When the Cat’s Away

My colleague asked me “When is your next post?” By that, he meant my post here in LinkedIn. It’s nice to know there is someone looking forward to read my post and it motivates me to write.

The year-end holiday season started and office colleagues are going away for holiday for the next 2 weeks. This reminds me of when I first started my career with professional accounting firm, most of the seniors and colleagues went on long annual, study and exam leaves at year end too to prepare for their professional accounting exams.

I started my career in auditing and I was lucky to join one of the Big 8 audit firm then. Alfred and I were the most junior staff in the department in terms of age and working experience. Obviously, we had the lowest time cost and charge out rate. Our seniors used to ask us to get them audit files from filing room which was located a floor below our office, to get documents photocopied, filing of documents and to return files to filing room, to name a few of them. All these activities required sign in and sign out of file cards or forms. Not something that I enjoyed doing.

In terms of work, I was asked to analyse petty cash on A3 columnar papers. Computer was not popular back then. All the work was done on manual basis, including writing and casting. When the total for all the columns do not tie to the rows, we had challenging time in figuring out the errors. This experience built up a strong determination in me and have eyes for details.

I went to work every day with a wish. A wish that I would have a new assignment to do, something that I could learn and develop, something which was far more interesting than analysing petty cash. I used to envy other new staff, who were graduates and exposed to audit assignment and could follow their seniors to customers’ premises for projects and assignment.

It was during the professional accounting exams period at year end, when almost all of the seniors went on leaves to prepare for their exams that things changed. When the cat’s away, the mice didn’t get to play but worked hard, learned and was much happier too. When my senior went on leave, her manager came to me directly to follow up on outstanding audit matters and get work done among the few of us left in the office.

I was eager to learn, I put in a lot of effort and extra hours to deliver task assigned to me ahead of time. Inside me, there was a fire to learn, to perform and most importantly, not to disappoint my manager who gave this golden opportunity to me. It was the busiest time and yet the most satisfying few weeks.

Guessed the manager was pleased with my work. When my senior returned to work after her exam, her manager told her to expose me to new task. Life was busy thereafter. I looked forward to go to work and there was a rush in me to make up for the wasted few months of my first job. It was the start of an amazing career for me.

After a few audit assignments, I started to lead audit assignments. On a few occasions, I was called back from existing assignment to move on to a larger and tight deadline job. My manager had confident and believe in me in handling the higher profile job.

Now that I’ve been in rat race for more than 20 years, where I’ve been an individual contributor, a manager, function head and in senior leadership team, I believe it is extremely important to have a manager who recognises your strength, work with you on your weaknesses and believe in you more than you believe in yourself.

See opportunity in every problem, not problem in every opportunity.