Joanne Regan struggled with confidence issues at the start of her career. But after training courses – and even a self-confidence technique involving standing on a chair – she has progressed to be regional managing partner of accounting and business advisory firm Azets.
Where do you call home?
Hartlepool born and bred. I never wanted to leave Teesside – why would I when we have so much to offer, both in opportunity and lifestyle?
The region is booming thanks in part to high profile investments such as Teesside Freeport and Treasury North. I’m proud to live and work in such a vibrant, exciting place.
Tell us about your role?
I am the recently appointed regional managing director for the North-East offices of Azets (www.azets.co.uk), a national accounting and business advisory business.
My role is to lead a team of 160+ in providing a personal and effective service to each client and lead our ambitious growth plans.
In the North-East we have offices in Alnwick, Crook, Durham, Guisborough, Hexham, Seaton Burn, Sunderland and Wynyard.
How did you get to where you are today?
From eight years old, I always wanted to be an accountant because I loved maths (and was quite good at it!) And while the reality is that the job is much more than numbers, I do not regret pursuing my career.
I chose not to go to university. I was very much a home bird and wanted the opportunity to get into the workplace as soon as possible after A Levels. This was an unusual approach into the profession at the time, but I was offered a training contract at a local firm to start my four year chartered accountancy training contract. I will always be grateful to the partner who offered me the position, as he believed in my potential and started my career journey.
Four years later, I was qualified as a chartered accountant with first time passes. I think I was the first girl at the firm to qualify as an ACA. The profession, especially at senior levels, was very much a male-dominated environment. My practice grew throughout Teesside, and I grew with it.
To that point, I lacked in self-confidence. However, my skills were regarded highly in our new national firm, and I was offered a partner position and found myself taking the lead as the North-East audit partner representing our area on our national audit committee and in our international network.
It helped me that the firm was heavily invested in developing people. I took part in an intensive leadership training programme, which helped me with my confidence issues. The trainer observed that I often had great ideas but was not listened to by my team of peers. One day, to overcome this, he insisted that every time I spoke, I stood on my chair! Despite this seeming completely mad, it worked. From that day on, I have never struggled with my confidence – don’t get me wrong, we all have wobbles, but I know all I need to do is stand on my fictional chair!
The international part of my duties saw me travel overseas regularly and eventually I became a quality control reviewer, visiting our global offices. I learned so much from my peers from different countries and thoroughly enjoyed this part of my journey.
My firm eventually became part of Azets and I was promoted to managing partner of our Wynyard office. Taking on this role taught me never to take the team for granted. Giving my team the skills, opportunities and a sense of worth is essential to be able to give our clients the best experience. I am a true people champion, and my team are like my extended family. I still get the greatest pleasure from seeing the team do well in their careers.
At the start of this year, I was promoted to regional managing partner, which I assume means I did quite well with the one office and now have the opportunity to work with all eight!
What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way?
Definitely confidence! I was painfully quiet as a young woman, but I am sure people who know me now would never believe that. Thank goodness for the radical “chair” experience!
I also experienced doubters along the way. From college and through many years of my career, I was told I would never pass any exams, both at A Level and professional level. I decided those tutors were wrong and I proved them so. I was accused of being over promoted because my main mentor through my early career tested me, by giving me opportunities that I was perceived not to be ready for. I guess he saw my potential and drove me forward, despite my lack of confidence. The negativity just made me more determined to get on.
Describe the moment you first got a feel for success?
I don’t think I had a lightbulb moment – more like several flickers of light, each one giving me the confidence and determination to move to the next level. I have thoroughly enjoyed every level of my career and been fortunate to be inspired and mentored by some amazing people. My mentors pushed me to succeed.
I never had a goal in mind when I set out on my career path. I knew what I wanted to do and set about doing it. Every time a new opportunity arises, my philosophy has always been to try it on for size.
Do you have any advice to aspiring young females?
Believe in yourself and do not allow others to hold you back. Find people who will be your mentor/champion/supporter at each stage of your careers. We all suffer from imposter syndrome at times – accept it but be confident in your abilities.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
It’s fine to speak up and have an opinion. Be brave, be confident and stand on the chair!
What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?
You’ve got this!
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