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Balancing the Grind with Sarah Petty, Head Of Financial Control at Target Australia

Sarah Petty is the Head Of Financial Control at Target Australia, where she is responsible for all of the company’s financial accounting, planning and reporting.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I began my career by being made redundant from my first role before I’d even started! I was accepted on a graduate program for an ASX listed company in my final year of university but before I began, the company restructured and the graduate program was cancelled. I was absolutely devastated and thought my career was over before it had even begun!

Fast forward to today and I’m now a qualified CPA with 15+ years of experience as a finance professional and business leader. I’ve worked across several top tier organisations including GE, Kraft Foods, Mondelez, Kellogg Company, Lion and Bega.

I’ve had finance roles in financial planning & analysis, supply chain, sales, marketing and strategic projects. I also spent a few years in Singapore working on Asia emerging markets. 

My current role is Head of Financial Control at Target, which is part of Wesfarmers. I am responsible for all of Target’s financial accounting, planning and reporting. I only started this role a few weeks ago after deciding to make a change into a different industry and take on a new challenge but so far it has been a positive start!

The setback at the start of my career taught me a lot about resilience and determination which has helped me get to where I am today.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Currently my time is split between the office and working from home as we transition to the new Covid normal ways of working. 

Most days I wake up around 6-6:30am and spend time with my two-year-old son. I start the day with a coffee and a healthy breakfast, this is non-negotiable! 

I’ll then drive around 20 mins to the office or begin the day at my home desk. I always listen to a podcast while getting ready and on my commute.

A typical day involves meetings with business leaders to understand challenges, presentations to key stakeholders on financial results, check-ins with my team and often discussions about team development and engagement. 

Most days, I try to finish meetings by 5pm to spend time with my son before he goes to bed and then will catch up on any last emails around 7pm. All technology is off by 8:30pm.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Yes, the business allows flexible work arrangements as we all need to be more flexible with COVID restrictions constantly changing! 

Working from home has allowed both my husband and me to spend more time with our son. When we finish the day, there is no travel time so one of us can always be there to have dinner with him. We both aim to finish work before his bedtime so we can spend some time together as a family each night. 

When I transitioned back to work after 12 months of parental leave last year, the flexibility in work location and hours gave me more confidence to return to work in a way that suited my new family situation and ultimately made me more effective as a leader.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Work life balance is about finding enjoyment and fulfilment in what you do every day and bringing the best version of yourself to every situation.

For me, balance is about understanding what is important to me (family, friends, career, health, holidays) and making time for all those things as well as time for myself. 

I often get asked how I balance everything when my role is so busy, but I really believe you are only busy with what you say yes to! Saying no to things that are outside of my values or that don’t help me progress towards my goals, has changed my way of working and living for the better. 

I also couldn’t have the right balance without support around me. My husband and I both have career ambitions and both want to be present parents so it is imperative for us to support each other and equally share the load at home. I also have support from friends, family, colleagues, mentors and coaches. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

With the COVID restrictions over the past year, I have had to find a new routine for working at home. Initially it was difficult to shut down mentally at the end of the day when my office and home were in the same place. 

The one routine I started was taking mini breaks throughout the day such as taking a quick walk, sitting in the sun, eating lunch away from my desk or listening to some music. It helps to reset my mind and come back focussed. I also shut down my laptop each night when I’ve finished working so there is no temptation to check emails or messages. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I have so many but these are a few of my recent favourites.

Books:

  • Daring Greatly, Brene Brown 
  • The Leader Who Had No Title, Robin Sharma
  • Mindset, Carol Dweck
  • Quiet Leadership, David Rock
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

Podcasts:

  • The Future of Work
  • Making Positive Psychology Work
  • The Look & Sound of Leadership
  • Unlocking Us with Brene Brown
  • Work Life with Adam Grant

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Coffee machine, online shopping (the best time hack!) and my iPhone. 

My favourite app is Calm, for maintaining a calm and focussed mindset throughout the day and allowing myself to relax at night.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?  

I’d like to hear from any current State Premier who has led through the pandemic. No matter what side of politics you sit on, all their jobs have been very demanding over the past year and they have often needed to make snap decisions at the last minute, even if others don’t agree with it. I would like to know how they manage work life balance during a prolonged time of crisis. 

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Balance can change regularly as goals and priorities change. Some days are about my family, some days are about my career, some days are about me and my health. It’s important to find the balance that works for you, no one else can tell you what this is. 

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About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.