In Her Shoes | Ruby Parmar, Officer Senior Partner, PwC, Milton Keynes

Ruby Palmer I was born in India and my family moved to Birmingham in the UK when I was two years old. My father started work for the Civil Service and when I was six and was posted to Scotland. At the age of seven, I went to boarding school in India, as did my two siblings, and we spent five years there visiting the UK once a year with my parents coming over to India once a year two. It sounds harsh, but it was okay as all of my mother’s family, including cousins who were also at boarding schools, lived in India so we spent holidays with them.

I was 13 when I came back to the UK and started at Walbottle High, a huge comprehensive in Newcastle upon Tyne. To say it was a culture shock would be an understatement. I didn’t academically achieve as much as I should have in the next five years but had a lot of fun and made some life-long friends. I then went to study Business and Finance at Newcastle Polytechnic and I still didn’t know what I wanted as my future career and decided to apply for a graduate position with the Civil Service. I had asked for opportunities in the Home Office or Ministry Of Defence but I was sent a letter congratulating me on passing my panel and giving me a start date in 1986 with the Inland Revenue. So my subsequent career in Tax was decided for me. I spent two years at the Inland Revenue, 12 years at mid-tier firm and the last 15 years I’ve been at PwC, the latter 10 as a Partner.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

There is no such thing as a typical day. My role is very market facing and I spend most of my time with clients or contacts building relationships and winning work for PwC. Over the years this has involved a lot of dinners and other corporate events which meant long but very enjoyable days. Having moved to the Midlands and the Milton Keynes office in particular, I have cut out one and a half hours of commuting so managed to get some time back for me.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I guess I must have at some point. I fell into working in tax by accident but I progressed up the ranks knowing what I wanted and what I needed to do to get there.

What do you love about working for PwC?

We’re a well-known organisation and we’re good at what we do, but that doesn’t necessarily keep people with us. It’s the amazing culture, sense of empowerment and great smart people all around us that makes working here great.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

Lots, the biggest one being a major accident I had. I fell and broke my neck and it was thanks to the NHS and its staff that I lived to face the challenge of learning to walk again and regaining the use of my right hand. I spent five months in rehab with six hours a day or various therapies and I was back at work and no one would have known I’d had major surgery.

I’m determined and I worked hard whilst in rehab as not walking was not an option for me. I do believe that we can achieve most things if we believe in our inner strength.

How have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

I’m always thrilled when I’m asked to help coach or mentor others. It’s a great compliment but more so than that, I learn so much about others and what drives or holds them back. There’s nothing better than seeing people you’ve helped succeed and achieve the goals they set out for.

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

Absolutely fundamental! Whether it’s one-on-one meetings, group gatherings or focused invitation only events, they’re all valuable ways of networking. Having taken on the Office Senior Partner Role for the Milton Keynes office, I intend to do a lot more networking in the local community and can honestly say I am looking forward to meeting new people and making connections and sharing networks.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles either inside or outside their own organisations?

Don’t be reticent. If you have a skill, shout about it. If you have relevant experience, use it. If you have time, share it. With the prominence of social media and the worldwide web there is no end of information and content to help you engage on appropriate topics with your contacts. Every relationship you make and develop will prove valuable at some point in your career. The wider your network is, the easier you job will become.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in professional services?

Working in professional services requires more than just being technically capable. Your ability to engage with people and build trusted relationships will be key to your progression.

What does the future hold for you?

The Midlands! I’m new here having spent 25 years in London and I’m already enjoying the challenges and opportunities starting fresh brings. An opportunity to meet even more interesting people.

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