Updated 26 May 2020
We spoke to Hayley Barker, an Associate Director for Deloitte in Aberdeen. Hayley works in the Global Employer Services (GES) team and began her career as a graduate analyst in 2008. She graduated from Aberdeen University with an Economic Science degree and then went on to do a postgraduate course in Chinese Studies at Edinburgh.
“I’m not sure I really understood what the day-to-day job would actually be before I started. But I am now over eight happy years into my career and can say that I definitely made the right decision.”
"I’m not sure that I made a conscious decision to choose tax, but after doing some research into a number of businesses and roles, I definitely chose Deloitte, as they seemed an ambitious firm with a strong international outlook. And in particular I chose GES – I tried to match what I thought were my skills and interests to what I understood the job to be.
"The reason I say ‘what I thought’ and ‘what I understood’ is that I’ve since realised there is much more to GES. My impression was that being comfortable with numbers and having an understanding of the international business environment meant this area was for me. I have definitely used those skills, but I’ve also developed many others over the years. Mobility tax is not all (or even mostly) number crunching.
"I’m not sure I really understood what the day-to-day job would actually be before I started. But I am now over eight happy years into my career and can say that I definitely made the right decision."
"One of my first thoughts was: there’s a lot to learn. I felt like it was going to take forever to make any progress. Now that I can look back – and have also seen how quickly people I’ve recruited have progressed – I can see that everything you do lays the foundations for the future.
"Even though it may feel as if you’re not making a dent, there will be a ‘penny drop’ moment when you realise how far you’ve come. For me, the first of those (as there have been a few since) was in my second year, when I was the one answering the new analysts’ questions; the same questions I’d been asking my colleagues 12 months earlier.
"I also remember thinking that senior people around the office were all accessible and supportive. I hadn’t expected that. In fact, I can’t think of anyone I’ve interacted with since who has been anything less."
"I spent a lot of my early months learning the technical basics, how to use the technology and systems, and also studying for my professional qualifications. I worked on one very large engagement and a number of smaller clients, which gave me a broad range of experiences.
"On the large project, I worked as part of a multi-layered team and my primary role was to provide a high-quality client service. This meant responding to technical tax questions from assignees and attending tax briefings, during which we explained the UK tax implications of either arriving into or leaving the UK on an assignment.
"With the smaller clients, I often worked directly with an Associate Director, or as part of a small team. This meant I was able to take some project management responsibilities and had contact with clients from an early stage. Being part of a regional team meant that I didn’t specialise and was exposed to mobility tax, international social security, payroll and employer compliance issues as they arose across my client portfolio."
"I think the tagline of the Tax Analyst Academy, ‘Never Stand Still’, sums it up really well.
"During my career I’ve changed, my role has changed, tax has changed (both technically and from a public interest angle), Deloitte as a firm has changed, the market has changed, clients’ expectations and demands have changed, and technology and innovation will bring even more change. You get the picture.
"The initial learning curve is steep and the learning doesn’t stop. Having said that, it’s all absolutely do-able; the professional exams are challenging, but not impossible. I’ve attended a number of national training courses covering technical and client skills. We have a programme of regular local training and e-learning which supplements this, and a wealth of reference material, produced by our tax policy group.
"All of which means I’ve never felt asked to do something without getting the appropriate training and guidance first. Aside from the technical training, I’ve benefitted from a mentor who’s given me really valuable insight from their own experience, a great coach for strategic career conversations, and a partner in my team who continues to support my learning and development today."
"There are two main themes: variety and people.
"As well as the things you might expect me to be doing (managing client relationships, delivering tax insights and advice), I have been involved in many other areas of the business that may not be as obvious. For example, developing and delivering technical training (most recently at the Tax Analyst Academy), recruitment (interviewing candidates and supporting the recruitment strategy), coaching and mentoring, technology (I sit on a global technology strategy team) and a lot more.
"This year alone, I’ve visited Brussels for an EMEA training course, Madrid for our EMEA client conference and Norway, to deliver client seminars. My relationships with my immediate team in Scotland (Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow work as one team) are very important to me, but I also interact with colleagues across the GES network on a daily basis. This includes other UK offices and US, Norway and Denmark.
"On the client-side, one of my favourite things to do is meet a business for the first time, usually as part of a multidisciplinary tax team with colleagues from business tax. I enjoy simply hearing about their business and helping them map out any risks, issues and opportunities, so we can begin to support them."
"My advice would be: before you apply, do your research. Not only to understand the firm and the service line, but also to understand yourself. What is important to you? What are your skills, ambitions, drivers, strengths and weaknesses? What does a good employer look like to you (right now and in three years, five years…)? Is it about continuing development, access to opportunity, remuneration (of course!), do you want to move internationally etc.?
"This process will help you decide whether to proceed with an application. But it will also help you to articulate your career motivations as part of the interview. During the interview itself use the time at the end to ask questions (this part is not assessed), to check your thinking and help you decide whether Deloitte and GES are right for you.
"Once in your role, my advice would be to ask questions, seek out and take opportunities, challenge yourself, ask for help (it’ll be there), ask for and take feedback on board, and take responsibility for your own career. If you’ve done the first bit of thinking I’ve recommended, then you’ll know what you want it to look like."
Curious about a career in tax? Visit Deloitte to find out more.