Following the feedback from our readers and to raise more awareness on the profession, we decided to launch a series of interviews with women in tax technology. These inspiring women will share details about their careers, what they have learnt and provide advice for new starters in tax technology.
It is with great pleasure that we welcome Paula Regales, an economist with an MBA from E.O.I. school in Madrid and an Executive Master in International Taxation. Paula has built an impressive career in tax technology. With 17 years of International experience in industry within large US multinationals, focused on tax technology and tax strategy, Paula is now Senior Manager EMEIA in the Tax Technology & Transformation team at EY, London.
For those who don’t know you, can you introduce yourself?
I am an inquisitive, enthusiastic, Spanish Indirect Tax professional who has a preference for developing her career in international working environments. I am driven by challenge and continuous learning, both for my family and I, which I happen to find in rather diverse and international locations. I believe in exposure as being key for growth, despite tolls paid for making changes to one’s life. Getting outside one´s comfort zone, being humble and making effort are core values for me. I enjoy socialising in the professional environment and love working in teams, where it feels like everyone is equal. I believe in character and solid values, being the home and core of my strength.
Why did you choose to specialise in Indirect Tax automation?
In a way, I feel, I have let myself go with the flow, and I ended up doing mostly Tax Technology work. I started my specialisation in VAT in 2001, when I joined DuPont and got a job as an Indirect Tax database administrator and VAT coordinator in a pan-European role. I then got the opportunity to do the AIIT certification in the UK which was a great experience form the point of view of getting the British perspective of things in the Indirect Tax area. DuPont is a firm in continuous change, during the 14 years I have worked there, I was exposed to constant project work for gaining efficiencies, process improvement, streamlining, centering, but also M&A, separations, etc, what in practice meant a lot of SAP projects and Indirect Tax automation projects. My previous Indirect Tax roles were never specific to Tax Technology, but for some reason, I have always been seen by my colleagues as having a very good command in this area, and I guess the reason is that I have a natural inclination for Tax Technology work and getting into the details of it. I am a person of advancement, and all that means change and future attracts me, rather than looking at the past or the fixed picture.
It looks like your skills naturally led you to tax technology and was it a strategic decision to develop your career in London?
I would call it a convenient decision. Although I enjoy working and living abroad, I love my country and like to be close to my family, so I have also been able to live and work in Spain for many years during my career, the last experience working as a freelance consultant, between 2017 and 2019. I knew however, at some point, I would have to move on to a better platform in terms of type of projects and clients. When I started to look for a new job, London was certainly a place on the very top of my preference list, being quite close to Spain and well connected, but also offering an attractive cultural and educational experience for my family. It happens that London is one of the locations with many Indirect Tax and Technology roles, so it was an easy move.
Do you see many women working in Tax Technology? Has it changed since you started?
There are a lot of strong women in Tax Technology, London is a great location for connecting with them and other Tax Technology professionals. I see here a bigger proportion of women in tax roles than I have seen in other locations years ago, when, for example, we would meet at Tax Executive Institute conferences or VAT manager’s round tables, women were always a minority. The biggest change I see is the actual evolution and development of the Tax Technology services, it is a very fast evolving area, full of opportunities. Until a couple of years back, it was infrequent to see specific Tax Technology roles.
London is certainly one of the key hubs in Europe for tax technology and as such it attracts talents indeed. In your opinion, what are the main trends in Tax Automation?
Digitalisation is doubtless the area with most challenges for taxpayers, the fast pace of developments and the more and more countries starting the digitalisation journey, makes this area the most strategic one. However, there is an underlying critical area which has always been there since I started my career in Indirect tax and continues to be there, which is DATA; DATA is everything and continues to be the foundation of many innovative solutions in Tax Technology.
That is a hot topic and the field of data itself is generating new jobs such as data analyst, data mining. What would be your main advice for someone who wants to start working in Tax Technology?
My advice would be to have passion about it. To take the time to find one´s way, step by step, in such a broad area, but certainly enjoy the Tax Technology type of work.
What is your biggest achievement?
I enjoy working with smart people, people who inspires me, people from whom I can learn, so as an individual, I feel my achievements are linked to the ability to work in such enriching environment. If I have to choose one very general achievement, I would definitely go for the teamwork part; in every organisation I have worked, I feel I have been an enabler of a positive and collaborative team spirit, which has actually made the possibility of successfully achieve objectives.
Teamwork is a very important aspect in tax technology, change needs professionals being on board with it hence as a recruiter I look for communication and excellent project management in the candidate’s skills. How do you find working from home? Does it come with challenges? Any benefits?
I am an office person, because I like very much the social contact with colleagues. However, flexibility is key, and as such it is necessary to work from home, as your personal and family situation may demand. Now, with the COVID-19 situation, we have gone to the extreme of only working from home, and I find it very tough when there are many other family and home responsibilities. Delivering professional work and family demands is more challenging than ever; my weekends never felt so short, and weeks so long. Hopefully soon we can start recovering the normal routine, children go to school, etc.
I feel for you, it has been hard for professionals with young children, more employers have now acknowledged employees can work from home without the business being impacted. On a more positive note, it means that more employers will offer flexibility going forward. Now we are easing the lockdown, how are you and your business approaching it?
The fundamental principle is keeping safe and protecting oneself, with the relevant equipment and social distance. Ensuring that, it should be possible to return to some normality for business, working in the office or with clients. At the moment things are still uncertain though; Covid-19 has created unprecedented times, and thus a lesson learnt is being very cautious, never think something cannot happen, be prepared for the unexpected.
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?
I try to, and I am not so good at it; putting my priority on work and family, I tend to leave sports for when I get some spare time, so I try to be practical and cycle to work or use the stairs in the office instead of the elevator. The move to London was disrupting my sports routines, so I am not practising fitness as I was doing before, but a healthy life-style is very important for me, I make sure we eat healthy and natural food at home.
Thank you Paula for sharing your experience so genuinely, it is refreshing to hear how tax technology has naturally come to you, it was great to hear how you relocated yourself and your family to further develop your career in London, a move which has proven to be already successful.