Leaning in: Empowering teams along the journey​​​​​​​

Iara Morris is a Director in Trust and Risk at the PwC Perth office. Having been part of PwC for 13 years it is evident that Iara is passionate about the impact we can have when we support each other and come together and the power of mentors.

We sat down with Iara today to get a deeper insight on her journey with PwC so far and got to chat about some of her personal experiences around travel, the importance of mentors and the power of authenticity from those around her.

Encouragement builds confidence
With empowering others and mentoring being one of her biggest passions, Iara notes how crucial mentors have been for herself over the years: “I’ve had amazing formal and informal mentors throughout my time at PwC. One of my very first mentors was my team leader who helped give me the confidence I didn’t have in myself to go for a promotion. They also supported my decision to participate in the sister-city secondment program to Beijing. It was an amazing three months that not only allowed me to see the PwC offices in another country but also to live and learn about an entirely new culture.”

“Then, shortly after, I went on a long-term secondment to San Jose, California in the United States. San Jose is about an hour south of San Francisco and the heart of Silicon Valley, where all the tech clients are. 

The experience was quite daunting at the start, mainly because at the time I wasn’t sure if diving into the world of technology was for me. At this stage I had my mentors again providing the great support to give it a go. It turned out to be an incredible experience. It was a lot of hard work, but truly unique working with the tech giants. With tech and digital becoming such a crucial part of companies and our day-to-day lives, I’m extremely grateful for the five and a half years I spent there.”

Iara returned with her family to Perth in 2019 and looking back at it now, she still has extremely fond memories: “I can certainly say without a doubt the skills I acquired on secondment have helped me immensely.” Technology is embedded across all industry sectors, and everyone is on their own digital journey. I’m so glad and fortunate that I said yes to the experience and I encourage others to do the same if they have the opportunity.”

Women supporting women

"In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders."

― Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

One of the best parts about being in San Jose was the proximity to all kinds of thought leadership. Back in 2013, Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, published her book ‘Lean In’. At the time, she was taking a look around and noticed the lack of women and gender diversity within the C-suite. And Sheryl felt this didn’t make sense given all the diversity in schools and universities. 

For her book, Sheryl worked with a researcher at Stanford University which I was able to hear speak. Research shared in her book showed that if we support each other then we can feel empowered to take that next positive step or to achieve that goal or to take that risk. 

Through the support of the partners here in Perth, I have been able to start ‘Lean In Circles’ for the women in Assurance, which then expanded to other lines of service and hopefully soon we'll go to the whole Perth office. It's an incredible opportunity for our female talent at the beginning of their career journey to hear from some of our more senior females and gain insight on what they're experiencing, going through or thinking. And to ultimately find out we are all thinking the same things! 
For example there are things like the inner critic, imposter syndrome and finding the right mentor/sponsor and they're all real though felt to different extents in each person. But also knowing that other people go through similar things (regardless of gender) means you can help each other to put strategies in place.

Be fearlessly authentic

Looking back on my career to date there have been (like in everything) both highs and lows. I find the ‘goal setting’ strategy to be one that works well for me. I’ve also been very fortunate to have some great support from colleagues and worked with fantastic teams.

While I was in the US, I also became a mum and I had my two sons, that was probably one of the hardest parts of my career: the transition to becoming a working parent. My incredible colleagues, team leader and mentors, played an important role in helping me to navigate that time.  It also gave me plenty of tools to support others who are going through a similar journey. It’s not about changing but more about adapting and continuing to be yourself.

Being a team leader is such a critical and important role. This is something I'm really passionate about, how we can enable more people to be the best team leaders they can be in order to help empower their teams authentically. 
I feel so much fulfillment by being able to pass on a little bit of what people were able to provide to me. 

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