My journey into the dynamic world of indirect tax technology

I am a business development director for Vertex – a global organisation which operates in the rapidly growing sector of tax technology. The company focuses entirely on indirect tax; we’re unique in that we specialise in one area of tax, as opposed to working across all the different tax types.

Before joining the company, I was a tax consultant for over 15 years, working with lots of technology platforms to support brands such as Shell, Paramount, and Viacom. I had a huge understanding of the market and knew the major players in the tax technology sector, but I wasn’t doing anything new. I joined Vertex in February 2021 as I was excited about what they were doing in the SAP space.

Currently, I support sales efforts in EMEA working with the ‘big four’ as well as small boutique technology companies such as Innovate Tax, Ryan and DMA. I support the sales cycle by helping to identify what a customer needs and what is happening within their business which requires tax technology; this is usually because they are embarking on their financial transformation journey and/or moving to a Cloud ERP.

It’s a fun and varied role because the challenges organisations are facing today are very different. Some businesses are pivoting due to industry and economic changes whereas others are just needing to improve tax processes to improve audit performance or to keep up with changing tax authority requirements. My favourite part of the role will always be seeing a happy customer at the end who has been able to meet their organisational goals.

How did you get into the FinTech space?

After graduating with a master’s degree in tax, I worked at KPMG in tax provisions and controls with the banking industry. I was then recruited by tax software provider Sabrix – a start-up in 2002 which really fit my personality. As you can imagine, being in a start-up is extremely dynamic as you get to wear lots of different hats. My journey there began in tax research and content and then I moved in to product development as the product manager for VAT and Excise solutions, as well as working on a custom development with SAP.

I left in 2007 and started consulting, moving from California to London to join a global rollout of SAP for Shell. It was the largest SAP program at the time. Being a consultant provided me with the opportunity to work with lots of different products in a wide variety of industries and gain global exposure.

What’s the biggest challenge you’re dealing with currently in your career?

For me, it’s staying focused as there are so many shiny new objects and opportunities out there, from changes in the law through to the unique ways that the business environment is evolving and putting a larger burden on tech solutions. While it’s fascinating to see this pace of change it can be a little overwhelming.

There is a lot to do, a lot of opportunity in this space and quite frankly a lot of new technology companies popping up. I am proud to work at Vertex, who has been in the indirect tax technology space for 40 years – they are pushing hard to remain in front and stay relevant in the face of this changing landscape.

Where do you find support in the FinTech world?

It’s about the people that you know to a certain extent.

As a consultant, I was lucky enough to meet many different people and work with a wide range of software and consulting companies. I like connecting with others to offer my support and in turn, those people will do the same for me; whether it’s helping a colleague at one of the ‘big four’ find a new director or helping a boutique consulting firm find a new project.

If you are open to it and work to maintain contacts and relationships, the FinTech world will support you. In tax technology, it’s pretty close knit, which is fantastic if you act with integrity, welcome opportunity, and continually improve the breadth and depth of your knowledge. When you give a bit of yourself, it’s amazing what you get in return.

What advice would you give other women who want to work in FinTech?

Get connected.

I would love to pretend that it isn’t more difficult to be a woman in this space but if I am honest, it’s still a man’s world to a certain extent. Connecting with other women working in FinTech or in the tech industry via platforms such as LinkedIn or trade shows can help you build a support network. ‘Spotlight for woman in business’ on LinkedIn or the UK organisation ‘Woman in tech’ are some examples of the groups available to join. My advice would be to find women who are similar to you in terms of career and aspirations and lean on each other.

Stay current.

Technology is constantly changing.  I am not suggesting that you need to be an expert in emerging technologies such as edge computing, AI or blockchain to be in the FinTech space but awareness and how it impacts an organisation is important.

Seek and be positive change.

No matter if it’s in your contact group or within your organisation, always push for constant improvement and be ready for what’s coming next. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and acknowledge what you don’t know; after all, these are great leadership qualities to have.

As for personal change, if you are unsure of the direction your career is taking, consider a careers coach. This can not only help you consider changes within your career but also to handle challenges that are happening within the company. Working with someone who is external and impartial can help you gain fresh insights and equip you with new tools to navigate your career.

About the author

Wendy Fischnaller is business development director at Vertex – a tax technology provider. She has carved a successful career within the fintech space after graduating with a masters degree in tax.

