Leaders of Tomorrow – Sarah Richards

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Sep 29, 2016

Brought to you by CPA Australia

One word to sum up Sarah Richards: busy. A senior associate at PWC’s Indigenous Consulting (PIC), the 26-year-old Wongaibon woman is treasurer of the ACT NAIDOC Committee and organiser of their annual ball, as well as the creator of modern Aboriginal artwork.

How often do you travel?

Let’s put it this way: since joining up with Qantas Frequent Flyer last December, I am now on the verge of Gold status. Nearly every second week sees me flying from Canberra, where I’m based, to Sydney, Melbourne or Darwin. Our team is spread across various locations and it’s often easier and makes more sense to get together in person than to do everything on email or by teleconference. 

What is your favourite activity between meetings?

Oh gosh, I don’t have time to do anything fun – I’m usually working! In my free time I like to paint – I’m self-taught. (Sarah’s work can be seen at Burrunju Art Gallery in Canberra.) Things really heat up with my workload towards the end of the financial year, then there’s the NAIDOC ball in July. It’s a pretty crazy time of the year for me. 

What’s your secret to success in business?

Just have a go. When I was younger I had doubts about my abilities, but I don’t listen to those little negative voices in my head any more. Doing the CPA Program really built my confidence. I just think that if something doesn’t pay off, it doesn’t pay off – it’s not the end of the world. Similarly on the ACT NAIDOC committee, even though I’m younger than a lot of the other members, I try to offer guidance while realising that one style of management is not always going to work with different groups of people. 

What is the best thing about working in Australia?

There are so many opportunities to do different and exciting projects across the Australian workplace, whether it’s working for government or private enterprise. 

If you could have a business dinner with anyone in the world, anywhere… who would it be with and where?

Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada. He’d be interesting to talk to about some of the great things he has done with the First Nations of Canada, and about what Australia can do better in that department. I’d have dinner with him in Canada, of course. 

What is your number one packing tip?

Pack light – but I’m not very good at that. I like choices. But think about anything you might need that you won’t be able to get, or that will be costly to buy at your destination, and make sure you take that. 

What has the CPA Program taught you about leadership?

Lead by example; be open minded and adaptable; listen. At PIC, no matter your level, your opinion matters. You have to value the opinions of people at the junior levels. 

AND…

PIC is a rapidly expanding business – how do you cope with the new challenges thrown your way on a regular basis?

A few weeks ago, I was asked to go to Darwin to work on a proposal for which I had no background and no experience in the particular field. My first inclination was to panic, but being a CPA has equipped me to take a deep breath and break it down step by step. I ended up working all weekend, but got the proposal done and submitted early. It definitely tested my ‘Just have a go’ theory, but it was worth it!

SEE ALSO: Leaders of Tomorrow - William Goh