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Posted: 08 Nov, 2021

On 2nd November, TMA NextGen Bristol hosted a Careers Panel with speakers Ross Connock, Andrew Pepper and Emily Scaife who each shared their career development journeys, challenges they have overcome and tips for successful networking.

If you missed the session or would like to watch it again, you can find the recording here.

Opening the session, Sam Parsons, NextGen Bristol Committee Member and Barrister at Guildhall Chambers, welcomed the panellists and introduced Tim Pritchard, Legal Director at Foot Anstey who moderated the discussion.

To begin, Tim asked Ross how his career has developed and how he reached his current position as a licensed IP and Director of PwC’s West and Wales restructuring team. Ross said his start in restructuring as an 18 year old school leaver was a “happy accident” having narrowly avoided going into the tax team at EY. Having taken ACCA and then insolvency exams, Ross moved up through from trainee to manager within EY, with secondments to Barclays and Corporate Finance along the way. In 2000 he moved from EY to Baker Tilly to set up their Bristol office, before moving to London with them as a Partner during the noughties. Later that decade he moved back West to re-start PKF’s restructuring offering before being headhunted to join PwC in Bristol as a Director, where he’s remained ever since and now leads their West and Wales team.

Starting out, Emily said she knew she wanted to be a Lawyer but didn’t know what area of law she wanted practice. She studied at Bristol University and after her training contract with TLT where she enjoyed the restructuring and insolvency work, she qualified and moved to Birmingham to take up a restructuring vacancy at Eversheds. After two years, she moved back to Bristol to work for Burges Salmon. Now, as a newly appointed Partner, Emily said that she still feels like she is in the early stages of her career and loves her varied and rewarding work.

Unlike Ross and Emily, Andrew set his sights on restructuring early on after attending an inspiring university lecture. Upon leaving Manchester University, Andrew went to work for a Top 3 firm but changed firms often in order to move up the ranks more quickly, making Partner at 31 years old. During his last year as a Partner at Kroll, Andrew said he was billing £5-6 million a year but got bored acting purely for fees and decided to move from advisory to ownership. In 2015, Andrew set up Snowhill Capital which buys businesses and turns them around.

When asked by Tim if his view of success has changed over the course of his career, Andrew said that when he was younger, his goal was to buy a nice house, pay his mortgage and make Partner. After achieving that early in his career, his focus moved to doing what makes him excited to wake up in the morning. At this point in his career, Andrew said he views success as being able to make a difference and restore value in the companies he works with. At the start of his career his work was Restructuring, Turnaround and then Improvement. Now is Improvement, Turnaround and then Restructuring.

Having also made Partner at a young age, Tim asked Emily whether she is reassessing her goals. Up until recently, Emily said success for her was binary – passing exams, getting promotions, and making Partner. Now, however, she no longer views success as being just about her and instead views it as a team pursuit, measured by the success of a restructuring, of saving a brand, of saving jobs, and of supporting colleagues to progress in their own careers.

Ross, who also made Partner at a young age, viewing it then as the ultimate marker of success, said that when he was approached by PwC for a Director role, he held some concerns as to whether it could be seen to be a backward step. Trusted friends and mentors played a role in allaying that question, describing the choice as a ‘no brainer’ and the access to complex and interesting work, the team and the culture have all helped him reconcile with the fact that job title is not an indication of success. Now, Ross measures his success through his work on restructurings and the success of his team.

Moving on to discuss challenges they have overcome in their careers, Andrew said that when he left his partner position to join Hilco Capital he not only took a temporary pay cut but also struggled to move away from his advisory mindset. It took him six months to learn to just listen to the business’s problems, not solving them until he owned them. He said he learnt to become ‘’harder’ and change his overall mindset. Ross said his challenges have stemmed from suffering with imposter syndrome, a common problem despite the industry’s persona. In the 90s when he needed some professional help to deal with it, mental health wasn’t as talked about as it is now, and it was difficult to admit he needed support.

Switching to the topic of networking, Emily said she has struggled with networking in the past. She recalled a time when she went to a Christmas Party as a junior and, not recognising anyone when she walked in, went straight to the bathroom where she hid for 10 minutes before talking herself into going out and striking up a conversation. Like many, Emily said she struggles with the idea that networking is about selling or collecting business cards. Instead, she approaches networking as a way to build genuine relationships whilst being authentic. Andrew’s approach is to attend events with someone else so that they can each strike up conversations and then give the other a ‘warm’ introduction. This, he said, gets over the initial hurdle of joining someone’s circle and is a good method for those on the shy side.

Finally, to close off the webinar, Tim asked the speakers to share one piece of advice they would give to their younger selves. Ross said his would be to grab every opportunity. Emily’s would be to stop comparing herself to other people and Andrew’s would be to tell himself not to rush.

Thank you to the speakers for taking the time to share their insights and to everyone who joined the session. Visit the events page on the TMA-UK website to see more of our upcoming webinars and events.

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