Emma Murray featured

Emma's problem-solving career: from IT to product design

At DWP Digital, our people are encouraged to grow and thrive in their profession. Emma Murray, Product Owner is no different.

She takes us through her career journey and shares how she first joined the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in 1992, when she started working in her local jobcentre – around the time the field of IT was growing.

“As DWP started to embrace new technology, I took a keen interest in IT. I decided to complete an NVQ in IT, followed by a degree in the Science of Computing sponsored by the Benefits Agency,” she says. “I liked it, and was good at it, so I applied for a job in Blackpool as a Business Analyst (BA) to work on one of our benefit systems.” 

Building a career in digital

The next few years were busy for Emma. She had children, taught on a programming language and problem solving course, and provided training to DWP Digital colleagues on how to use and test systems and get qualified in business analysis.

“Once my children had reached a certain age, I was back to being me, and I applied for more technical roles. I became a first line technical support specialist, then moved in to a technical BA role.

“I’ve worked on many projects over the years that have provided direct benefit to our citizens or improved the IT hardware and software that our DWP colleagues use, including a key enterprise tool that services over 90,000 users,” says Emma.

“Over the last year I’ve been really proud to work on a major project that designed and implemented a new service portal that impacted every DWP colleague, as well as service providers,” says Emma.

“The new interface was urgently needed as the existing one was reaching end of life and needed to move from Jelly to Angular. This provides a more enriched user experience with mobile compatible features and advanced chat capability.”

Driving impact and overcoming challenges

Emma and her team develop new technologies for DWP, and they’re working on automation to make services more efficient. She finds it rewarding to work on such large scale, impactful projects, but she also enjoys facing new challenges each day.

“As a BA, I work closely with a wide range of stakeholders across the business,” she says, “for example infrastructure engineers, software engineers and external service providers.

“I have to manage conflicting requirements, which requires a great deal of diplomacy to ensure the team follows the product roadmap.

“You can achieve a great sense of satisfaction, from managing to get a people to agree on the way forward, to prioritising high demands of workload. Both ensure the most important things are dealt with and done at the right time.”

Embracing a diverse mix of perspectives

Ultimately, Emma sees her role in digital as about helping her colleagues across the organisation to spend more time working with citizens.

Emma enjoys her job, particularly when she’s facilitating groups of stakeholders to develop an agreed, tangible outcome. Agile methodology helps her team make sure they focus on those outcomes, and deliver them in a way that works for everyone.

“It’s challenging when people have a difference of opinions. It requires a great deal of drive and influence to keep them on track and get the outcome you need,” she says.

“I like retrospectives, where as a team we reflect on what we’ve achieved. It’s rewarding to know how your work has helped to make someone’s life easier, increased efficiencies for colleagues, or reduced costs for the taxpayer.”

Flexibility and balance in a digital environment

Emma is a working mum, and technology has enabled her to balance her work and home life, reducing the need for her to travel away from home.

“I utilise MS Teams a lot to interact with colleagues, using the video and voice call to connect with others, and other features to manage tasks and collaborate with my team” she says. “I also use Jira to organise the activities, workloads and resources of my engineers, where I’ve set up all my projects to track progress and underpin delivery”

“I’ve also been supported by my line manager to work part-year, which means I take four unpaid weeks every year during the school holidays to enable me to have quality time with my kids.”

“My passion out of work is my Kindle – I read all the time, and being able to read anywhere, anytime with a small device is great. Kindle also has audible now, which means I can listen to my books.”

“In DWP, everyone plays an important role, and there are a number of opportunities available to develop skills and knowledge, or gain experience,” says Emma.

“I’ve been involved in the Women in Digital network for a number of years. This personal and professional development network has helped me to meet, collaborate with and learn from colleagues across DWP Digital.

“I’ve also been involved with the award-winning Digital Voices programme, which helps to build confidence for public speaking and encourage women into digital roles.

“Through this programme I’ve gained a wide range of contacts, and it’s helped me with both my work and personal life. It’s given me the confidence to take part in big events, such as Civil Service Live and Civil Service Local, and become a role model for women in digital roles.

In DWP Digital everyone is aligned to a practice, which encourages career progression, targeted learning and community involvement. Emma benefits from being involved with two professional communities at DWP Digital.

