Women at BDO: A discussion with Elina McKerrell

At BDO, we're committed to supporting our professional women and driving their success. From graduates to partners, we help women build relationships and create well-defined career paths through networking events, coaching, and professional development opportunities.

To celebrate International Women’s Day and to give you an inside look at what it's like to be a woman in accounting – and at BDO – we conducted discussions with some of our most talented professionals. During the conversations, they discussed accounting and their experiences as women in business, and the importance of diversity in leadership.

What do you like most about your position?  

The autonomy to make decisions and make a difference both for my clients and also for the team and follow through with actions. In this role leadership is important and the responsibility cannot be taken lightly. An example is being set continually and the way is constantly being paved and moulded for future leaders to emerge and succeed and we play an important part in that. A lot of hard work has been contributed by those leaders who have already setup the building blocks for success and it is our responsibility to maintain and build on those in our ever changing world.

Did anyone mentor you as a professional, early in your career?

I had the opportunity very early in my career while I was still a student to meet an entrepreneur who gave me some tips and pointed me in the right direction. I also had the opportunity to work under a very intelligent individual who constantly and consistently pushed me to develop myself. Words, attitude and support from leaders mean a lot and although it is each of our individual responsibility to work to achieve our goals, support and guidance contributes greatly in personal confidence and ability to achieve. The road has definitely not been all smooth sailing and a lot of personal drive and determination has contributed to my achievements, however the counsel I received from both these individuals was invaluable and something I always appreciated.

What piece of go-to advice do you give someone who is looking to start a career in this field?

The stereotypical ideal that accountants are boring unsociable people who sit in a corner and crunch numbers cannot be further from the truth. This profession is people helping people achieve their dreams and we are constantly looking to and planning for the future in what we do for and with our clients. It’s a great profession to be in and you do need to understand the human side if you want to excel in this career. Definitely anyone considering this field needs to be up for a challenge and able to adapt and move in an ever changing landscape.

What do you think makes a successful leader?

There is a lot to being a successful leader and I don’t think it can be summed up in such a short setting. A good leader is one whereby others are inspired and motivated to succeed, paving the way, being out in front, leading by example is important. Accountability and acknowledging own mistakes and weaknesses is also an important aspect and example. Leadership includes nurturing and encouraging the right behaviours and mindset in others at all levels. As a leader it’s very important to develop others and their ability to lead and encourage a lateral unbiased big picture mindset without losing sense of the detail. Leaders are setting a constant example and must display integrity and a strong ethical standpoint whereby the leader earns respect and trust. Leaders must be strong individuals and not swayed by noise or bad behaviours.