Emma appeared on the Venari Podcast
Emma Butler has enjoyed a varied career that has taken in stints at Deloitte, the BBC, and Burberry. Now, she has transitioned into a transformation role, as Commercial Transformation Lead at Mulberry – and, in this episode of the Venari Podcast, she told our Senior Interim Solutions Consultant, Mhairi Geraghty, about the crossover to (and similarities between) finance and transformation roles, the importance of positive work cultures, and the benefits of strong mentorship.
Emma started her career in Deloitte’s graduate scheme – the idea of entering the programme after leaving university seemed like ‘a comfort blanket’, she admits – working in the internal audit and risk space. She had a great few years, and even qualified as an accountant with the ICA, though eventually Emma felt the need to work with one brand individually rather than consulting on a number simultaneously. In 2013, she joined the BBC – again in internal audit and risk, followed by a move into strategy – before Burberry approached her two and a half years later. ‘I initially joined their Internal Audit and Programme Assurance function, but then I actually made the transition into transformation there, which was a really formative part of my career – and where I am today is largely attributable to that transition’. In January 2023, Emma joined Mulberry, she is ‘absolutely loving’, and which includes ‘a lot of synergies from my role in transformation at Burberry’.
Commonalities across sectors
On the surface, this might seem like quite a big jump – though Emma is quick to point out that finance and transformation have more in common than might be apparent at first, and that the transition happened organically for her. ‘Both sets of roles are largely project-based and focused on driving positive change forwards,’ she explains. ‘They are both very collaborative [...] You’re working with different functions within business, different teams and collaborating cross-functionally to get the best out of everyone – and ultimately the best objective for the business.’ The two areas draw on several features that Emma is particularly fond of in a job: ‘collaboration, teamwork, cross-functional work – and really, no two days are the same, both in the internal audit work I was doing and now also in the transformation roles that I’ve had.’
Growing and developing
She admits that she’s not always had a clear idea of how her career would progress, sometimes leading to feelings of inadequacy when people used to ask where she saw herself in three or five years’ time. A more useful test, for Emma, is to ask herself: ‘Am I happy in the work that I’m doing, and am I growing and developing? And I think when I’ve answered “No” to either of those questions is when I found it’s the right time to make a change.’ She never saw herself going from internal audit and risk to transformation – though she’s very happy that this is where the wind has taken her.
Going into a contracting position at Mulberry has been an interesting chapter for Emma; while her work at Deloitte could feel a little like consulting at times, given the large number of brands she was working with, she was curious about working in the area in earnest. At Mulberry, she feels empowered to speak her mind in the knowledge that she is valued and, crucially, there for a set period of time, rather than having to push and chase for new levels of responsibility. ‘I’m there to add value for them, and they make me feel that I am value-adding for them.’
While moving from the BBC to Burberry might also seem like a dramatic career change, like going from auditing to transformation, Emma notes that both institutions share many similarities – to the point that, at Burberry, more than a few other employees were ex-BBC too. ‘I think that’s testament to the strong culture that exists in both organisations, the strong people culture and the fact that both are really firmly embedded in putting the customer first’. Furthermore, each company has a very inclusive, people-focused work culture – another factor that has influenced Emma’s career choices. ‘I’m lucky enough that I’ve worked in environments where that’s been the case at nearly every brand I’ve worked for,’ she notes.
Emma defines transformation as ‘embracing change and using it, harnessing it to drive positive business outcomes’. She loves the feeling of turning strategy into action, being at the cutting edge of what a business aims to achieve and pushing its growth. It’s enriched her skillset, letting Emma lead projects where she’s ‘not necessarily a subject matter expert’; managing teams of specialists successfully allowed her to build on her collaborative, ‘cross-functional ways of working and really lean into my people skills.’
The benefits of mentorship
Emma is a keen advocate ‘for the power of a mentoring relationship’, having had several influential mentors over the course of her career. The first two came at Burberry, where Emma began to approach people with skills she didn’t have. She believes that it’s important to identify your own mentors; while Emma views companies pairing people together as a positive thing, she says ‘it was really important for me to identify that mentor myself and have it be someone that I really connected with’. This has typically occurred at moments in Emma’s career where she’s felt less happy or certain at work.
Feeling like you need a change – but you’re not sure what to do – can be a good moment to approach a mentor, in Emma’s view: someone to have as a sounding board and help you decide on your next steps. If you’re feeling unsure as to how to begin – or unconfident about approaching someone whose professional qualities you admire – then some advice from a former line manager of Emma’s at the BBC might prove helpful. ‘He said to me, “Never be afraid to ask someone to go for a coffee with you [...] A: people love a free drink. And B: people like talking about themselves.”’ Emma credits this advice with empowering her to reach out to individuals she respected, eventually leading to some formal mentorships. This is one of her key pieces of career advice – along with not giving in to pressure about knowing exactly where your career is heading. ‘At times you may be a bit unsure of where you’re going [...] feeling open to seeking support through a mentoring relationship’ can be a massive help.