Women at BDO: A discussion with Hien Tran-Mach

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?

I am conscious of the fact that I am in a position of influence which gives me the opportunity to make a positive difference in people’s lives - whether they be external clients or internal colleagues. This is what I find most rewarding in my role. As a trusted adviser, I am grateful to be a part of my clients’ success journey through acting as their sounding board and adding value to their business. As a leader, I am passionate about building a high-performing team through empowerment and trust. It is not always a smooth sailing journey as growth requires resilience and discipline, but it is my utmost pleasure to see the individuals in my care grow and thrive personally and professionally, which makes the hard work all worthwhile.

Have you ever felt like you had to overcome any gender-related roadblocks in your career (big or small)?

It is a constant challenge to overcome stereotypes, more so as you progress through your career. It is something that I am mindful of, but I refuse to submit to any gender-related roadblocks. When I returned from maternity leave, most people were surprised to find me working full-time. Some even questioned if I spend enough time with my family. Those questions are usually harmless and made out of curiosity, but I’d like to challenge the way we think and perceive what roles women play in society. I’d like my capabilities to be seen and acknowledged as an individual, regardless of my gender. These days I’m all about embracing who I am and the uniqueness that I bring. In BDO common language, let’s say I have a growth mindset, not a fixed mindset.

How do you manage those types of situations?

They say the best way to prove someone wrong is through working on your own success. Like I said earlier, my focus is not on any gender-related roadblocks but on my capabilities. Honing my skillsets and growing as an individual is how I navigate through these types of situations.

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

I am a big believer in having (at least one) mentor to guide you through the challenges in your career and in life. The insights you learn from your mentor are so invaluable as oftentimes these things aren’t taught in university or textbooks. I commenced my career in professional practice when I was a second-year university student. I still remember the exhilaration upon receiving the job offer, let’s say it was like I had won the lottery. I was absolutely thrilled - even more so because the person who was willing to give me a chance really commanded respect. He was a great leader and mentor to me simply because he really cared about my growth and development. I still reflect on the conversations that we had back in those days and am so grateful that I had such an amazing mentor to help navigate me through the early challenges. In fact, those discussions set the scene for the values that I hold dear – staying true to yourself and turning every challenge into an opportunity.

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

I think it’s very important to hold yourself accountable to your own growth and development. I’ve seen situations where young professionals try to shift the blame for their career roadblocks to someone else and the circumstances that they are in. There is only one way to grow – that is to own your mistakes, learn from them and thrive. Also, it’s very important to have long-term vision. If you think short-term only, it would be very easy to quit when the going gets tough.

Do you feel that you have made sacrifices personally and professionally? How do you find a work/life balance?

For me, work/life balance is a mindset and a very personal one. Everyone has a different balance and we need to carefully define what that balance is for ourselves. The right balance for you may not be the right balance for me and vice versa. That balance comes down to your level of wellbeing and happiness. If you are happy with how you spend your everyday, then you have the right balance. The key is being present. When I am at work, my clients and colleague have my full attention. When I am at home, I am fully present with my family. When I catch up with friends, they have my ears. That’s how I strike the right balance for myself.

What do you think makes a successful leader?

Reflecting on the leaders that I look up to, they all have one thing in common – that is the heart for their people. When you care, people take note of what you do and say. That is how some of the greatest leaders in the world came about, not by their title, but through the contribution they make to the lives of the people under their care.

Why do you think that female leadership (or more diverse leadership) is important to the future of the firm?

Diversity is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot these days. To me, leadership has to be authentic, and to be authentic, you need to challenge the status quo. We collectively all have a role to play in how female leadership is perceived, it starts with each of us. We need to challenge the stereotype mindset so that great leaders can emerge whether it be male or female. That is how we set ourselves apart and stay relevant.

As the industry becomes less male dominated, do you feel like it will become less of an issue? Is there progress?

There is still some progress but there is still a long way to go. We need to consciously embrace change and challenge the status quo.

What do you think the future of accounting looks like? And what are you looking forward to in the future for your own career?

The future of accounting cannot be more exciting. With the assistance of AI and technology, we can step away from mundane tasks and focus on providing value-added services to our clients. As the traditional accounting roles become redundant, our clients will be looking to us as their trusted advisers to provide them with proactive advice and pave the way for their success. I am looking forward to being the pillar of support for my clients so that they can focus on what is important to them and their business.

How has COVID-19 changed the way you work, now and into the future?

COVID-19 has turned the world on its head. The way we work has certainly changed and no one expects it to return to the ‘old normal’. Technology allows us to work and connect remotely – COVID-19 is the playground that showcases our ability to adapt to change. You would think it impossible for everyone in the firm to work remotely, and yet we did it and we thrived. I am very proud of our people who have proven to be so resilient and agile in times of challenges. During the most strenuous circumstances, we work together as one and thrive together as one. We have overcome so much and have learnt even more so. No doubt we will continue to learn, grow and adapt and that is not a bad thing.