#102: Awarding winning Finance Leadership

Paula Downey Jones

Our Guest Mentor:

Paula Downey Jones is an award winning CFO with over 20 years’ international experience in providing value adding financial and commercial insight, leadership, and financial control for a variety of prestigious blue-chip organisations including Centrica, Honda and Coca-Cola. She has also led international projects in Nigeria, Norway, Egypt and Qatar and humanitarian relief finance projects in Sri Lanka and South Sudan.  In addition she has experience within a wide range of business scenarios including grass roots start up to finance restructuring/rescue to blue chip global expansion.

Paula qualified with The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in 1997, is the winner of the 2005 Financial Business Leader of the Year (CIMA) and became a CIMA Fellow in Jan 2009.She is also an accredited business coach with the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM). 

Paula is the Chief Financial Officer for SmartDebit, the UK’s leading Direct Debit service provider which processes over £2.5bn of transactions every year for businesses, not-for-profits and the public sector. SmartDebit is widely recognised for offering market-leading Customer Service, and their flagship collection portal, Pulse, was recently shortlisted as Best Online Payments Solution in the highly coveted Payments Awards.

Key Quotes From the Episode:

“[On Paula’s career mindset] I’ve tried to make my career work for me rather than the other way around, so I’ve never really been a slave to my CV and I never really thought I could not do something because of how that might look on my CV because a lot of times I decided to do it anyway and it turned out really well anyway. Everything leads to something.” [09:11]

“[On thinking on preparing for your next career challenge] Be open, be flexible, be adaptable and be able to think on your feet. There are always things thrown at you that you may not immediately know how to manage, its about having that core underlying, and broad, experience that you can draw on.” [10:06]

“[On career advice Paula received] The winding road is more interesting and personally enriching than the straight line up the top.” [11:41] 

“[On the importance of not saying yes to everything] If you’re going to say yes to everything you’re likely to end up just exhausting yourself.” [15:50] 

(Other resources and how to connect with Paula below).

Key Points From the Episode:

  • The confidence, and enjoyment, that comes from making your career work for you and the benefits of the winding road.
  • How to gain a better depth of understanding in finance.
  • 11 areas where Finance professionals can improve their value proposition.

Time Stamped Show Notes

[02:06] – Paula shares her career journey from management accounting to becoming an aid worker and an award winning finance leader.

[04:15] – How Paula drew the courage to leave behind the safety of management accounts and how it gave her more depth to her experience.

[07:20] – Paula shares an experience of having to think quickly on her finance feet when in Sudan.

[09:39] – The fulfilment that comes from making your career work for you and the benefits of the winding road.

[13:55] – 11 areas where Finance professionals can improve our value proposition.

[14:00] Regard all experiences as value adding

[14:25] Finding role models and mentors

[14:55] Emotional Intelligence and how you interact with others

[15:15] No substitute for hard work

[15:25] Build yourself a personal strategy

[15:45] The importance of being selective as to what you say yes to

[16:00] Never waste a crisis

[16:35] Be aware of the impact of perception

[17:10] Asking for help is not a sign of weakness

[20:37] – The best bit of advice Paula has ever received.

[21:37] – How best to connect with Paula.

[22:00] – Paula shares parting thoughts with a key strategic insight from her early career.

[24:00] Ignore change at your peril no matter how uncomfortable it is

[24:20] Be open to other people’s opinions and ways of looking at things

Resources Mentioned:

  • This Is Spinal Tap (movie)

Connect with today’s guest:

LinkedIn Profile:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/paula-downey-jones-fcma-ilm-6b227711/

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