To raise more awareness on the profession, we decided to launch a series of interviews focusing on women in tax technology.
It is with great pleasure we welcome Lubov Mikulaninecova. Lubov has over 10 years’ experience working in tax technology, she has been nominated and successfully enrolled into the highly selective EY NextGen Programme, a two-year future Partner development initiative. This inspiring woman shares about her career, diversity in the workplace, balance between work and personal life and provides advice for new starters in tax technology.
For those who don’t know you, can you introduce yourself?
My name is Lubov Mikulaninecova, yes, I know, my surname is quite long and not the easiest to pronounce, but I am using it a lot – both at and outside work. Many colleagues, clients and friends are keen to learn how to pronounce my name. Usually using it as an ice breaker in meetings or on the calls – who will manage to pronounce my name properly towards the end of the meeting or call?
I am a Senior Manager in the EMEIA Tax Technology and Transformation practice at EY. I have been living and working in London since 2011.
Why did you choose to specialise in Tax Technology?
It is a very interesting question. I graduated in International Relations and Diplomacy and had been dreaming about the career of a diplomat since being little. I am originally from Ukraine, graduated in Bratislava and joined the EY Slovakian tax practice as a graduate.
I worked in the traditional tax practice and after 3.5 years I was presented with an opportunity to move to London to join the EY Tax Performance Advisory practice as one of the founding members. It was an area new, undiscovered, creative, and challenging at the same time for me.
Recently, I came across the phrase that perfectly describes how I joined the tax tech space. If you want to stay in your comfort zone, you will attract what it is within that space, by stepping out you are about to discover your potential! We are now in 2020 and here I am, still in the tax tech and transformation space and still pushing the boundaries!
I am glad you made the move to Tax Technology. Do you see many women working in Tax Technology? Has it changed since you started?
The topic of female representation in the tax technology space is something I am always keen to debate and discuss. More broadly, you can find an ocean of articles, posts and reports how IT roles are underrepresented by women, however, this has been definitely changing. I can see more and more women being more comfortable and adventurous to tap into the IT career. A career in IT or in tax tech is very diverse and it does not always mean coding! The gender diversity definitely has shifted in a positive way, and we are seeing more and more female role models to follow – great evidence of this trend is your Women in Tax Tech Series.
What I need to mention though is that the representation at the senior levels could be improved, and it is also down to us to be ambitious and, at the same time, not to compromise any other priorities or values we stand behind.
Thank you, the series has been popular. It is a shame that still fewer women hold the senior roles. The recent events have proven that employees can efficiently work from home and the employers allowing more flexibility to their team members will be the ones attracting the best talents.
Do you find working in tax technology challenging to balance with personal life?
I think in general, and this is not a secret to anyone, working in consultancy requires extra effort and flexibility; however, this can be managed especially now as we all are moving towards more virtual ways of working. I do miss working from the office and most importantly the social aspect of it, however, at the same time I understand this has provided many of us with an opportunity to re-think our work/life balance, “re-configure” where necessary and above all spend more time with our family and friends
It is not often we get the possibility to pause and reflect, since Covid, CBO Search has received a surge of applicants for tax technology jobs, never have we had so many applicants for any given job. I think mentalities are shifting towards more understanding that tax technology is now the reality and no longer in the future.
Who has inspired or mentored you in your career?
I have met many great people, influencers, people I admire and look up to whilst studying, through internships and, of course, work experience. My mum has been always my number 1 personal adviser and assistant. She tends to call herself like that (not my invention). She has taught me a lot and continues mentoring me now as well.
During my professional career, I have had a pleasure to work with many inspiring individuals across the world (in most cases they were men) however, most recently I am grateful for all the support, guidance and mentoring that is being provided by Clare Franklin. The advice from someone who has been there before, who can share his/her lessons learned and who can provide very constructive feedback is in valuable.
