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Interview: Dean Shepherd, Senior Product Management

Posted by Wolters Kluwer on 09-Oct-2018 11:04:00

We spoke to some of our employees about why they changed career paths from being tax and accountancy professionals to working at Wolters Kluwer. Here's what they had to say.

Dean Shepherd

 

Dean Shepherd

Senior Product Manager - Compliance

 

 

What do you do at Wolters Kluwer?

I am the Senior Product Manager for Compliance which means I am responsible for the vision and strategy for our accounts, tax and audit tools. On a practical level this means I set the priority for the development work we want to undertake on those products, to both delight our customers and to meet our wider goals as a business.

 

What made you want to change your career path?

I had been an accountant in practice for 20 years. The first 10 working for others and the last 10 running my own practice. I was presented with an offer to sell my business and I thought it was a good opportunity to take some time out and re-evaluate my goals. I took an 18-month break from the profession and explored other business opportunities as diverse as mobile phone repairs, an ideas company and even an emergency locking wheel nut removal service (yes, that is a thing!).

As much fun as those ventures were, they did not really give me the satisfaction I was looking for. I didn’t have the appetite to set up another accountancy practice but I also didn’t want to completely discard the 20 years of experience I had racked up to date. So I started looking for companies to work for that serve the accounting profession.

 

What was it that attracted you to the Wolters Kluwer role?

One of the most important things I learned as a business-owner is how important it is to have a deep understanding of your customers' needs. As an accountant, I have never been a client myself. As much as I tried to put myself in my customers' shoes, I would never truly understand what it feels like to be a customer. I was therefore looking for an opportunity to work for a company that served the accountancy profession as I felt my knowledge and experience as a customer would be incredibly useful.

For my particular role, the opportunity to solve some of the problems I faced as an accountant in practice was incredibly appealing, as was the ability to shape the future direction of our products. Wolters Kluwer is a well-known brand and, although there were other companies I admired, if I was going to learn a new industry I wanted to do so within a highly respected organisation.

 

What has been the most rewarding thing about making that career change?

The most rewarding thing is being able to use my industry knowledge and experience in a new and exciting way. For the last 10 years of my accountancy career I was used to being held out as the most knowledgeable person in the building, even if that was not always true. It was a daunting prospect to go from that to being the least knowledgeable person; particularly as I had never used any of our software products before.

Learning how my existing skills can be exploited in a different industry, in a different way, is extremely rewarding. There is a great deal of autonomy in the company so we are allowed to shape our roles to better utilise our strengths and carve out the career we want.

 

Has the career change been what you expected?

Having never really done anything other than accountancy, and having little idea what a Senior Product Manager was actually meant to do, I didn’t really know what to expect. Everything has been completely new to me. Not just the change of industry but also the change of culture and the change of dynamic. It's a long time since I've had a boss and I've never been part of a global organisation before, even though Wolters Kluwer UK does feel like a much smaller family. It has certainly been everything I'd hoped, if not necessarily everything I had expected!

 

How have your accountancy skills benefitted you in your new role?

As a company, we are extremely customer-focused. I had thought I would be the default ‘customer in the room’ and that would be my differentiating quality. I quickly learned that the majority of the people I work with every day at Wolters Kluwer have at some time or other worked in the accounting profession and, even if they haven’t, have probably undertaken some tax exams just for the fun of it!

Understanding what our customers go through and the problems and difficulties they face in a changing world has had the biggest impact on my role and should not be underestimated. A broad range of technical skills is always useful as it means I can be part of the conversation without needing to be the expert in the room.

 

What do you enjoy most about working at Wolters Kluwer?

When it was first suggested to me that a career in accountancy might be boring, I retorted that accountancy is only as boring as the people you work with. The same applies to Wolters Kluwer. I had thought, being a tech company, I would be surrounded by millennials sitting on beanbags, wearing VR headsets and having drone races around the office in between late-night hackathons. Well, we do have (some) millennials, beanbags and hackathons but a typical day consists of working with enthusiastic, joyful people with a genuine care for their customers and a sincere appreciation for their colleagues.

There is a big focus on helping everyone develop a rewarding career that will meet their personal goals as much as the goals of the business. The autonomy and flexibility we are given in how we meet our objectives is the envy of my friends still working in accounting practice.

 

If you're a qualified tax or accounting professional with experience working in practice and an interest in technology who's interested in a career change, Wolters Kluwer could be the place for you! Please send us your CV and we'll be delighted to discuss what opportunities might be possible for you!

 

Stay tuned for more interviews in this series over the next 4 weeks.

 

Read the other interviews in this series:

Morag Matthews, Professional Services Consultant