Aspect's Regulatory Reporting Finance Lead, Elizabeth Singer, discusses her background, returning to work after a career break, flexible working at Aspect and her advice for others thinking of going back into employment.
You joined Aspect in November 2022 as Regulatory Reporting Finance Lead. Please could you tell us about your background and experience before that?
After studying Modern Languages at university, I qualified as a Chartered Accountant in audit at Deloitte. The skills I gained from my audit training were an excellent foundation for a career in finance. From there I moved on to the UK corporate finance team at a global Real Estate investment manager and led that team for over 10 years. I loved the broad scope of my role there, covering people management and the full range of the finance function including budgeting and analysis as well as internal, statutory and regulatory reporting. The corporate finance team is a key support function in any company, so leading that team gave me a great insight into the business and I enjoyed working with colleagues across all departments and roles.
You had a two year career break, what kind of role were you looking for when you decided to go back to work?
I started my career break in summer 2020 after the first Covid lockdown, my two children were young and I wanted the chance to focus on family life for a while. After two years I was ready for a new challenge. I hoped to find somewhere where I could bring my experience and add value. I was looking for a role at a similar level of seniority to my previous role, but I was open as to exactly what that would be. Given that my experience was sufficiently broad to lead to a range of roles, I knew that the company, its culture, and the people, would be key to finding the right place. I hoped to find a workplace where I would be challenged and would continue to learn and develop my career.
Please could you tell us about your experience looking for flexible opportunities?
I decided that for the benefit of my own well-being and that of my family, I wanted to return to work on a part time basis. This did make the job search harder, however there are specialist recruiters who focus on part time roles at senior levels. Some more traditional recruiters have not yet opened up to candidates who wish to work three or four days a week but things are changing. I had some careers coaching which helped me to update my CV and LinkedIn profile, and I registered with and spoke to all the recruitment agencies I could find, and even some Facebook groups, who focussed on flexible or part time roles. I heard about the role at Aspect from one of the many agencies I had registered with.
How are you finding working flexibly at Aspect?
My role was advertised as 3 days/week which is what I had been searching for, but in my final interview I was impressed to be asked if that was my preference, as Aspect was open to other arrangements, such as term-time only or 4 days/week. Flexibility at Aspect extends well beyond simply employing some people on non-traditional hours: we have a fabulous office in London’s West End which has just been renovated, and leadership recognise that flexibility means different things to different people. As a result, there is freedom to work some of the week remotely, and to adjust start and end times to suit. This is particularly valuable to me as a parent of school age children with the many school-based events that from time to time fall during the working day. Everyone at Aspect has different reasons for working flexibly, and it is refreshing and inspiring to work where that is the norm. There is a culture of trust where the focus is on delivering high quality work, rather than adhering to fixed working hours.
Would you have any advice for people who are thinking of going back to work after a break?
Returning to work after a break can be exciting and daunting at the same time. My advice would be to be honest with yourself about what you really want from your return to work, and to do your research, both into recruiters who specialise in what you are looking for, and into companies and their culture. There are many employers whose focus on diversity now definitely extends to valuing diversity of experience and they will value your work experience before your career break, as well as your life experience gained during that break. It can also be tempting to think that after a career break you may need to reset your aspirations and apply for roles at a more junior level, but there is no need to sell yourself short as you can aim high even after a break. Small concerns such as potentially having missed out on changes in technology or working practices will fall away once you settle into your new workplace. This has certainly been the case for me at Aspect, with supportive and realistic leadership and colleagues.