A Varied Career Journey

I began my professional career in auditing while pursuing my qualification to become a chartered accountant. I then moved into a start-up, before working for two global finance organisations. In 2008, I joined Shell and am now coming up on 10 years at the business.

At Shell, I started in the card business, mapping out their finance journey. The first big development was when the responsibilities of the four finance advisors in the Nordic region were moved into my role. You could say it was a stretch assignment, and later I was responsible for migrating of all Management Information (MI) work for the fleet card business into a centralized finance function.

When the fleet business got integrated into Retail I moved with it, and with additional responsibilities covering the East Retail business, I became responsible for a team split between Chennai and Kuala Lumpur. After this initial experience of working across regions, I was promoted to Retail Operations Manager for the global MI landscape, across the Europe, East and Americas.

My current role is in Upstream Business support, a role designed to 2 years in Houston and 2 years in Chennai. Here, my team have been instrumental in shaping the migration of core finance activities from in-country to global finance operations. It’s been really impactful to actually be on the ground alongside the finance leadership teams while I am helping them through this change journey.

From Change to Consistency

My role is all about getting our teams through change, so it helps to have been through a lot of changes myself. I enjoy connecting the dots across the various strands of finance operations to the financial needs of the wider business. In a way, I am the conduit of information flow between the Finance business in Shell and its different processes. Bringing these two worlds together is something I really enjoy.

When you have a Finance Operations team based in Krakow, Chennai and Kuala Lumpur, getting the analysts to speak to one another is essential to driving a standardized way of working. If you look at what comes out of each centre in isolation, it will often be different, so my role is to drive consistency across the organization.

Leadership Style

I have a pretty open and personal approach to leadership. I start by developing a personal understanding of my people; their backgrounds, their personal careers, and when I have that, only then do I apply it to what they do today. Starting by understanding them as a person gives me an awareness of what drives them, as well as how I can help them achieve a good work-life balance.

When I see opportunities in the business, I share them directly with my team as coaching tips. I always try to be open in wider meetings and Q&As, creating an environment where I don’t just give information in a one-sided manner, but instead trigger conversations and invoke debates.

A Good Fit for Finance

Working in a Shell, we commit to our purpose of powering progress together with more and cleaner energy solutions.  It brings opportunity to help meet the growing energy demand in a shifting energy landscape, where there is an urgent need to curb CO2 emissions.

As for Finance specifically, Shell provides many opportunities to become a leader and drive the performance of the business. It’s an opportunity to cut across the many different businesses that touch the energy sector, so you feel like you’ve had experience of multiple industries while remaining in the same company.

You can explore opportunities in learning multiple businesses and also specialist functions such as treasury, tax, and other finance processes. So, if you want to be a fully-rounded finance professional, there is both the breadth and depth of opportunities here to make that happen.

Lessons Learned

Firstly, it’s important to connect the dots of what you do in your day-to-day job to the business and functional goals of the organization. You need to understand that the impact of what you do goes further than your own desk, and you are one piece of a much bigger picture.

Secondly, I’ve learned that having the propensity for action is vital. To have observations and findings is one thing, but to do something with them is another. So, I always try to push for action; whether that takes yourself, your team, your peer group, or senior leaders. These are the two ingredients, I believe for success as a finance leader.

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Hema drives real change in her role as Process Manager for Data Quality.