Amber Witherdin has travelled a diverse path in her 15 year accounting career working in varying roles across health care, defence and state government in both the ACT and Queensland before moving to Newcastle and taking up a job in the mining sector. She has now returned to work where her enthusiasm lies, in the health and community sector, allowing her to make a difference in people’s lives.
Amber has come a long way since working as a youngster with her father at the local abattoir as well as at her step-father’s GP surgery to her position now, as recently appointed General Manager of Finance at Anglican Care, after four years as a Management Accountant at the organisation. She is certainly willing to step in and take anything on!
- What career path led you to where you are now?
After leaving school in Cootamundra I moved to the ACT and started a psychology degree. I found the move away quite challenging and decided after the first year of study that attendance at university wasn’t for me. I took the next year off and moved to QLD, working full time in hospitality to support myself.
At the end of this year I decided to pick up my studies again and recommenced my degree part time via distance education. I moved back to Canberra and started working full time for a local day surgery. I realised at this point that I really missed and enjoyed the personal interactions with patients and that I was good at conveying all the financial information to them in a simple manner. Stepping up to relieve in the finance team, it turned out that I had a natural flair for numbers and was promoted to Finance Manager at age 24. My employer encouraged me to start an accounting degree, offering to pay for my studies and at this point I made the decision to switch from psychology and start my finance career.
I moved on to work with a start-up company, again in the health care sector. I then spent a long period across a number of roles working with the Department of Defence before relocating to Brisbane and working for the Queensland Government. After a period I relocated to be near family in Newcastle and worked in the mining sector. Whilst the work was challenging I didn’t find it rewarding and realised that I missed the feeling of making a contribution to the community. That’s when I started with Anglican Care.
- What motivates and drives you?
I love being able to make things easier for someone else and feeling like I make a difference to the people around me. For me, I can do this by understanding what drives a business and what opportunities are out there for operational improvements. That little bit of extra funding can allow us to provide an additional service, a tweak to rostering might provide a more supported or flexible environment for employees, a new facility will allow us to expand our reach to care for extra people. The challenge for me is in explaining an often complex range of analysis in a way that enables critical decisions by others. These decisions often have long term financial impacts on an organisation so I also have to be continually thinking strategically.
I have always been self-motivated and continually push myself to see what I can achieve in my career. But I am also resolute that my family will always be my priority. I don’t want to miss out on their growing up. I hope that I am a role model for my daughters, so that they realise they don’t have to choose a single path. As a relatively young female working in a senior role I am proof that you can work at a high level and enjoy a great family life thanks to a flexible employer allowing me to work a 4 day week. It takes a lot of organisation, and I am lucky to have a supportive husband to help bring it all together.
- What has been your biggest learning curve in your career?
To be honest, I think I am in the midst of it now. Having worked across such a diverse set of professional roles my technical skills have continually developed and whilst I have often worked within the upper levels of management I was often the one who would be paying attention to the details.
Now that I am working as a General Manager I am having to ensure that I maintain a strategic focus and allow my team to concentrate on the details. For a control freak this is a continual challenge, learning to put your trust in the ability of others. But it also allows me to become a mentor to others in my team, something that I have already found to be incredibly rewarding.
- Where would you like to be in 10 years?
I would like to be leading an organisation in the health and community sector. I want to be able to look back on my career and feel that I have made a significant contribution to the lives of others and the community that I am a part of. I also hope that I will be able to mentor others to achieve everything they are capable of, irrespective of the limitations they may feel are against them.
- Have you had any significant Hunter-based mentors during your career that inspire you?
The last General Manager of Finance at Anglican Care, Colin Locking, played a significant role in continually challenging my boundaries and expectations in the workplace. I remember telling him that I had no desire to become a manager when I was employed at Anglican Care, even though I knew that it was within my capabilities. I was really lucky that Colin completely ignored that! Colin had extensive career experience and I learnt so much from him, a lot of which I didn’t realise until later down the track. We often challenged each other but it was and will always be with the utmost respect.
I am really excited to be now working for Colin Osborne. As a boss and leader he is incredibly approachable and I find that I am able to take away small learnings from almost every conversation that we have. I am eager to work as part of the executive team at Anglican Care and believe that with Colin’s support I will make a significant contribution into ensuring the organisations successful future.