Such a nice thing to say, I have no doubt that you are also an inspiration for others, including your mum. In your opinion, what are the main trends in Tax Automation?
There is no one size fits all when it comes to tax automation. It really depends on the profile of the organisation, their risk appetite, how high digital agenda is on the list of their priorities and where it makes sense to shift some of the activities and focus your efforts on more value add tasks.
When it comes to technology, everything is possible! That’s why I am so passionate about my career in tax tech – you can be always creative!
Notwithstanding the above, the following can be observed. We have seen more and more organisations, more precisely tax functions, looking to be more efficient, tech savvy and be on par or beyond where the tax administration around the world is moving. Tax compliance can and should be automated. Level of automation varies from a tax process to a tax process as despite all the claims that we will be replaced by bots, tax is not an exact science and requires human judgement. As someone told me once, everything that has got rules can be automated!
We can see more and more tax use cases where emerging tech can be applied, however, there is still little trust. What I am referring to is using AI, more specifically, machine learning in tax. The prediction is based on historic data sets and as such you should be comfortable that the patterns identified are based on good quality of data. I personally spend a lot of time educating my clients and running the art of possible workshops to increase tech savviness within the tax departments and help them embark on the transformation journey.
It is true that trends are evolving fast; at CBO Search, we have been working on roles related to AI and data that we never thought were even existing. What would be your main advice for someone who wants to start working in Tax Technology?
Problem-solving skills are instrumental to be successful in our profession. You might have heard this one from me already but if you like puzzles or Lego, you are in the right space! Be creative, be relevant and think out of the box. These days we always ask ourselves how else I can define what impact I make beyond financial one ? Well believe it or not we do make peoples’ lives better. It is all about introducing efficiencies, less sleepless nights and great people you work and interact with!
When technology can enable data to become an asset helping businesses at a more strategic level that is an achievement and indeed it does improve people’s lives.
How do you find working from home? Does it come with challenges? Any benefits?
I used to travel a lot for work. There were weeks when I was in multiple countries during the week. There were many occasions when I managed to be in four countries in one day – Slovakia>Austria>Switzerland>UK. It took me some time to adjust to spending all the time at home working and, to be honest, I am still trying to flex myself; nonetheless, as I mentioned earlier I'm really looking forward to be back in the office even if only few days a week.
The lockdown forced me to explore more within the UK. I keep saying that the best two decisions I made last year were to finally purchase a bike (yes I know I have been living in London since 2011 and it has taken me that amount of time to get on the bike and since then I have already upgraded from city to hybrid bike!) and my cat Feliz. Work calls have never been the same since then (referring to Feliz).
Four countries in one day is impressive! Now we are easing the lockdown, how are you and your business approaching it?
Similarly to many organisations operating in the same industry, I don’t think we will ever return to what we have been used to before. I am very proud of how well we as an organisation coped with this new norm without any major disruptions and minimum period of transition, if at all. As we are bound by local regulations, each business approached returning to work slightly differently.
In the UK, we are due to return to the office early September and there will be flexibility around making the choice to carry on working from home vs returning to the office. We need to find alternative ways of staying connected and in touch.
We hear how important is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and life balance to strengthen the immune system, is this something you have time for?
There is always time for that. Health is paramount to everything, and here I am referring to both physical and mental health. We need to maintain good physical and mental health whether it is through finding the right work/life balance, finding the right diet and, of course, exercising.
Exercising can be different, i.e. running outdoors vs logging your Peloton bike workouts on Strava, but it is very important to have some daily movement. For me, before it was going to the gym and working out, there was a time when I was totally into bikram yoga (traditional hot yoga), now more cycling is involved. I like to keep it diverse so I can stay motivated and challenge myself.
Thank you Lubov for sharing your insights and personal experience working in tax technology, I really like your honesty. It looks like stepping out of your comfort zone and developing your career in tax technology was a perfect fit and on the bigger picture, as you said, it makes people’s life better.