ALL ABOUT YOU! The Life and Times of Senior Women in Indirect Tax…

I am delighted to present the twelfth in a series of profiles of senior women in Indirect Tax. The aim is to showcase the talents, experience and stories of these amazing women, and provide some insight into their professional and personal lives, what inspires them and what wisdom they can share. My interviewee this week is Wendy Andrews.

Wendy Andrews

Wendy Andrews is Director of VAT at Bishop Fleming, a UK accountancy practice operating throughout the South West and Midlands. Wendy’s career spans the Big 4, a Group A firm, and she started her VAT journey in HMRC. Wendy has extensive experience in a number of different areas of VAT and focuses on making complex VAT issues understandable by businesses of all sizes. She enjoys getting to know clients’ businesses and business objectives so that the solutions she suggests fit in well for the client.

Wendy Andrews

  1. What gets you up in the morning?
    The prospect of an interesting day ahead – preferably meetings with clients and a nice complicated VAT problem to think about.
  2. Can you describe your current role to me in 1 sentence?
    I’m the VAT Director for a top 30 firm of accountants dealing with the whole range of clients from large to small, from retail to charities.
  3. What led you to your current position?
    After spending most of my career in the big 4 I was tempted 8 years ago to move to a smaller firm in the South West, which was one of the best moves I’ve made. My clients are smaller and often don’t have in house finance expertise let alone tax, so they tend to value the help and support we can provide.
  4. How did you get into Indirect Tax in the first place?
    When I graduated, I joined the civil service and HM Customs and Excise was my third choice of department, so I ended up spending 6 years doing VAT visits to a whole range of businesses, which was great training in VAT and in getting on with people.
  5. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Indirect Tax industry right now?
    It’s a very interesting time – making tax digital has the potential to completely change the way in which businesses interact with HMRC and the challenge for advisers is still to be there to support their clients; and of course Brexit, which could change the whole VAT landscape in the UK if we end up separated from the EU perspective which has been so fundamental to the way VAT has operated.
  6. What advice would you give to young professionals – especially women – starting out on their Indirect Tax careers?
    Take all the opportunities which come along to do as many different things as possible, don’t specialise too soon, make sure you understand the wider business perspective on everything you do; and especially for women – be yourself and understand that you have different but equally valuable skills than all the alpha males you’ll come across.
  7. What barriers have you had to overcome during your career to date?
    When my son was born in 1988 it was much more difficult to be a working mum – I remember having to sneak out to sports day or the Christmas play as it wasn’t quite done to admit what you were doing. I also think it is sometimes more difficult to be heard as a woman.
  8. Have there been times when you considered changing career tack?
    Not really, though I’m always hopeful that I’ll get somewhere with that novel…
  9. What has been your ‘career-defining’ moment?
    Deciding to leave Customs and move into practice in 1989 – I was conscious that career prospects in Customs were very limited and I liked the idea of helping businesses rather than finding things wrong with them.
  10. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
    Amazingly I don’t remember giving it any thought – I wanted to study history at university, but didn’t really think where that would lead me.
  11. What advice would you give to your younger self?
    Don’t be scared of people, don’t defer to people, let them earn your respect.
  12. What are your honest thoughts on social media?
    It’s just a communication tool and shouldn’t take over everything, but it has a valuable place – I use facebook for friends, LinkedIn for work and Twitter mainly for keeping up to speed on politics, although increasingly they all cross over.
  13. If you won a big award, who would you thank?
    My literary agent hopefully!
  14. What’s the best thing anyone has ever done for you?
    When I was a child, Aunty Min lived upstairs in our house and I spent a lot of time with her cooking, sticking pictures in scrapbooks and listening to stories of her life in India. She gave me a wider perspective on life and a positive way of looking at things.
  15. What’s the one word you’d want people to describe you with?
    Thoughtful
  16. Books or kindle?
    Books – though I’d have a lot more room in my house if I got a kindle!
  17. If you could have a Skype chat with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
    Elizabeth I, she has been my role model since I read the ladybird book with Aunty Min (see above) – I’d like to talk to her about being a woman in a man’s world.
  18. What is your best time saving tip?
    A lot of admin will look after itself!
  19. What has been the best part of your day today?
    Sadly, coming across a nice complicated VAT issue which will take a lot of working out!
  20. Favorite holiday destination?
    France – I’m about to go back after a long gap, so many parts still to visit.
  21. Tell me one thing that people might not know about you……
    One of my ancestors was a Cornish smuggler, his grave is by a deserted cove and he was “shot by a cannon ball by persons unknown”.

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