Janet Young

COO, Minter Ellison

Janet Young, COO, Minter Ellison - CFO Mentor

Tell us a little about your career path

A little bit unconventional. Left school and started working at 16, completed my studies and qualified as an accountant part time. Have swapped between straight financial roles and combined financial and operational roles in various organisations. Early work experience was in financial services, but have predominantly been in professional services – accounting, consulting and now legal. Have had a global role based in the US, an Asia Pacific role based in Australia and global roles based in Australia. I have been extremely fortunate to have been involved in organisations which have experienced significant growth and change.

What keeps you awake at night?

What plays most on my mind is people issues. Creating the culture which drives sustainable success, being open to challenges, disruption and new opportunities, how do we create the confidence in our people to be innovative, to challenge, to play to their strengths.

What has been a career high?

I would call out two highs, firstly being closely involved with the global merger of Freehills and Herbert Smith to create Herbert Smith Freehills, one of the largest law firms in the world and secondly in my current role which is focused on transformation and actually walking the talk on how as a law firm we work with our clients to find innovative solutions, equipping our people to be at their best and truly becoming our clients’ best partner.

How is the CFO role changing?

Less predictable and stable, broader responsibility across the business, needing to be more agile, more focus on the people aspect and leadership. Leadership, transformation and change management skills are going to be even more important as we head into a lower growth environment. A different way of thinking is going to be required.

How far out can a CFO plan, given the pace of change?

It is not about planning in the traditional sense, the planning is more about having the right people and culture, being resilient and open to opportunities, using data to identify trends and where some of those opportunities might arise. A constant sense of urgency is required, the move to quarterly cycles rather than annual cycles to check in and reassess.

Why do you mentor?

Two reasons, firstly it is about giving back and helping others, and secondly I have always learned something myself from each of the people I have been involved with, whether that is the industry they work in, the different challenges they face.

Who was your most influential mentor?

I have been fortunate to have had a number over the years, all men who have thrown me in the deep end, believed in me to not drown, and helped me understand how to get things done.

What was the best advice you ever received?

There is no shortage of opportunities, you just have to be able to recognise them as opportunities.

What’s your approach to failure?

Trying to understand how it happened, what can we learn from it, what opportunity does this create that we didn’t have before.

What would you say is the best business book?

The Speed of Trust (Steven Covey). It emphasises that when trust exists – and it defines trust as character and competence – it drives the ability to get things done much quicker without the need for unnecessary process, and at the personal level it creates a much more empowering environment.

Can you share a networking tip?

Be genuinely interested in the person, not their title or who you think they might know. You might be surprised about what you might learn.

Interested? Learn more about our Mentoring Program.

Financial Executives Institute

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