From cadet to senior manager by delivering on promises
12 years ago, Juliana Kee started as a cadet at Pitcher Partners Sydney. Today, she is a senior manager in the Tax Advisory Group where she combines her love of commerce with her interest in law to get the best result for her clients.
When deciding what she wanted to study at university, Juliana first considered a law degree since she enjoyed legal studies so much at high school. But her dad thought commerce would be a more suitable career choice, and reflecting on where she is today, she’s happy she took her dad’s advice.
“I need a thorough understanding of tax law to be able to advise my clients,” says Juliana. “Building a career that combines my interests in both commerce and law has been very rewarding.”
Juliana started at Pitcher Partners Sydney as a cadet, which saw her working full-time at the firm while completing her university degree.
“I didn’t know anything!” says Juliana when she thinks back to that time. But the firm’s supportive culture meant she started learning on the job straight away.
“There was a lot of investment by others in the firm in helping me learn,” she says. “Setting me up on jobs, explaining the basic concepts, and then I’d give it a try and they would go over the work and give me feedback.”
That’s how it was for the first few years and Juliana’s technical and personal skills grew exponentially during that time.
“It was a nurturing environment for me and I learnt something from everyone in the team, including the partners. It was a flat structure and that helped. It’s still the same today.”
Juliana was given an allowance to cover some of the cost of her university degree and upon graduation, she emerged with both a Bachelor of Commerce and four years’ work experience at the impressively young age of 22.
The completion of a university degree and four years in one job can cause people to start looking for other job opportunities. But while many of the people in Juliana’s external network were moving on to other organisations, she stayed.
“It wasn’t just going to work, doing your job and going home,” she says. “I’ve made a lot of friends because our culture is the best culture out there. So many of my friends at other firms have moved on, but sharing stories with them about why they moved away, I know I’m at the best firm.”
From the very beginning, Juliana made friends and connections with people across the divisions. The firm and her team were much smaller when she first started, and the firm has only grown since then. With growth came more connections and Juliana has also been offered a lot of professional opportunities.
A day in the life
For Juliana, a typical workday starts with a morning walk so she can get some fresh air and clear her head.
Once arriving at work, she likes to tackle the quick wins by responding to any emails that are easy to clear, and then focus on the big pieces of work that she needs to move along that day.
“Meetings and calls are scheduled throughout the day but I always try and schedule in some focus time so I’m not in back-to-back meetings,” says Juliana. “I try and spend my time where I can add value and that means prioritising my time each and every day.”
Juliana also gives back to those starting their careers by training up the juniors.
“Watching the juniors progress in their careers is really rewarding,” she says. “Seeing them take on feedback and grow from that, and to be able to invest in and nurture them – the same way I was – has been really rewarding.”
Taking on challenges
As with any role there are certainly some challenges along the way. Managing her time to focus on client work while mentoring junior staff along with developing her own career takes a constant balancing of priorities. But even with all the juggling, there are many bright spots.
“The best parts are definitely watching my relationships with clients evolve,” says Juliana. “It’s great to see them go through the different chapters of their lives. I’ve known them for many years now, I hear about their children going to school. You grow with the clients and connect with them on a personal level.”
When it comes to professional development, Juliana believes that having a good mentor or group of mentors you can trust to guide you along the way is essential.
“Being able to speak with people who have been in your position and can share their experiences is really helpful,” says Juliana. “I feel like I can ask stupid questions and it’s ok. If I’m in crisis mode, I always have a sounding board and someone will reassure me that it will pass.”
The Sydney firm has a Counselling Trees Program where each person is allocated a mentor. The program allows people to work through any issues or reservations they might have as well as encouraging them to discuss how to progress in their career.
Juliana attended the Pitcher Partners National Managers Conference in 2022 where managers from across the network of six firms came together for a three-day conference.
The sessions and activities encouraged managers to connect with one another, share knowledge and build their skills.
“I found the case studies really useful as it gave me real world scenarios of challenging situations and how to handle them,” she says.
“I also learnt more about how to communicate expectations to internal staff – both junior and senior – which was really valuable.”
Juliana works from home from time to time and appreciates the firm’s flexible work policy to help her manage life outside of work.
“I need to balance my energy so working flexibly can help,” she says. “While I’m mostly in the office, I know that I can work from home if I ever need to just focus to deliver on a piece of work which I find incredibly beneficial. Overall, we are trusted to manage our days and workloads.”
When asked what she believes are the skills that got her to where she is today, Juliana pauses for a moment.
“Being organised is one of them!” she says after a moment. “But I think it’s because I genuinely care about our clients. I deliver on my promises, and that gets noticed by the partners and more senior managers in the firm.”
For those who report to her, Juliana looks for people who have a willingness to learn and the ability to take on feedback.
“It’s important for people to know that it’s ok to make mistakes as long as you grow from them,” she says.
Supporting women at work
The firm has put on various events for their people over the years in support of International Women’s Day, which Juliana likes to attend.
She has also joined the firm’s internal Women’s Leadership Group, which is run by one of the female partners and creates a forum to discuss any challenges the group are facing. Juliana enjoyed the session on building confidence, which is a challenge for her from time to time.
When supporting the careers of other women in the firm, Juliana says it’s all about mindset.
“It’s important that everyone across the firm is given the same opportunities and the same treatment,” she says.