Jennifer Pattwell, a Partner at PwC Singapore, has spent her globe trotting career in pursuit of fun and fulfillment. “It’s something a previous boss and mentor said to me once – there’s no point in doing something if you’re not having fun doing it.”
“If you just take a job to take a job, you won’t have that motivation, and motivation is one of the key things I hold dear. We spend so much of our time at work, it’s important we find that time fulfilling,” she continued.
“Travel was a priority for me at the start of my career, so my career was about fulfilling a key personal priority at the time. It’s about weighing what’s important to you. If you can combine your personal objectives with your career goals, then you are on the right track.”
Pattwell, who hails originally from Scotland, says she was always interested in international travel. She studied abroad in Switzerland instead of her last year of school before going to university, and when she went on to study business and accounting at the University of Edinburgh, she took up the opportunity for an exchange year in Canada.
“For my career, I thought I would be in a business field but I knew I also wanted to travel,” she explained. After graduating, Pattwell applied for an international banking management training program at a large British bank that had global presence. “To me, it was exactly what I was looking for. I was lucky enough to get into the program in 2001.”
She spent a few months working in London, and then she was sent to Dubai for two years. “It was a steep learning experience and I was working on high profile projects.”
There, she experienced some of the unique challenges for women who work internationally, she explained. “When I was working in Dubai, ten years ago, it was very different. Some men wouldn’t shake my hand. I went in expecting that – the bank had been there a while and was able to give me a lot of insight. But it’s a reality we have to work with.”
At the end of her secondment in Dubai, Pattwell found her next secondment opportunity with the bank in New York, focusing on corporate banking and dealing primarily in the area of risk management.. After four and a half years in New York, she explained, most people working abroad begin to start thinking about localizing or returning to their home locations but she wasn’t ready to do either.
“I’m half-Thai, and my parents had retired to Asia, and my brother was in Asia as well, so I decided to seek opportunities there as well as to experience working in the Asian market. One of the first organizations who wanted to speak with me was PwC. I met with their firm in Thailand, and they were great and made a good impression– at this time I would have been manager level, and I wanted to pursue the opportunity. But, unfortunately they said due to it being a different market they wouldn’t be able to match a salary comparable to my expectations.”
“So they put me in touch with the firm in Singapore, and I met with someone in New York and I got an offer. They gave me a good long time to think about it – it’s quite a big decision to move continents,” she said with a laugh. “And in May of 2008, I started at PwC Singapore in the area of Financial Services, Advisory, Risk and Capital Management.”
Pattwell said her transition to a consulting role was surprisingly smooth. “Consulting was a foreign world to me, having worked instead in the corporate world. But I enjoyed the flexibility and diversity of the projects and the diversity of the client base. In the consulting world, you can never predict what you will be working on from one day to the next.”
In July of 2012, Pattwell became a Partner in PwC’s Singapore. “It is an honor that my colleagues and peers thought highly enough of me to be admitted to the partnership,” she said, pointing out that she is excited about her potential to make her mark at the firm. “One of the things about being a Partner is the additional empowerment and encouragement to find your niche, your personal brand, and define what you are going to do for clients and for your teams.”
Pattwell discussed her opportunity to use her expertise in helping clients in Singapore deal with the new and developing requirements and regulations in the Financial Services industry. “We will be able to work closely with clients to meet the new and increasing demands they have.”
She is also enthusiastic about how companies are increasingly recognizing the potential of risk management as a business driver. “Enterprise risk management is something our clients are paying more attention to and that they are now seeing more of a benefit in holistic approach to risk management.”
Advice for Professional Women
“One thing that was surprising in my career history is that prior to coming to PwC Singapore, I had very few female bosses.
“I think it’s important to continue to pay attention to what it is that differentiates ourselves from our male counterparts, and to emphasize other important traits that make us successful as women. We have a lot to offer, and we shouldn’t be trying to fit in or conform,” she continued. “We should exemplify what makes us great as women, so junior women can see that they don’t have to conform to succeed.”
Pattwell says there are some challenges for women in the professional space across industries – particularly around care giving and career growth. “The main barriers are still what I would consider your career development coinciding with life changes, like having and raising children.”
She continued, “This is especially relevant to me, considering my experience right now – being married and expecting my first child. I’m managing a big step in my career along with a big step in my personal life.
Nevertheless, she feels fortunate to be working at PwC. “The firm has been supportive and increasingly so.”
She has participated in some of the firm’s women’s networking initiatives in Singapore, and has also participated in joint sessions with other companies in the region. “Things like that do help to highlight the importance of diversity in the workplace,” she added.