“Being a member of both the Infrastructure Engineering and Business Analyst communities, I have been fortunate to be exposed to a wealth of development and collaboration opportunities such as technical knowledge, roadshows and lightening talks to name a few,” says Emma.

“I feel more inspired than ever to be a role model for DWP Digital. I’m using my new confidence to strive for the career I want, and to support others in reaching theirs,” she says. “I’m now looking for a new challenge as a Product Owner to develop my technical skills.”

Are you looking for a new challenge? DWP Digital are currently recruiting into various roles, including business analysts, interaction designers and more. Visit the DWP Digital Careers site today or simply subscribe to their newsletter to be kept up to date with the latest vacancies.

Navigating the Journey to Success in UX

By Elite Avner Torbit, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK

Elite Avner TorbitElite Avner Torbit is Lead UX Designer at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK.

She is focused on introducing design thinking methodologies that put customers at the centre of the design efforts of the company’s tax and accounting solutions. She is responsible for creating the environment for everyone involved to be creative, experiment and collaborate every day, with the ultimate goal of delivering products that customers will love.

What do you do?

For the past seven years, I’ve been a digital UX designer predominantly focused on B2B applications. For the uninitiated, UX is the applied practice of guiding users on helpful, easy and satisfying user journeys, both in digital products, and physical products as well.

I have worked with a wide range of businesses, from large retailers and finance companies, to independent businesses, SMEs, non-profits and start-ups. It’s been a tremendously varied career so far, but what is common among all my roles is my focus on user experience at the centre of all design. I enjoy helping businesses relate to their customers and solving complex problems by making solutions simple. I also love the variety of facilitating workshops, running user research, sketching ideas and creating wireframes and prototypes.

How did you get into UX as a career?

In my career, it’s safe to say that pre-UX I was a bit of a digital generalist. I held different digital roles in project management, digital strategy and CRM management. I also managed project delivery for websites, and this was what piqued my interest in UX. UX designers are a bit like conduits as they talk to all the different people involved in producing a product or service. I liked that, because I’ve always been the type of person who liaises between everyone, acting as a bridge to various project needs.

I was looking for a new career direction…and began studying UX independently, applying what I’d learned along the way for charities and small businesses either on a voluntary basis, or for nominal fees. I did this for a year, and after that year, I had a portfolio I could use to begin applying for ‘real’ UX jobs, which is exactly what I did. 18 months after my self-directed journey into UX began, I got my first proper UX job as a contractor through an agency.

It goes to show how important it is to have a portfolio in UX, as, in my experience, companies won’t hire designers without a portfolio of work. They want to understand your thought process and how you approach something, whether you know the domain well or not. In most roles, the end result is usually the most important thing, but in UX, the process takes precedence in many ways. When you create a portfolio, it’s important to show your own journey through each project. You want to demonstrate how you contributed to the deliverables of each project phase, showing that you understand the UX process and everything that goes into it.

It’s all based on design thinking. Generally, I focus on B2B, but it doesn't actually matter whether you’re designing a gardening app or a large-scale tax and accounting solution, which is my current focus: the process is the same. Design thinking is about empathising with users, exploring the problem and understanding how the people who use the product or service may behave in the moment, and why.

The importance of talking to customers. We start with a short discovery phase. This gives us a chance to learn, up front, about our customers’ needs so that when it’s time to start building a solution, we’ve already had a thorough validation of our ideas, and we deliver great outcomes based on research.

What’s it like being a UX designer at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK?

I enjoy the fact that we’re effectively a ‘floating resource’ and can join any team that needs us at a specific time. For example, UK UX designers recently joined the Wolters Kluwer Virtual Code Games, where teams of developers collaborated and connected to develop inventive solutions as part of our ongoing innovation stream. With over 500 participants and 100 teams across the globe, it was an amazing initiative to be part of, and we loved helping teams tell their stories by considering the user journey at all times.

Within our local community of UX designers, and more broadly at a global level, there's a lot of support and activity taking place. We have coaching and best practice sessions, and we help each other to embed UX firmly across a future-focused technology business – it’s a great place for any UX designer to be, and I’m glad my journey has brought me here.

If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here

Kate Dadlani featured

Letting the mask slip - how transparency transformed my career journey | Kate Dadlani

Kate Dadlani

Kate Dadlani, CISO at Logicalis UK, a provider of IT solutions and managed services, became one of the industry’s youngest CISO’s when she was appointed to the position in her twenties.

