TeaTalk with: Julie Teague, Finance Director
We sit down with Julie Teague, our Finance Director here at Cogent, for an International Women’s Day special of TeaTalk. We explore what collective individualism means to her, while she shares her most valuable piece of advice for women thinking about their careers.
What inspired you to get involved in Finance? Was this something you always wanted to do?
Growing up I wanted to be an air Hostess, finance was definitely not something I had in mind. Looking back though, I always found solace in numbers where an answer was simply right or wrong. As a 14 year old, I recall begging my dad to let me go on a maths weekend in Wales where I spent the weekend solving puzzles. I did (and still do) love history and learning about the past, but I struggled to find the same satisfaction in any other subjects. I left school at 16 to work in a butchers at a supermarket. I seemed to have a knack for stock count, anticipating how much stock to order for promotional perishable products and reducing wastage as a result; I was promoted to supervisor by age 17. After that, I had numerous jobs in offices, I was always keen to take on responsibility and prove I could do whatever I set my mind to. After my daughter was born I asked to work a 4 day week, the only part-time vacancy was in the purchase ledger department, that experience was the starting point of my finance career.
What is it that makes Cogent different to other agencies/places you have worked at?
The togetherness ethos, everyone helps each other out and crosses over the imaginary departmental boundaries which can exist in other organisations. I recall shortly after I started there was a huge fulfilment job that needed turning around, unexpectedly, almost overnight. Every department and member of staff chipped in, stuffing envelopes to hit the deadline for our client – I knew then I’d walked into somewhere special.
Plus, it’s such a stunning setting too. After working in the city centre for one and a half decades being surrounded by countryside is a breath of fresh air (quite literally).
What’s your career highlight to date, something you’re proud of?
The thing I am most proud of is a personal achievement which runs alongside my career. Without any academic exemptions to propel me on my way, I spent a total of seven years studying IAB, AAT and then ACCA. During this I worked full time leading finance at a large Midlands agency and was self-employed bookkeeping, all while ensuring my daughter had what she needed, including quality time with her mom. My final exam was in 2017; things were gloomy. I was going through a divorce, which involved having to sell my home, my life was in boxes around me. I’d recently had surgery for bowel cancer and was halfway through chemotherapy treatment. I remember telling the nurse to inject it into my left hand so I could still write my exam paper with my right. That may sound stupid, or brave, but I saw it as an efficient and logical use of my time, which took my mind off things – there was no way I was letting anything stand between me and my goal of finally qualifying. I passed every exam first time, with a high average score.
My daughter has witnessed first hand how rewarding a career can be and has begun her first steps into figuring out what hers will be (proud mom moment!). She has a part-time job, volunteers for Staffordshire Police and is at university full time (like mother like daughter). We are incredibly close and incredibly supportive of each other.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
It’s a piece of virtual advice by Jordan Belfort, but I live by this type of mantra – if I want something badly enough I’ll figure it out.
“The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullsh*t story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it”
One of my previous mentors also taught me this:
“It’s better to be approximately right than precisely wrong”.
I think this will mean different things to different people, but I know how this applies to me.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is all about ‘collective individualism’. What does this mean to you?
Everyone is unique; something which should be celebrated, not berated.
When cognitive diversity exists, you’ll create an environment full of healthy debate and collaboration – a powerful platform for catalysts that can drive forward fundamental change. Alone we are strong, together we are stronger.
Cognitive diversity is an essential ingredient for a successful business. More individuals are banding together and focusing on ideas around equality, dignity and respect in and outside of the workplace, which is surely a good thing!
On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?
It should not be expected for all women to stay at home and raise a family. It should not be expected for all women to strive for a career. It should be expected to all have the freedom to pursue what makes them happy, without being demeaned. It is important for all women thinking about careers to make choices for themselves, not for “them”. Don’t enter a career path if it isn’t right for you. Don’t give up on it either if it is important to you. I have found my career to be very fulfilling and it has given me purpose through some really low points in my life.
If you are seriously thinking about taking up a career, I’d recommend stop thinking and start doing. Ask questions, see what motivates you.
After that, set goals, your decisions and not your conditions will determine if you reach your goals.
Decide how you measure your success at each stage and let that mark your milestone achievements, learn from failures along the way and celebrate all the successes. However, most of all, as cliché as it is… don’t forget to take pleasure in the journey as well as the destination.
That’s all from Jules, check back next month to see who we are sitting down with next for a cuppa and a chat.