08 March

Celebrating Women in Finance: Insights from Bryony Harland's Journey

As we celebrate International Women's Day, it's our privilege to shine a spotlight on the remarkable journey and achievements of Bryony Harland. Through her dedication, resilience, and unwavering commitment to excellence, Bryony has risen from Accountant to Chartered Accountant, Client Manager, and now she has been newly appointed as Team Leader for our Northallerton office.

In this exclusive Q&A interview, we delve into Bryony's inspiring story, exploring her career milestones, insights, and the invaluable lessons learned along the way. Join us as we celebrate Bryony's journey and honour her contributions to our firm and the broader finance industry.

Hi Bryony congratulations on your new appointment, Northallerton Team Leader that’s quite an achievement tell us a bit about your growth journey and what has got you there?

 

My accounting career began when I was 20, I hadn’t thought of accountancy as a career option when I was leaving school but it became an obvious choice when I decided an apprenticeship would be a good route to take. I started with Level 2 AAT and just took each year of studying as it came – finishing my exams in 2021 when I passed the ICAEW Case study, making me a chartered accountant. Since then I have been incredibly lucky to be offered some amazing opportunities to help me progress my career – being promoted from accountant to client manager, to team leader in just 2 years.

 

Have you always had leadership dreams, or have you just gone with the flow and naturally evolved into this role?

 

I’ve definitely been a more ‘go with the flow’ person. I like to push myself and take challenges head on so my feeling was – if I have managed to complete that level of exams, or that role at work, and I haven’t buckled under the pressure, why not try to go that step further!

 

It’s been an impressive couple of years tell us a bit more about your achievements.

 

I was amazed when I completed my AAT Level 2, so now to be able to look back as AAT and ACA qualified feels great. Switching from classroom lessons to online during Covid added a different twist on studying, and those exams weren’t all passed first time – but knowing I sat over 30 exams and managed to pass them all is a huge achievement. Accounting isn’t all of my role anymore, I also have a team to manage. It feels like a huge achievement to have been involved in building the Northallerton team with Kim, to what it is now.

 

 

What are you looking to drive in your new position? How are you going to put your stamp on things?

 

I think team growth and progression is so important. WDS has shown that the opportunities are there for those who want them, so I am looking forward to supporting the staff to get there. I’ll put my stamp on things by trying to come up with different methods for workflow management – January’s are always busy as accountants, but I am determined to try and spread the work as much as possible.

 

What skills would you say are important for effective leadership?

 

I think the values of WDS are great indicators of the skills that are required. Being approachable – leaders need to be able to make time for clients and staff, be able to listen and take on board what is being communicated to them and offer invaluable advice in return. Innovative – WDS is growing and changing constantly, we want to be able to improve the way we work and the best way to do that is by being innovative.

 

What key elements have contributed to your success?

 

Not taking life too seriously! Mistakes happen, everyone experiences failure, but you need to be able to brush yourself off and keep going.

 

 

As its International Women’s Day we thought we’d ask you a few question in homage to this amazing movement.

 

 

Can you share a personal anecdote or experience that highlights a significant challenge you faced in your career, and how you overcame it?

 

After failing an exam I was told that I couldn’t continue to train as a chartered accountant. I left that firm, which was predominantly male led, as I knew I could pass the exams and become qualified. I joined WDS and I haven’t looked back.

 

What strategies have you employed to navigate the unique challenges women often encounter in male-dominated industries?

 

I learnt how to stand my ground and wouldn’t settle for less than the respect I deserve. This hasn’t always been easy but respect works both ways.

 

As leaders in finance, what initiatives or policies do you believe are crucial for fostering gender diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

 

I’ve been very lucky that WDS has a culture of gender diversity and inclusion which means rather than having to implement policies to ensure the workplace is balanced, they believe in and support those who show they have the abilities and mentality to progress – regardless of gender.

 

What role does mentorship play in advancing women's careers in finance, and how have they impacted your own professional journey?

 

Mentorship has been key in my progression, especially over the last couple of years when I have been looking to improve my abilities away from studying. These haven’t been gender specific in regards to who was mentoring me, I feel the key is seeing women in the senior roles and knowing those opportunities are available to me – I have learnt from both males and females.

 

What advice would you give to young women aspiring to pursue careers in finance, especially those who may be hesitant due to the perceived challenges?

 

The financial profession is becoming less discriminatory as time goes on. There are a lot of inspirational women in the world, just because us female accountants aren’t making headlines doesn’t mean this career is only for men.

 

How can women leverage their unique strengths and perspectives to drive innovation and success within financial organisations?

 

I hate to generalise and stereotype but women are masters of time management and organisation. These skills are not limited to the household and are easily transferred to the workplace – if you want a job doing, give it to a busy woman.

 

What steps can companies take to create a more inclusive corporate culture that values and respects the contributions of women at all levels?

 

Speak to everyone as you would like to be spoken to – regardless of role or gender. Just because someone isn’t in the same role as you doesn’t mean they don’t have thoughts or ideas that can help the company be more innovative – we all start at the bottom and work our way up, if you’ve had great ideas over the years, someone else will too.

 

 

Before we conclude our Q&A interview with Bryony Harland, let's take a moment to hear from her peers, who have witnessed first-hand her remarkable journey and leadership within our firm.

 

 

Richard Hall - WDS Equity Partner & Director

Progress is a combination of ability and opportunity. Opportunity for Bryony has always come a little earlier than you may have hoped but each time we have shown faith in Bryony and given her that opportunity she has embraced it and flourished. New clients, more complex work, management responsibilities have all been taken in her stride, she is an inspiration. Well done Bryony.

 

 Kim Mawer - WDS Equity Partner & Director

Bryony has been my absolute rock this last couple of years, supporting the expansion of the Northallerton office.  Nothing is ever too much trouble and she tackles challenges head on. She has drive and determination and the technical knowledge and experience to back it all up.  It’s great to see her develop relationships with clients and support and train staff.  Never flustered, she manages pressure and problem solving with ease.  I’m excited to see what the future brings for her.

 

 Ellie Peterson - WDS Trainee Accountant 

Bryony is always there for me, ready to assist whenever I need help as an apprentice. She takes on a significant role in our office, ensuring everything runs smoothly, especially when our manager is away. What impresses me most is her willingness to tackle any task. Bryony's dedication and support make her an invaluable part of our team.

 

   Julie Young - WDS Managing Director & Equity Partner

To see a member of your team push themselves and aim for the opportunities that they see for themselves is really exciting.  This is exactly what I have seen in Bryony.  She has embraced the responsibilities to deliver our amazing client service whilst pushing to reach her own goals.  A strong female who knows what is needed to do right by her clients, her colleagues and WDS, is awe inspiring and why Bryony has been promoted within the business and I am looking forward to watching Bryony’s career flourish with WDS  

 

As we conclude, we're reminded of the power of perseverance, passion, and determination in shaping a successful career. Bryony's story serves as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring accountants. On this International Women's Day, let us celebrate Bryony's achievements and recommit ourselves to fostering a culture of diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity for all. Together, let's continue to champion women's leadership and pave the way for a more equitable and empowered future in finance and beyond.

 

 

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