Emerging Leaders: Q&A with KPMG's Lola Oyetunji November 2017

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Lola Oyetunji was born into finance, with both of her parents working in the industry, and made the decision, slowly, to follow in their footsteps. This week, as part of our Emerging Leaders series, Lola tells us about her role as a manager, superannuation advisory at KPMG and how she broke up the “daily grind” to reignite her passion and work ethic. She also names an industry mentor who has never stopped challenging her, shares a lesson in running your own race and lists the qualities she believes make for an effective leader.

What initially attracted you to a career in finance?

Both of my parents are in the finance industry. To be honest, when I was younger I didn’t think a career in finance appeared particularly attractive. However, once I began to study economics and commerce in high school I realised that I was easily able to understand the concepts and apply critical thinking to solve matters relating to finance. Although I was also creatively inclined, I had a business mindset and decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in commerce, with the encouragement of my parents.

Can you tell us what your role at KPMG entails?

My focus is on the provision of superannuation advisory services to superannuation funds, employers and service providers to the industry. Our team assists funds in navigating the superannuation landscape in Australia, by providing strategic advice, facilitating tender processes, reviewing product design and undertaking compliance reviews. We also assist employers with respect to meeting their superannuation guarantee obligations and reviewing their default super arrangements. My day-to-day role involves a combination of service delivery, people and workflow management, stakeholder management and engaging in continuing learning & development.

You’ve worked at KPMG for nearly six years now, what has been the best lesson that you’ve taken from your role so far?

To never compare myself with others, even when others may try to. Comparison robs you of your joy, it's not worth it. I have learned to run my own race and focus on evaluating whether or not I am achieving my personal goals, regardless of what others are doing.

…and where do you see yourself in the next six years?

This is a difficult one. I don't even know where I see myself in one year! In six years, I could see myself championing others, within and outside of the industry. Whether it's helping people achieve what they define as success or encouraging people to find their own voice in the midst of others, I just want to support others and give back what has been given to me.

" Comparison robs you of your joy, it's not worth it. I have learned to run my own race..." - Lola Oyetunji

What prompted you to break up the traditional ‘work week’ by spending one day per week volunteering your time?

I found myself getting caught up in the "daily grind" and not enjoying myself on any given day. I wasn't satisfied with that. I knew leaving wasn't an option because I work with great people and enjoyed (still do) the constant learning. So the grass wouldn't necessarily have been greener if I chose to move on. My faith has always been a big part of my life and I love children, so I felt to volunteer one day a week in the children's department of Shirelive Church and fulfill a purpose beyond my work. Ever since, I have found that I am more engaged and focussed during the 4 days I'm at KPMG than I was when previously working 5 days. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Do you have an industry mentor or someone that has influenced your career in some way? If so, who?

Yes - Wendy Tse. Wendy is a Director within our team here at KPMG. We worked together years ago and again more recently. Throughout the entire period, Wendy has been one of my biggest supporters. She has provided the right balance between sharing from her experiences and allowing me to have my own. She's believed in me when I haven't believed in myself. She also never fails to challenge me!

In your opinion, what are the main qualities that make for an effective leader?

I believe that an effective leader should possess the ability to turn a vision/idea into action and to take people on the journey. A leader should lead by example and never request of others what they wouldn't do his or herself. A leader should support and encourage but not be afraid to give open and honest feedback.

What’s the best piece of advice that you have received?

To never take anything personally. In the workplace (and in life), you will always face some form of challenge. It’s inevitable. When you take opposition too personally, you confuse people attacking your ideas with them attacking you as a person. Rather than facilitating a healthy debate or disagreement to produce a more effective outcome, you end up with a mess where individuals get hurt in the process.

What was your very first job?

Gloria Jeans in the Qantas domestic terminal. I worked there for about 2 months and realised hospitality was not one of my strengths! I did very much enjoy meeting minor celebrities and the banter with the engineers during their breaks. However, it was often at the cost of burning a customer’s ham & cheese croissant!

If you weren’t working in finance, what would you be doing?

Working with children in some capacity.

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?

I played the piano for 12 years growing up but haven’t touched a piano in 9 years so not sure whether or not I can play anymore!

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