By Ellie Tran
TUBES reached out earlier this year to Shelley Brooks, Director at Rodgers Reidy TAS Office, to find out more about her journey to such an accomplished position. Shelley has considerable industry experience in various roles, and now works in corporate and personal insolvency, working to secure turnarounds on mortgages and businesses. Her career highlights a very successful track record on trading and selling businesses, working with shareholders to provide regular reports and recommendations.
What was your first job?
My very first job was when I was in Grade 10 as a Casual at Kmart, they ended up offering me a full time position before the end of the year and I left school and started working there full time as a Manager of Menswear.
How did you get into the field?
I pretty much fell into the field I am today. I had quite a few jobs after leaving Kmart, I went into a traineeship in Real Estate and became the youngest person in Tasmania to ever obtain their Real Estate License and found it wasn’t that easy being a 17yr old trying to sell a house to a retiree. I then jumped around a bit from job to job for a while, in that time I moved to Melbourne for a couple of years and got into Vet Nursing. When I moved back to Tas I decided I wanted to be a Vet and starting looking into getting my degree and sadly found out I needed to be back in Melbourne to do this.
I then decided that I might like to get into Psychology and applied to Uni as a mature age student (I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do!!) During this time I got a job at Paul Cook and Associates as a Personal Assistant. So I thought I might as well take that opportunity, I was a single mum with a 4yr old at the time and thought working full time was probably a better option for his benefit then studying. So I started that position and absolutely loved the work and decided to apply to Deakin University, again as a mature aged student, and started my Bachelor of Commerce. Insolvency is not something I had ever really heard of or had a passion to be involved in before. I think it is always important to be open to new opportunities that may arise.
What set of skills (generic or transferable skills) do you think are most essential for your field?
We deal with so many different aspects of businesses, whether that be trading, restructuring,
selling or liquidating. On top of accounting and finance skills, having business knowledge and an inquisitive mind is a
major plus. We deal with so many different types of people from different backgrounds at
what is possibly one of the most stressful times of their lives, you need to be able to display
compassion but also be firm enough to follow the laws that we are governed by.
This isn’t the kind of profession where you can finish your work at the end of the day and leave
a spotless desk (you wouldn’t want to look at mine EVER!) Although we have to follow the same procedures every single appointment we take is different.
What is/are the biggest challenge(s) in your field at the moment?
This is an ever changing answer in Insolvency. Obviously at the moment the biggest challenge
we are facing is the amount of financial distress every single business and industry is struggling
with due to COV-19. For my staff this becomes extremely stressful due to legislative requirements and time
pressures on producing documentation, reports and holding meetings. Finding experienced staff in Tasmania is always a major hurdle due to it being such a specialised profession.
How has the industry you work in changed while you’ve been there, and what trends do you see into the future?
Well up until recently there hadn’t been any major changes in Insolvency Law for a number of years. In December 2009 we experience a major change when the Personal Property Securities Act (PPSA) was passed and came into effect in January 2012. This caused a major stir with how security is registered, including the old fixed and floating charges and retention of title.
Then in December 2011 the then Attorney-General and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer released A Modernisation and Harmonisation of the Regulatory Framework Applying to Insolvency Practitioners in Australia. This saw major changes in the way we do things, compliance, reporting etc and was rolled out in two stages March 2017 and then September 2017. At the moment we are seeing further temporary legislative changes being implemented due to COV-19.
What sort of qualifications/degrees/courses/trainings are you recommending for your field?
Generally we see those with Accounting / Finance degrees working in the industry, we have certainly seen quite a lot of law graduates come through the door as well. Both degrees are beneficial in the industry as we obviously do a lot of work with accounts and have the need to understand financials, be able to prepare cashflows / budgets etc but there are also a lot of legal aspects we deal with as well. Whether that be understanding leases, sale agreements, terms and conditions or actually defending legal matters or commencing legal action. Insolvency law itself is also a very specialised area. As you progress in the industry there are specialised courses that can be undertaken with ARITA and other institutions. Most professional staff also progress to completing their CA or CPA.
What do you look for in new employees?
When looking for a new team member one of my main priorities is that I feel they are a good fit with the rest of the team. We can work in an extremely stressful environment and we are all individuals with different personalities so it is extremely important that we all get along.
We all have a different variety of skills as well, I have some staff that love the numbers side, some that have managed several different businesses, those that like to dig around and have an inquisitive mind. So I take all of that into account as well, one of my priorities as an employer is to ensure that my staff are engaged in what they are doing, there are always some boring tasks that we have to do that is a necessary evil of any job, but then there is stuff that
really gives a person a buzz and interests them if you can match these two together you can generally get the best out of someone. The other thing I feel that is really important is flexibility, our day can go from nice and relaxed
to everyone running around like crazy.
What has helped you get to where you are and what advice would you give to new graduates interested in your field?
For me I fell in love with what I was doing and had the passion to work my way up. It took me so many years to be recognised as not just ‘the receptionist’ answering the phone. The industry has always been very male dominated, I am the only female in Tasmania who is a Registered Liquidator and on top of that now own my own firm.
As you heard at the start I didn’t even finish Grade 10, so if I can manage to work my way through Uni whilst working full time with a 4year old and then having another baby during this time, to completing my CA and ARITA and clocking up enough experience at a Senior level to be in the position to apply to ASIC to become registered then anyone can do it (I now have 4 children and have continued to study and work fulltime the whole time).
If you have a passion for something, don’t let people tell you that you can’t do it or that you won’t make it. Put your head down and strive for what you want. Face all the obstacles and just keep working towards your ultimate goal.
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