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Jodi Watson: ‘They just didn’t seem to expect a woman could be doing the job’

In this week of International Women’s Day 2019 on March 8 we are proud to relate the personal stories of some of CMCRC-SIRCA Group’s outstanding team. They are part of our Group team profile that includes a mix of gender, creed, ethnicities and nationalities that hail from every corner of the world. Today we feature Jodi Watson.

Jodi Watson: ‘They just didn’t seem to expect a woman could be doing the job’

A few years ago Jodi Watson decided to take a break from work to fulfil a  “bucket list” dream – a year-long trip around Australia. She bought a big four-wheel-drive, hooked up a caravan, and with her partner set off to explore the sunburnt country.

It occurred to her she wanted to do something a bit different in her career, so the experienced accountant and executive “put it out to the world” she was looking for new opportunities. One came knocking, in the form of a senior position with a start-up in the Augmented Reality industry, which soon became a founding role in that business after a management buy-out.

The role threw up all manner of challenges, which with determination and hard work she successfully navigated.

One she hadn’t anticipated, however, was being one of very few women in two male-dominated sectors – IT and Building and Construction.

“I wouldn’t say being female was a barrier, but when I turned up to a meeting or negotiation fronting an IT start-up that specialised in the Building and Construction sector – they just didn’t seem to expect a woman to be doing the job,” says Watson, a qualified CPA with more than 20 years’ experience in public practice and corporate accounting and who is today Chief Financial Officer of CMCRC-SIRCA.

“I have a sense that it made it harder to realise commercial opportunities – but persistence paid off and eventually they got used to me.”

‘I got thrown in at the deep end’

Watson completed a bachelor’s degree in commerce, majoring in accounting, at the University of Newcastle. Shortly after graduating she was engaged by a medium sized accounting firm. A year or two later she was managing 100-client portfolio.

“I got thrown in at the deep end,” she says. “It was scary at first, but once I got my head around it, I got pretty efficient pretty quickly and gained a lot of experience.

“I was involved with all of the clients very early on in my career – and the people side of accounting is the part that you have to master before you can go anywhere.”

She then returned to university – UTS – to do her honours degree. She was offered a scholarship to undertake a PhD, but instead opted to go back into public practice with the same chartered accounting firm she had left, but not for long.

‘There was a lot of groundwork that I had to do such as developing business models, budgets and forecasts’

A new opportunity arose to work for the leading global market surveillance company, SMARTS Group. Headed by Dr Andreas Furche, it had grown out of the CMCRC and was eventually acquired by NASDAQ OMX in 2010.

“There was a lot of groundwork that I had to do such as developing business models, budgets and forecasts,” she says. 

“When I started I was employee number 12, and over a four-year period it grew from something like 30 employees to around 130. The revenues grew along with that, so my job had become bigger and bigger.”

Following the NASDAQ acquisition, she worked as a senior financial advisor with SIRCA. After a year, she left to embark on her “bucket list” trip.

On her return to Sydney she took up the opportunity of the AR technology company and held the CEO role for around three years.

“It was a lot of hard work,” she says. “I had all my accounting and business experience, but I discovered that was probably worth about 10 per cent of what I needed to be successful. I had a lot to learn.”

Watson has now relinquished the CEO role but maintains her connection with the business as an adviser and shareholder.

‘We have the ability now to be more courageous’

Today, Watson is CMCRC-SIRCA’s Chief Financial Officer with oversight of some 13 companies.

Reflecting on International Women’s Day, Watson says that women have more support than they did 10 years ago “so we have the ability now to be more courageous than we used to be”.

“I haven’t witnessed any gender discrimination in the accounting profession – I think there are more women than men in accounting, so it’s natural that accounting teams have a strong representation of women.”

‘The door needs to open further for women to participate more in commercial negotiations’

Watson says that in her time with CMCRC-SIRCA she has not experienced any gender discrimination.

Attitudes towards women in business and industry “are changing as we speak”.

However, she does see a place for additional support for women in professional roles, particularly in business development.

“I feel there should be more support for CEO-COO level women in business development roles and the door needs to open further for women to participate more in commercial negotiations,” she says.

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