We work with a lot of finance professionals across a broad spectrum of industries; however, it feels extra special to highlight someone from within an organisation who do so much.

In this edition of TwoScots Takes Two, we’re chatting with Joel Chibert, CFO of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI); one of Australia’s leading biomedical research organisations.

Joel has been in this role since December 2017 before which he held a number of senior finance roles within Monash University, Monash Commercial Group and Pitcher Partners. In conversation, we were struck by the completely people first attitude which Joel takes and filters down throughout his workplace. His commitment to supporting those around him, as well as himself is truly commendable!

Collaboration and Challenges

“Building relationships is one of the factors which has been key to my success. Whether they are with my peers, my supervisor or external relationships with Auditors, Investment Managers, banks, etc. This is not only crucial for my personal development. It’s crucial because a key component of my role is the management of relevant stakeholders in order to ensure the financial viability and continued smooth operations of an efficient organisation.

In my current role, my major challenges usually centre around funding, not only in ensuring that it is being delivered but also its management. Half of our funding is from the government and therefore as an organisation we have to do more with less. It’s imperative to be able to control costs and deliver outcomes with often very limited resources in order to meet the requirements of our partners.

This challenge is amplified as there is always more medical research happening in other institutions, universities, institutes or hospitals – and we are all competing for the same funding. We all submit applications and 9 out of 10 don’t get what they apply for.

Thus, we need to ensure we continue to be world class. We have world class scientists, and we need to retain them and give them access to great technology and support. Interestingly whilst we compete for funding, but we also collaborate with these other organisations too.”

On learning and developing continuously

“Thorough training and development are crucial to keeping your skills up to date as is continuous relationship building. Learning is most successful when it’s from talking to people; giving and taking from all discussions.”

On transitioning from a subject matter expert to a team leader; “I did it quite a long time ago! When I was in Chartered Accounting, I quickly went from the junior to the supervisor on jobs. I struggled at first but soon learned to delegate and realised that was the key to getting twice as much as done.

As I moved roles and organisations, my philosophy hasn’t changed. My role is to clear roadblocks for my team, enable their access to the information they require and ensure they can work in the most productive manner.

Much of my work is from within a team. Recently, we needed to work quickly on a complex issue, where we needed to build a project group to create a plan and work through it together.

We pulled a team together consisting of individuals from Communications, HR, Finance and Projects. Working in a cross-divisional way meant we not only shared resources but also built relationships – it was smooth and addressed the issue. Teamwork needs people to be present and empowered.”

Creating a lifestyle to support a thriving career

“I’m inspired by a wide range of people, from my wife and family; colleagues on my team who may have a challenge to deal with; and of course the scientists who are working to cure diseases such as cancer and malaria. You can take inspiration from anyone and anywhere – it’s all about attitude.

I don’t switch off from the digital world well so last year I took five weeks off and deleted work emails from my phone. It meant that if people really needed me, then they had to call me.

The ease of access to technology can be so problematic to our work-life balance and I’m forever trying to get it right. Although tech is such a great enabler, it’s an equally big problem. I know I’m not the only person who finds it difficult to leave the office at 6pm and tune out.

I’d recommend all newly Qualified Accountants to try to be as broad as possible in their careers. It’s really important not to pigeonhole yourself. But you do need to stay in a role long enough to get your hands dirty and learn your job.

I’d also say that how you treat others and your integrity are key. You really need to behave in the right way and be considerate whilst staying true to yourself.

Basically, treat everyone with respect, be clear of your values and demonstrate them.”

 

We would like to say a big thank you to Joel for taking the time to share his working ethos with
us. We will be back in the coming weeks with more financial leaders from across APAC.