Inspiring Women Series

Karina Waite grew up in Coffs Harbour and has been with Roberts and Morrow for almost 16 years as an Accountant and now very shortly as a lawyer.

Find out who and what inspired Karina to become a lawyer, what advice she would give to others, and why both professions are good career choices for all those who are interested.

What has been your career journey so far?

I started at R&M in 2005 as an undergrad accountant working full-time for Mike Muldoon whilst I finished my last two years of university. I was studying a double degree in Financial Administration and Law at UNE and at this time was 100% certain my career would be in accounting rather than law. I followed on from this study with the Chartered Accountants program, which I completed in 2010. Then to fill a knowledge gap in superannuation, I completed a Masters of Applied Taxation with UNSW in 2013.

At this time, I was working for Jason Simmonds, and my role involved completing year-end tax work for large groups and supervising the work of team members. Roberts & Morrow hired an in-house tax counsel in 2012, Paul Williams, who needed an offsider to assist with his technical advisory work, such as advising on complex capital gains tax issues, SME restructuring and estate planning.

After a year or two of dividing my time between compliance work for Jason and advisory work for Paul, I parted ways with Jason and worked solely with Paul. Since then, our team has grown, and I took on a manager role to guide our new team members. In May 2020, we established RML Solutions as a law practice within the Roberts & Morrow group and now do all sorts of legal work that complements the work done by the accounting firm.

With our other team members completing practical legal training, and becoming admitted as a lawyer in 2020, I considered the possibility of becoming a lawyer as well. Over the next 12 months, I undertook the additional study needed, and now I am about to apply for admission as a lawyer. In November, it will have been 16 years since I joined R&M. I have completed two bachelor degrees, become a Chartered Accountant, completed a master’s degree, am nearly a lawyer, married my husband Damien, and had three babies!

Do you feel that accounting and law is a good career choice for women?

Accounting and law are excellent career choices for all genders as they can be challenging and fulfilling. As with many occupations, becoming a mother can slow down your career journey, but it gives you some excellent skills to help further your career. Mothers can have a lot of patience, be excellent at juggling their workflow and demands of others and be empathetic leaders. Nowadays, both professions typically offer flexible work hours and the opportunity to work from home, which adds to the appeal.

In your career, were there any mentors who have helped you grow along the way?

Jason Simmonds helped me in the early days as an accounting mentor. He spent a lot of time reviewing my work, explaining technical concepts and guiding me on what was essential to our clients. It allowed me to work out how to fully complete a client’s year-end tax work independently and hand it over to him ‘on a silver platter,’ as we used to say. As my current mentor, Paul Williams has encouraged me to give this lawyer thing a go. He has been very supportive and has allowed me to make a real contribution to the way our team has grown and developed.

What are your future visions for yourself?

Short-term, I am looking forward to developing my new lawyer skills. As well as maintaining competency in tax and business structuring I want to learn more about wills, estate planning and conveyancing. Long-term, I want to take on more of a leadership and mentor role and learn more about running a successful professional business.

What advice would you give others who are starting?

Don’t be too quick to make career decisions and keep your career options open. Never say never! There is no need to rush. Take your time and focus on adding value to your career by becoming fully qualified in your profession and by completing additional studies if you have particular interests that you want to pursue. On your journey, develop a network of colleagues with whom you get on well and can workshop issues. These colleagues will build their unique skills and interests, even if they leave your firm, and will be invaluable to call on and collaborate with in the future.

What job would you be terrible at?

Child care worker. It’s hard enough to work out why your children cry when they are young, let alone someone else’s children. This would be my nightmare!

What is unique about the place you grew up?

I grew up on a banana farm in Coffs Harbour, so my siblings and I had plenty of space to roam around and get dirty and had plenty of bananas to eat! My grandparents lived in another house on the farm, so we were very close with them. Our family went fishing a lot, so we often spent a day fishing estuaries or out on the boat on the Bellinger River.

Where would you spend all your time if you could?

I am sitting up on Macauley’s Headland at Coffs Harbour. The sound of the waves, the smell of the ocean, watching birds and whales… that’s my little slice of heaven right there.

What would be your spirit animal?

A galah. I love their cheeky personalities and occasional fits of craziness, especially when it rains.

Thank you Karina!

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