Victoria Brown

Victoria has been a close contact and friend to our business for many years. Nik Pratap, Gillian McBride and Karen Caswell all include her in their VIP list of contacts.

March 23, 2021
Mar 23, 2021
Women in Finance

She has a superb CV, with an eye-catching list of achievements across AESSEAL, Kerry Foods and Distinction Doors. She is also one of the most connected FDs in South Yorkshire, with a leading role in many networks.

Our company’s relationship with Victoria has grown even stronger over the past year and we were all delighted to have helped her to secure her new FD role at Custom Solar – a very exciting SME in Chesterfield. We look forward to seeing the impact she makes there.

Victoria is qualified accountant and Chartered Director with over 20 years experience in various global manufacturing organisations. She is a Non Exec Director for the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Independent Chair of the HLM & LD Employee Ownership Trust and sits on the Audit and Risk Committee for Sheffield Hallam University. She is also a Member of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire and Chair the South Yorkshire Committee of the Institute of Directors (yes, she is busy).

She lives in Barnsley with her amazing husband (who does the heavy lifting on the home front), five ex racing greyhounds, seven ex commercial hens and she is the extremely proud step mum of two fantastic young men who are both away studying at the moment.

What brought you to a career in finance and what challenges have you faced along the way ?

I’m an accidental accountant, my degree is in Geography and Geology and I was actually desperately trying to avoid finance (my grandfather and aunt were both accountants and my big brother also headed down that path).

My first job after Uni was as a data analyst, I could complete the workload in 3 days a week, so I volunteered to do some project work for the Finance Director to keep me occupied on Thursdays and Fridays. They offered to fund me through an accounting qualification, which I accepted in a fairly ungracious manner. I picked CIMA because I wanted to train within industry, started from there and never looked back.

I think there are challenges in everyone’s career. Working and studying at the same time is really tough, making your voice heard can be difficult, and business always brings challenges, but that’s what makes it exciting.

The important thing for me has always been to face every challenge straight on and I’ve had some great mentors and worked in incredibly supportive teams over the years.

What advice do you have for women aiming at leadership positions?

The key piece of advice I could give is it be yourself, be authentic and don’t try to fit with other peoples expectations.

It’s important to maintain your integrity and stand up for what you believe in, (even when it’s hard). Always be fair and consistent, leadership requires respect not popularity.  Admit to mistakes but learn from them. Ask for help when you need it and give colleagues support when they need it, you don’t have to do it all alone. Be clear in your career aspirations with the people that can help you achieve them, don’t assume that your hard work will be noticed unless you point it out. Find someone that you admire to mentor you, and don’t be scared to ask them for support and advocacy.  You’d be surprised how readily senior leaders will assist you if you ask.

Tell us about your work outside of your day job and how important it is to grow your network?

Outside my day job I am heavily involved in the local business community, within the IoD and the Chamber of Commerce, the Company of Cutlers and the Universities. With all of these institutions, you get out what you put in, being involved is an important part of membership.  

I am now connected into some amazing networks of business leaders that are incredibly supportive and generous with their time and advice. If one of my boards are facing an issue that we haven’t faced before, I can find someone in my networks who has and can give us a steer on what to do (and what not to do).

My network has been instrumental in helping my businesses get through some tough times. The lobbying force of these networks together meant that an SME from Barnsley was the test case for HMRC deferring import VAT and duty through the Covid crisis, retaining over £850k in our cashflow when we needed it most. I couldn’t have done that alone.

How do we encourage more women into senior finance positions across our region?

I believe that we aspire to be what we admire, if we want to be leaders that inspire women to fill our roles in the future we need to become better leaders.

Admit that we aren’t perfect, that we make mistakes, be more human, more relatable.

Be honest about what the job entails, it’s very hard work, but can be incredibly rewarding.

Be more accepting of caring responsibilities, that doesn’t just mean saying that flexitime is okay, it’s showing by example that it can be done. Visibly leave work early occasionally to build a culture of achievement not presenteeism.

I think mentoring and championing younger women is a responsibility that business leaders should take seriously, diversity within the workplace makes for better businesses, the facts are clear. Together diverse teams, with their different approaches, thought processes and points of view, can make better decisions and drive our businesses forward.

How would other people describe you in 3 words?

It would depend very much on who you ask and when, I’ve been called strong, confident, brave at times when I felt anything but! But the authentic me, as described by the people who know me best, would probably be reliable, trustworthy, and capable, not the most exciting words perhaps, but close to my personal values.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to start a career in accounting?

Ignore the stereotypes, accounting can be an exciting, rewarding, challenging and ever-changing career.

Keep growing and developing, when you get comfortable in a position that’s a signal to move onto the next challenge.

Look for employers with whom you share values, search out teams that you want to be a part of, you are not a passive passenger on your career journey, you can plan your path, carve out where you want to be.

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