Young Business Leaders on the Rise

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Oct 17, 2017

They’re passionate about finance but that’s not the only thing that drives these young, talented professionals. Brought to you by CPA Australia.

Meet our future leaders

As well as studying for the CPA Program while working full-time, each one has dedicated time outside of their career to assist their community, develop their strengths and contemplate how their workplace will likely change in the coming years. Shelley Cable, a Noongar woman, works in Canberra as an Associate with PwC’s Indigenous Consulting, a majority-owned Indigenous business. She was a finalist in the 2017 Western Australian of the Year Awards and presented to the United Nations on financial literacy in July. Darren Gauci is based at BP’s Melbourne headquarters. He worked in several areas of the business as part of the graduate program before becoming a performance advisor in the company’s fast-growing retail unit. And Nelson Hon, who is based in Hong Kong, works as a trust relationship manager with HSBC Trustee and is chair of CPA Australia’s Young Achievers Committee (YAC). He’s dedicated to helping his community and encouraging others to do the same. Though all three are only at the start of their careers, prepare to see big things from them in the years to come. These are their thoughts on the issues that matter to them: change, community and leadership.


Shelley Cable, ASA – Associate Consultant

What I’ve learnt about the future of work

Shelley: Having technical skills and being good at what you do isn’t enough any more. You need to have “soft skills” such as creative thinking and the ability to inspire and motivate people – they’re going to become the most important skills in the future. Like [technology entrepreneur] Elon Musk says, there will be fewer and fewer jobs that robots cannot do better so you constantly need to work on personal and professional development to ensure the best chance of a successful career.

Darren: Finance is now less about reporting the past and more about the future. Where once it was all about debits and credits, it’s now about providing insight and predictive analytics so you can help people make the most of the future. I think finance will keep moving into a consulting space.

Nelson: You need to spend time on self-development. Things are changing continuously so keep developing your professional knowledge to make sure you stay ahead of the game. Finance knowledge is something everyone will need; everyone has a bank account, a business or a personal investment. You need to be able to let people come to you when they need help.

What I’ve learnt about leadership

Shelley: The No. 1 quality of a good leader is self awareness. I recently did a course that focused on uncovering my personal leadership style. I was embarrassed to find my motivators were to succeed and achieve; I thought that was incredibly individualistic. But I realised it’s a matter of using what you’ve got for the most good. Being confident in that means I don’t hold myself back.

Darren: Finance is a technical profession and sometimes the people skills are the hard part. You could be as technically savvy as Einstein but if you can’t take people on a journey with you, there’s no point. Good leadership is about building relationships, being a selfless coach to your team and balancing looking at the bigger picture with the detail. You need to have good judgement, be passionate and balance your progression with your team’s career progression.

Nelson: You need to know the strengths and weaknesses of the people you work with, to bring out the best in them. Discipline is important. If you set rules for others, you need to follow them, too. You can’t lead others and expect them to follow your rules if you don’t.

Nelson Hon, CPA – Trust Relationship Manager

What I’ve learnt about motivation

Shelley: My parents both worked in a bank so, for me, it wasn’t strange to be around money and finance. I was inspired to pursue economics and finance at university to get into entrepreneurship. But what inspires me now is very different. I’ve learnt that financial literacy is an underdeveloped skill, particularly in Indigenous Australia. I’m passionate about improving financial literacy and promoting Indigenous businesses. More than 200,000 people have an Australian professional accounting designation yet only 38 self-identify as Indigenous. By doing my CPA, I want to add to that tally. I’m walking the walk of what I’m passionate about.

Darren: I’ve always been interested in numbers and business. But one of the main things I get a kick out of is removing the stereotype of the nerdy finance guy who’s all about numbers and spreadsheets. I like building relationships with businesses so that they don’t see us as scary auditors but as people they can learn something from and who can help them out – and they can help us, too.

Nelson: Accounting always seemed like a natural fit and as I progressed through my degree, I realized it’s a skill that is essential in a lot of professions. In my work on the YAC for CPA Australia, I get the chance to meet people from all different fields. You might be an expert in your own industry but you need to interact with others to understand how modern business runs. That’s what drives me. 

What I’ve learnt about community

Shelley: As an Indigenous Australian, community is my extended family. I’ve had so many opportunities because my community has supported me. I spoke at the United Nations’ Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples this year in Geneva about the importance of Indigenous business and access to financial services. It inspires me to see that what I do affects my community in a good way and it’s rewarding to connect with people when I speak.

Darren: One of the main community partners at BP is the McGrath Foundation; we have financial involvement with elements of our joint campaigns. And we’ve also had involvement with other charities. We recently went to a dog shelter and helped out with painting a room and walking the animals. It’s really important to step out of work and realise there’s a bigger picture.

Nelson: Everyone should play a role in giving back to society. There are imbalances no matter where you go so you should always step forward and see how you can help. As chair of the YAC in Hong Kong, I want to recruit more young, talented people who are committed to helping others, not just by supplying manpower but perhaps also by providing professional help for free.

What I’ve learnt about changing technology

Shelley: I moved to Canberra from Perth four months ago and it’s amazing how technology can help you have a presence in multiple places, even when you only spend a minimal amount of time there physically. But I also think I’m part of a growing group of people who are becoming more mindful of how we use technology. Social media is now a part of life so it’s important to be in control of how you use it.

Darren: Technology is making things easier for the end user. Once upon a time, you’d have to look at results on a spreadsheet on a computer, whereas now you can access those results on your smartphone. The amount of data we have access to is huge and we need to find ways to build off that information.

Nelson: Ten years ago, we thought it was great when we could access interest calculations on our mobile phone; nowadays, we can transfer money with it and do our work on it. This means we can be much more efficient in all areas, have more time for our friends and family and have more time for creativity.

Darren Gauci, CPA – Performance Advisor

What I’ve learnt about finding balance

Shelley: When you’re working in a large organisation, it’s easy to start evaluating yourself against their criteria – it changes you and what you want to be. Maintaining that external perspective is crucial. I took six months’ leave without pay from my previous job because maintaining that balance was unsustainable. But now, working for PwC’s Indigenous Consulting, my work and passions are aligned for the first time.

Darren: When it came to getting my CPA, it was about self-discipline and prioritising my time. Though there was a lot going on, it was a matter of setting aside time and not leaving study to the last minute. There are always instances where work will eat into your personal life and vice versa but you balance it out.

Nelson: I try to keep my work between Monday and Friday so weekends are for friends and family. It’s about communication. Clients wouldn’t bother you on weekends if the matter wasn’t urgent so I treat them as I would a family member or friend asking for help.

What I’ve learnt about thinking ahead

Shelley: While applying for an MBA at Stanford [University] when I was 18, one of their questions was, “What are you most passionate about?” I didn’t know the answer so I threw myself into finding my passion. I came across a TED Talk [Scott Dinsmore’s “How to find work you love”] that asked, “What is the work you can’t not do?” and then it was really simple. My five-year goal is to be at, or about to go to, Stanford for an MBA.

Darren: I set specific goals. When I was at university, I’d drive through Melbourne’s CBD and say I was going to work in one of those buildings – and now here I am! I want to move into a leadership position because I really do enjoy being accountable and being able to share achievements within a team.

Nelson: Professionally, I want to keep working on my role with HSBC. In my work with CPA Australia, being chosen as chair of the YAC was a great achievement. I want to continue to recruit members who can carry on the legacy and participate in charity work in Hong Kong.