But how did she accomplish this and what advice can she offer to other women? 

If you’d told me five years ago, when starting out in my career in information security, that I’d become a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) before turning 30 I wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, I’d probably have laughed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am. I’ve always been very driven, and my degree in forensic computing at De Montfort University gave me a great grounding for the career that’s followed. My final year dissertation, which looked at iPhone backup files as a source of evidence, not only helped to earn me a First, but was published internationally in Digital Forensics Magazine.

I’ve also been lucky enough to work in a number of different environments already in my career, beginning as a Cyber Intelligence Analyst at Lockheed Martin in the aerospace and defence sector before moving into a consultancy role at Ernst & Young. This allowed me the chance to work with global clients in the financial services sector such as Aviva, the Financial Conduct Authority, HSBC, Morgan Stanley and Lloyds TSB. I joined Logicalis UK as the Security and Compliance Manager almost three years ago, with the aim to bring security to the forefront of the organisation’s agenda and promote security conscious behaviour. Within 15 months, I was promoted to CISO.

Now, I work as part of the Senior Management team. That means that I have responsibility for the information security of the company and its employees and spend my time collaborating with experts from all parts of the wider Logicalis Group. I have also recently been promoted into a data protection role, which I manage alongside the extra qualifications and exams that I take to aid my professional development.

I’m extremely proud of how far I’ve progressed, and grateful that Logicalis has given me this opportunity so early on in my career. Getting to this point, however, has not been without its challenges.

I am an extremely young CISO, which means that I have significantly less experience than others in my position. Most CISOs have fifteen years of experience - I have a third of that. At times, this difference has affected my confidence. Before I had even walked into a room, I used to fear that people would think I was less competent, that they wouldn’t take me seriously, and that they wouldn’t value my input. I thought that I wouldn’t be respected - because of my age and because of my gender. Though I’d faced this challenge to varying degrees throughout my entire career, after I took on the role of CISO, it became more pertinent than ever.

What I failed to realise was that these presumptions didn’t just affect what I was thinking, they affected my behaviour too. This, in turn, provided others with an inaccurate representation of my qualities and attributes. It struck me that the only way to address this professional challenge was at a personal level. I needed to take the emotional aspect - the underlying fear, anxiety, and lack of confidence - out of the equation before I could change my behaviour. That way I could deal with the rational aspect, learn from it, and grow. I also realised that there were other ways to enhance my confidence before walking into these situations, such as expanding my knowledge through additional training courses and extra qualifications. I know now that my presumptions only hold me back and that I must allow people to respond to my input in a positive way before I shut it down. This has given the capability to show myself, as well as those around me, who I really am and what I have to offer.

I’m not alone in facing this challenge. ‘Imposter syndrome’ is widespread among women in business and especially common among those in senior positions. And, while I certainly wouldn’t wish professional insecurity on anyone, I can offer some advice to others in a similar position. For me, it’s all about being transparent: transparent with your colleagues, transparent with your managers, and, crucially, transparent with yourself. Of course, it’s only natural for professionals to portray themselves as confident, capable individuals and to mask any underlying insecurities or fears that they might have. We all do it; we use different masks for different occasions. However, my belief is that we can only reach our full potential when we take these masks off and when we embrace who we truly are. Recognise your strengths, recognise your weaknesses - and be upfront about them both.

I believe that we must bring our whole selves to work - not just the professional self. That means that I often open my interviews or my presentations by explaining, candidly, that I suffer from anxiety. Likewise, it’s important that organisations acknowledge the dual reality that is faced by many professional women. Women can be more risk-averse  than their male colleagues, perhaps because of their underlying personal insecurities. In the technology industry, where there’s an enormous gender disparity, the problem is at its worst. Organisations must understand these challenges and they must give women the skills they need to deal with them. Without that awareness, women may find it harder to advance from middle management to senior leadership and the problem will remain unaddressed.

You shouldn’t have to prove your competency because you’re younger than those around you or because you’re a woman in a male-dominated industry. Nor should you have to wear a mask. I believe that allowing women to feel secure and accepted is fundamental to supporting their career journey.

Women need to develop their own self-belief on a personal level, but they also need organisations to address the challenges that they face in the workplace and to enhance their professional confidence. That’s the key to the door of success - and it’s the key we have yet to unlock.