The elevated strengths of three in-house tax experts

Author Jack Hart
February 16, 2023

We recently held our first webinar in the US – ‘Advancing your tax career’ which featured three in-house tax experts:

Our panellists shared insights and their personal challenges they had experienced throughout their esteemed careers.

We asked the experts key questions on how to progress further in your in-house tax career, what key areas up-and-coming candidates should focus on to further their careers, as well as what characteristics Heads of Tax look for when hiring talent. All three of our panellists identified a unique strength they felt had elevated them throughout their career and how important they felt it was to have when working towards advancing your tax career.

“What is a strength you feel has elevated you above other peers throughout your career?”

“You have to be sensitive and resilient. You have to be able to pivot. If you’re a bull in a china shop and you’re not self aware and you’re not super open to feedback, then you won’t be successful or move up through the ranks. Having the ability to have that sensitivity to the way you come across and interact with others – your teammates, your boss, business partners and outside consultants. Your ability to quickly identify when a pivot is needed and then execute it. This is across the board for all tax technical people – it’s a prerequisite right and it’s almost like the commodity is being a tax technician. It’s about these other interpersonal skills, the sensitivity, the interpersonal ability to successfully navigate complex, nuanced relationships and accept criticism. Seek out criticism and then quickly pivot – the ability to do those things – more than technical skills, more than anything else – it’s been what is allowed me to move up and have a good career thus far.”

Patrick Stodel
VP Global Tax | West Pharmaceutical Services

“Openness to change. It’s the understanding that the way you do something is not necessarily the way you should continue to do it. I’m big into tax technology – but my friends say ‘you’re not a technologist – how are you into tax technology?’ My view there is that everything doesn’t have to be difficult. Technology doesn’t make everything easier. You have to understand your process and where the opportunities are. But are we lifting and elevating ourselves – focusing on the issues that are of importance to the company? I would regularly ask for spend to make changes, only to be asked what the ROI was. With tax, a lot of times it’s very difficult, you don’t have an ROI metric that you can point to. It’s avoidance of risk. Your ROI is everything right there. It is hard to define, but three years later if you’re audited –and the CFO asks ‘Why didn’t you say something?’ – it’s very hard to be in that position to say ‘I did – but you didn’t listen.’ It’s your responsibility to consistently keep pushing for what needs to change. Do we have the right team, the right mindset and are we collectively working towards a response that works for the company? It is hard, but it’s a matter of pivoting and being flexible, while staying true to yourself.”

Sandhya Edupuganty
VP Tax and Treasury | E2open

“It’s about being a people leader. I learned early on – I think I was an associate, and I was getting a review from the senior associate or the manager – and they said “When you’re a manager and when you start to manage – always remember what it felt like on that side of the table.” I’ve always tried to manage people from their seat, having that empathy. I think this is what has guided me through my career. My elevated strength is that my approach to leadership has been about the people – when I left Nike and it was announced, somebody came into the office after and said “You know Wayne – we know it’s work, and it’s business, but you always made it personal.” And for me, there could be no better compliment about your career and your leadership than someone saying that.

We just had our global all staff meeting, transitioning to a new CEO and congratulating the retiring CEO. They did a monologue of his accomplishments – and it focused on his leadership – how he touched people, and how he led with care, empathy and compassion for those on the team. And when you start thinking about what differentiates yourself in your career – it’s what legacy you want to leave. When I was at Nike the tax rate went down every year for ten years, but I don’t know what it’s done since, although I’m sure it’s continued to go down. At Trans Union it went down, and it has at Visatoo. But when I retire, nobody’s going to talk about the ETR went down. I want them to talk about how I led as a person, how I had empathy, how I cared about their growth and development – that’s the legacy I want to leave behind.”

Wayne Monfries
SVP, Head of Global Tax | VISA

Catch up on all the other excellent points from our panellists and great advice on taking a further look at what can help progress you in your in-house tax career by watching the full webinar here:

If you would like to discuss your career, how to progress within in-house tax or just the market in general, please reach out to myself or a member of our team today.


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