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Here at Claritas, we believe that is critical for all businesses to change the narrative around women in senior leadership roles and empower the global community to advocate for a diverse and inclusive industry.

 

Name, job title, and how many years have you been in Claritas?

Hi there, my name is Sarah Scala, and I am a Associate Partner here at Claritas. I have been within the firm for five months now.

Tell us a little bit more about your role?

I joined Claritas Tax in September 2021 to develop and lead its Tax Dispute Resolution service offering across the UK. I also take on external clients to handle any form of tax dispute or to make a disclosure to HMRC. I am also engaged by Lawyers as an expert witness in professional negligence cases involving accountants or tax advisers and I provide expert evidence in criminal cases.

Describe your career progression and what has supported you to progress to this position?

In the early stages of my career, it was sheer hard work and a survival instinct that resulted in first time passes in the same sitting in both my ATT and CTA exams and I was qualified three years after starting my career.

I have always looked up to those leading my team and observed the good and bad sides to their leadership styles. Leaders with a straight-talking approach have probably helped me the most. If I could have done something better, I preferred to be told and would not take offence. My leaders and mentors knew this and so advice has flowed freely, and I have learned a lot quickly.

How do you feel the business has supported you to grow professionally and personally?

I am fairly new to Claritas Tax, but they have given me the security of an employed position yet the autonomy to implement my business plan as I presented it to the Partners during my interview. I have the full support of my colleagues and access to their connections and advice when I need it. Personally, as I have effectively been given the opportunity to run my own business, I have challenged myself to read and learn more about personal development, time management and achieving my goals etc. It has been a long time since I read fiction!

What barriers have you personally faced in your career when progressing into leadership positions and what advice would you give to others to overcome these?

I admire those who are promoted internally compared to moving from firm to firm, securing an external promotion each step of the way and I therefore take pride in having moved through the ranks at my previous firm securing two promotions in quick succession becoming one of the team’s youngest ever senior managers in 2015.

The barriers that I have personally faced is that in a previous firm, a lower salary was offered to those promoted internally than to external hires, despite knowing the internal employees better and the risk therefore being reduced. So my advice is to stand up and choose to challenge.

In your opinion, what makes a good leader?

A good leader takes time to understand each team member and adjusts their leadership style accordingly where possible. This involves understanding an individual’s values and aspirations and offering the support required to stay true to those values and flourish.

How do you balance work and life responsibilities?

I have always worked full time. When I returned to work after the birth of my daughter, a senior Partner of a law firm advised me to always get the best childcare I can afford, and this is advice I have always followed. My childcare costs an absolute fortune but it will not go on forever and it allows me to be fully present to follow up opportunities and respond to distressed clients, essential in my line of work at this level and it is in my view an investment in my career progression.

What has been the highlight of your career?

Whilst all major achievements are special, a new one tends to supersede the others as it demonstrates that there are no limits to how far I can go if I persevere (and with good childcare of course ). So, my highlight must be securing my position at Claritas Tax, which I hope will one day be superseded by recruiting my first full time team member.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

For women who want children it does inevitably involve some form of a career break. Last week a friend of mine who is pregnant with her first child and lives in Rome was telling me about how she used to travel to London twice a month for business. She could not imagine ever being able to focus on her career like that again. My friend said that seeing me in my new role shortly after having a baby, was an inspiration. So, what I told my friend and what I would tell the next generation of future leaders in Claritas, is that, in my opinion, we don’t choose to be ambitious, we just are, or we aren’t, and both are fine. So, if you take a break to have children (or for any other reason), your ambition will return whether you like it or not!

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