Deloitte Ambassador: Meet Debra Wan

Client Director Debra Wan is an ambassador in our Deloitte Ambassador programme. In addition to being the largest professional services network in the world, Deloitte is a company strongly dedicated to creating positive outcomes not just for their clients, but for society in general. The Deloitte Ambassador programme sees ambassadors like Debra join the Adara team in Sydney for 6-12 months at a time, working in close partnership with Adara staff. Here is a short Q&A with Debra, so you can get a glimpse into the great work she’s doing here!

1. Hi Debra, Could you Please tell us a little about yourself and how your career led you to Adara?

Hello! I’m a first-generation Aussie and my family comes from Malaysia, which I love because we have some of the most delicious food in the world. I grew up in a typical immigrant household where my parents sacrificed so much for me and my brother, so I’m extremely grateful and humbled by them. I was an over-achiever earlier in my life but I think I’ve slowed down a little by choice. In November, I will be getting married to my wonderful fiancée, so 2017 has been a busy year with Adara and home life! I would really love to adopt a greyhound and I love a good spa.

I joined Deloitte as a graduate in 2008 in the Assurance & Advisory service line. I worked in Assurance (as an auditor) for about four years, then I worked in Advisory for just over a year. After that I went on secondment to the Deloitte UK firm for 18 months. After I came back to Sydney I have worked in Accounting Technical – and was there until I came to Adara.

I think I was in a certain headspace around this time last year that led me to apply for Adara. I have always wanted to be “successful” but I think I’d defined that rather narrowly in the past – good career opportunities, overseas experience, exposure to big clients, promotions – because when I was thinking about it I had ticked those all off and I didn’t know what was next. I have always thought that people are on this earth to help others less fortunate than them, and when I was thinking about my impact on the world in general and considering I spent more time at my job than anywhere else, I found that while I liked my job, I was getting little satisfaction from it because I didn’t feel like I was helping people that truly needed my help in a genuine and human context. So I was trying to think of how could I use my (incredible) accounting skills (!) to help people – which is hard because accounting probably isn’t the foremost skill when thinking about how to help others. I honestly think it was fate when I read an email sent around about the Adara secondment.

2. What sort of work do you do here at Adara, and how does that vary from what you normally do at Deloitte?

At Deloitte I’m a technical accountant, which is a niche role. It’s a largely internal function (although sometimes we go out to clients) and I give accounting advise on how to account for transactions. We also do technical training and put out publications internally and externally about accounting changes.

My role at Adara is much wider. At Deloitte I get asked about specific transactions – at Adara, it’s pretty much a commercial accounting role and I have to think about how to account for everything, from day to day transactions to preparing financial statements. At Adara I work in the finance team and am involved in the daily data entering and processing, reporting, month end processes, audit, budgets, process improvement, and any other project that comes up, such as chart of account reviews etc. It is more like the Advisory work I did earlier in my career.

3. Is working at Adara different to what you expected? If so, how?

I expected all the tasks that I am doing but I didn’t expect the environment that I’m doing the work in. I knew from the interview process that the people at Adara were nice, but I didn’t expect the overwhelming friendliness and openness of the team, and I love it. They adopted me into their team from the beginning and it really feels like a family here. Everyone is so lovely and the genuine care and concern they hold for each other is very touching.

4. How has the work that Adara does impacted you? Do you have any particular stories?

I think it’s all the little daily things we do that together have created one of the biggest impacts that is working at Adara helped give me another perspective on my work. It’s shown me how to put aside petty personal issues, prioritise and focus on what’s important at the end of the day. I’ve also learnt how something quite small and easy for me can be a game changer for others, so not to underestimate the help I can provide. It’s also taught me how important it is to have fun at work and enjoy what you’re doing, and when to go hard and when to take it easier.

5. What kinds of skills or experience have you developed during your time here?

From a technical perspective, I’ve learned a lot about accounting in a commercial function and I feel much more well-rounded than before. There are also amazing senior ladies working here who I admire so much and I’ve learnt a lot from a personal perspective just in terms of how to be resilient and how to make myself heard in the right way. The ladies here are genuinely inspiring and I basically want to be like them when I grow up.

6. What is the most important thing you’ll take away from your time at Adara/what has been your favourite part of working at Adara so far?

The most important thing I’ve learnt here is to not be complacent and to be passionate about fighting for a fairer world, and nothing will change in my social circles if I don’t give voice to the issues that I feel strongly about, encourage discussion and debate, and point out inequality when I see it. I will also be leaving Adara optimistic that my job can help make a positive change in the world and that there are other opportunities out there to do so.

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