Carla Webb-Sear is the recently appointed Group General Manager, Finance for Fairfax Media, a multi-platform media company that has experienced significant change and transformation at the intersection of technology, publishing and entertainment. This role includes her previous function as Financial Controller plus adds Financial Systems, Treasury, Procurement and Head of Finance for their Events division.
We had the chance to speak with Carla and selected her as a Finance Leader worth celebrating. A passionate leader and representative of women in leadership, Carla was also awarded the accolade of Leadership Champion in the Fairfax Women of Influence Awards during her time at Fairfax for working passionately to see other women progress in the field of finance.
Foundations – Embracing Change
Carla started her career at PwC, working as an auditor in Adelaide, New York, Sydney and London. She later returned to Sydney where she left her Big 4 accounting role to take up a role in Commerce.
“I specialised in Entertainment and Media while I was with PwC,” explains Carla, “so my first move was to EMI Music as the Financial Controller, before joining Fairfax Media Limited as their Group Financial Controller. In the eight years with the business, I’ve looked after Corporate Accounting, Shared Services (Payroll, AP/AR, Transactional Accounting), Investor Relations and Group Tax, as well as leading finance for Australian Publishing Media over the last two years.”
Carla has been highly involved in a number of initiatives which has opened doors and created learning opportunities. For example, following a finance transformation programme two years ago, a significant portion of the Payroll and Shared Services was outsourced offshore, and finance across the organisation underwent a role change, becoming more Business Partnering focused. Playing a leadership role in this phase was not only rewarding, but a reflection of Carla’s philosophy of embracing change and growth opportunities.
Staying Flexible and Open
Carla cites her ability to remain flexible and open to new opportunities as the single most important factor in her ongoing career development.
“The structural change that the Media industry has faced over the last decade has necessitated a significant number of acquisitions/disposals and transformation programmes,” she says.
“Some changes haven't played to my natural strengths, however I said ‘yes’ to any opportunity I was given and can now look back and realise how much I have enjoyed each change. I’ve also enjoyed working with a great team of people and providing them with similar opportunities to progress in their own careers.”
Implementing Initiatives & Transformation
The key focus for Carla and the rest of the finance teams over the past five years has been to support the business through its large transformation process. This has included supporting business cases and ideas for new revenue initiatives and product creation as well as a large transformation of the cost base of the publishing business.
“Over the past two years the finance teams have also been further developing their focus on Business Partnering,” explains Carla. “This has involved bringing an outsource provider to do the transactional accounting, leaving our team with more time for analysis and value creation.”
Words of Wisdom
Carla is a passionate advocate of mentorship. “I've found that being able to talk to a few people who were more experienced and further along in their careers gave me direction,” she says. “This helped me work out what to say yes to, and encouraged me to stay open to areas I hadn't been exposed to before. There have been a number of times where things I thought I wouldn't enjoy ended up being the most interesting.”
Key Points To Remember
- Don’t be afraid of change – stay flexible and accept new challenges.
- Use your leadership position to help others progress in their careers.
- Find a mentor to give you career support and direction.