work or prioritising their tasks and working with Antoniya and Ian on either marketing initiatives or business development ideas.

I usually field quite a few phone calls from clients looking for advice on a specific issue they are facing – this could be staff issue or a pricing decision or a contract negotiation or helping to decide whether to make an investment or not.

I always spend a few hours in either Excel or Xero (our on line accounting system) analysing figures for clients – either setting budgets or looking into unexpected costs or creating reports on the financial position of our clients and making recommendations to them.

What’s your experience from a women’s point of view. Would you say it is a good job for a woman?

I think it is a great job for a woman – having a balance of men and women on the teams that make decisions for a company has been proven to be beneficial for the businesses.  It is great to be able to bring a different viewpoint to the boards from the typical male-dominated viewpoints.

Also, there are so many women owned businesses now and a lot of women business owners feel more comfortable talking about their finances with another woman.

What would your advice be to someone thinking of entering this profession?

Go for it!  I look to hire new staff every year and in the accounting profession, it is a candidate’s market – there are never enough qualified candidates to fill the jobs out there.  It is not quick or easy to qualify as an accountant, but the rewards are excellent and I think it is absolutely fascinating work.

What’s your best financial advice for any woman?

Always save at least 10% of your income every year and either put it in a savings account or invest it.  The sooner you can do this, the more choices and freedom you will have in your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.