How to make it in Australia: Samantha Frost CA

Sydney sunset
Chris Sheedy By Chris Sheedy, CA Today

16 November 2017

Do you have what it takes to move overseas, leave your Big Four job and start your own business? Samantha Frost wasn’t sure, but she did it anyway.

During her successful career, Samantha Frost, now a Director of Think Consulting, has consciously taken several risks. These leaps of faith have always created a positive outcome. It’s not to say there weren’t challenging moments along the way, but such experience offered valuable lessons that made Samantha, and her career, more resilient.

Samantha’s first conscious risk took place when she was still at university. She had travelled from her home in Portchester, in England, to study at the University of Exeter. Her degree, Economics and European Studies, involved living in a European country for 12 months. As other friends chose comfortable options, Samantha did the opposite.

“I went to Spain because I fancied learning Spanish and doing something a bit different,” she explained. “There were lots of options for where I could go, such as Madrid or Barcelona, but I chose Valladolid, a place I had never heard of and which was off the beaten track. Here I would be forced to live as a Spaniard and learn the language.”

For me, Spain was a monumental change, but moving to Australia was not.

It was a major culture shock, Samantha noted, but the experience was extremely valuable. Her degree led to a job with KPMG in London and a CA qualification with ICAS. After four years Samantha decided it was time for a change.

She had visited Australia before commencing work in London and had fallen in love with Sydney, so when a recruitment agent told her of a PwC role in Sydney, she jumped at the chance.

She’d only stay in Sydney for a year or two, she told herself. That was in January 2005. Twelve years later, she’s still there.

What was your next role after PwC?

That same recruitment agent asked if I’d heard of a place called Macquarie Bank, and I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t. After doing a little research, I wasn’t sure if I’d cope with the environment within an investment bank.

The idea of it was very intimidating. But I went for the interview and loved the people I met. I joined in an internal audit role and ended up loving every second of the eight years I was there.

What did you love about it?

I felt like the most stupid person in the room, but in a good way. It meant that every meeting I went to I was learning because the people around me were so switched on. The department, my boss, the people I worked with, they were all incredibly supportive, very bright, very knowledgeable.

How did Think Consulting come about?

My husband, Kyle Piggins, set up Think Consulting in 2009. By 2013, when I left Macquarie, he needed a business partner in the risk space. We looked at each other one day and said, ‘The solution is fairly obvious!’.

Be very mindful of your own professional reputation. Sydney is a tiny marketplace compared to London.

Think Consulting now covers change management and risk management. But it was a really scary move because mine was the safe salary. To decide both of us were going to be self-employed was stepping way outside our comfort zone.

Are there differences in work ethic between the UK and Australia?

It's surprising how easy it is to fit in. For countries that are so far apart geographically, and so different in terms of geography, landscape and weather, they're actually remarkably similar in terms of sense of humour and other things that enable you to relate to others.

For me, Spain was a monumental change, but moving to Australia was not. But don’t make the mistake of thinking you'll work fewer hours because everyone’s so relaxed. I don't know anybody who's found that you work fewer hours over here.

What advice would you have for young CAs thinking of working in Australia?

I'd say, unreservedly, do it. Any opportunity to change things or do things differently should be embraced, because you will learn a lot. Absolutely do it. It will make you a better person.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you'll work fewer hours because everyone’s so relaxed.

It'll broaden your horizons. You'll have fun. And you know what? If it goes horribly wrong, you can just go home. Nothing's permanent and nobody's going to think less of you if you at least tried.

Do you have any professional tips?

Be very mindful of your own professional reputation. Sydney is a tiny marketplace compared to London. Everybody knows everybody, so your reputation really does precede you.

You have to be very mindful of the way that you conduct yourself and you can't afford to burn any bridges.

About the author

Chris Sheedy is one of Australia’s busiest and most successful freelance writers. He has been published regularly in the Sydney Morning HeraldVirgin Australia VoyeurThe Australian MagazineGQIn The BlackCadillac, Management Today, Men’s Fitness and countless other big-brand publications. He is frequently commissioned to carry out copywriting and corporate writing projects for organisations, including banks, universities, television networks, restaurant chains and major charities, through his business The Hard Word.


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