Jessica Wong Saunderson
I am a Director at PwC Australia, and assist foreign investors, private equity funds and multinational groups with the Australian tax and international tax aspects of their cross-border transactions. I enjoy helping my clients navigate through complex tax technical concepts, and also enjoy leading cross-jurisdictional and cross-specialty teams to help my clients plan and implement large M&A projects. Working with PwC for the last 10 years has taken me from Melbourne to Kolkata, New York and now to Sydney, where I currently reside. It has enabled me to build a vast network of colleagues, contacts and friends across the globe.
Some of my closest friends to this day are people I met at Monash University. Recently, I have been able to reconnect with other Monash University alumni which have led to collaborations as well as business opportunities. For example, I recently co-created a new virtual conversation series called Hidden Gems, which showcases Asian-Australian leaders in different industries by providing a platform for their stories and achievements to be shared and their voices to be heard. The first guest I interviewed as part of the new series is a fellow Monash Law school alumni (who is now a co-founder of a hot new fin-tech company)!
Graduating with Bachelor Commerce and Bachelor of Law degrees provided me a really broad base of skills and knowledge to broaden my career interests and prospects. I added an Advanced Diploma in Modern Languages as I really enjoyed studying Japanese at high school and wanted to continue my formal education in Japanese at university – I really enjoyed it! Ultimately, I chose to go down the path of tax law and accountancy as I was inspired by my Monash Tax Law teacher (Stephen Barkoczy) who worked as a senior lawyer and a lecturer at that time (and even wrote a few tax law textbooks). He was great at putting a practical lens to the theoretical.
University was a great time for me and a really formative period of my adult life. I was at university for 6 years full time due to my double degree and diploma in languages. Besides from the academic, I was actively involved on the committees of a number of university clubs and societies (e.g. StudentLife, AIESEC, International Law Students Association and other groups). I even worked as a part time auditor for MSA Clubs and Societies. I went to conferences, camps, social events, balls and much more. I developed a great network of friends and contacts through my co-curricular activities at Monash. Looking back, I would not have had it any other way.
"Graduating with Bachelor Commerce and Bachelor of Law degrees provided me a really broad base of skills and knowledge to broaden my career interests and prospects."
PwC is a fast-paced environment and at any one time, I am involved in a number of interesting projects and deals. I’ve developed a lot as a professional and leader over the years and have enjoyed mentoring others as well. Some of my recent projects include assisting my clients with understanding how complex new Australian tax law amendments apply to their global structure, advising on the tax aspects of an IPO, assisting investors with tax due diligence and tax structuring on their proposed acquisitions of Australian businesses, assisting a multinational group with tax revenue authority reviews, and assisting a multinational group with a global reorganisation.
Some of the other opportunities that I’ve also had the privilege of assisting with are meaningful thought leadership projects – recently most notably the “Asia Taskforce”, where I have been involved on a few of the subcommittees to develop policy recommendations for government, business and other stakeholders to consider in helping Australian organisations do business in Asia.
Top three tips that I would like to share with a current student of Bachelor of Commerce:
- Build your networks by getting to know people from different backgrounds and interests and use the opportunity to learn something new from them – all of that opens your perspective and worldview, and you never know where you will cross paths again in the business world!
- Build your soft skills early (e.g. communication skills, leadership skills, people skills etc) - there are lots of opportunities at university through extra-curricular activities, volunteer opportunities and internships, to start developing these skills. These will put you in good stead in your future job searches (and it’ll also help make your university experience a more well-rounded experience).
- Pay attention during lectures. Strengthen your critical thinking. Be curious. Ask questions. Develop your viewpoints on issues. These are great skills to have in the business world, and you’d be glad that you made the most of your education.