Introducing Sumday's newest recruit. Auditor-turned Learning Lead, Angela Lei

July 13, 2023
4 minutes

One of Sumday’s newest recruits is Auckland-based Angela Lei. Having started her career in auditing at one of the Big Four, she swiftly moved into a sustainability learning space and it was this unique skill set that piqued our interest. We invited her to join the Sumday team, and are oh-so-pleased that she accepted. Introducing, Angela Lei. 

Sumday: Tell us about your background.

Angela Lei: I started in financial assurance at a big four accounting firm and worked with a range of clients across the retail, telco, manufacturing and healthcare industries.

In the last two years I moved into the sustainability reporting and assurance space across both the Global team and New Zealand team. I had the opportunity to learn and collaborate with some exceptional leaders across the firm’s network, and contributed to creating our go-to-market materials, case studies, and learning content.  

Sumday: What made you get into auditing in the first place? 

AL: In Chinese culture, a baby's first birthday is a significant celebration, and participating in 抓周 (zhuā zhōu) is a traditional activity that cannot be missed. In this activity, a number of items are placed in front of the baby, and the baby is left to freely grab whichever item he or she desires - it’s an opportunity to see the potential future pathway the baby will gravitate towards.

My mum said I picked up a pen, a calculator, her credit card, wallet, and her piggy bank - all of which are documented in photos. Other things like teddy bears, toy microphone, and toy guitar were ignored by me. This signalled to my mum I was destined for accounting, and there began her hard work in pushing me down that road. 

I really enjoyed my accounting classes in high school. My accounting teachers made it engaging and I saw accounting as a fun puzzle piece to make the balance sheet balance. My accounting teachers were also the ones who encouraged me to pursue opportunities such as the Shadow a Leaders program, where I got to shadow a big four audit partner for a day. My biggest takeaway from that experience was the reasons why he chose audit - he explained it’s a profession that gives you exposure to so many different aspects of a business, and it can open many doors for your future. That’s certainly been true for me. 

Sumday: What encouraged you to pursue sustainability? 

AL: I have always wanted to do something that has a direct positive impact. Growing up, my family wasn't well-off, and we received a lot of support from our friends and community. I witnessed my mum's constant gratitude and kindness, as she always thought about how to give back and help those in need, no matter how difficult it was for her. This essential value of kindness is something I attribute to my late mother, who lost her battle to Ovarian Cancer in 2021. [If you would like to read about Angela and her mum’s story, and find out more about Gynaecological Cancer, please take a moment to read about it here.]

In July 2021, I participated in an educational workshop on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) hosted by one of my favourite social enterprises, Bead and Proceed. Through this workshop, I discovered that SDG #4 Quality Education and SDG #13 Climate Action were among my top 5 SDGs that aligned with my values. 

I wasn’t sure where to start, but I navigated and networked around my firm, and was fortunate to have met one of my favourite Directors who leads the Learning and Education team for Financial Assurance. He took me under his wing and gave me creative freedom to direct climate related learning projects for Financial Assurance - that was my first taste in using skill sets that married my creativity, my passion for sustainability, and my accounting and auditing knowledge - which I never knew was something I could do in my chosen profession. 

I’ve really enjoyed the projects I worked on, and my teams helped me recognise my creativity was a valuable asset that benefited this space. These projects allowed me to tap into my creative side more frequently and I’ve found myself having navigated into an interesting and niche area doing sustainability reporting and assurance upskilling. 

Photo caption: Angela (first row, second from left) at the Bead and Proceed SDG workshop July 2021, Auckland

Sumday: You’ve been at Sumday a little under a month. What have you enjoyed in your first weeks at Sumday?

AL: Firstly, I feel very fortunate that Jess and Lindsay found me from among a sea of people for such an exciting role. From my first interview with them, I really liked their energy and the ethos at Sumday. It took a while for this risk-averse auditor to take the leap of faith and join a startup, but I am so glad the stars aligned and nothing could be more perfect than this role.

For me, team culture is really important. I was lucky to be able to meet the Sumday team in person in Tassie and join them for an offsite for an epic first week. It’s been lovely connecting and bonding with each team member before heading back to work remotely in Auckland. I’ve found the Sumday team to be filled with positive, intelligent, and value-driven people, so I’m excited to have joined an awesome team!

It was also my first time to Tassie, and I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful it was 💜

Sumday: What are you looking forward to doing at Sumday? 

People are now realising that regulatory change is coming very, very soon. Accountants, and auditors, are constantly bombarded with changing standards. It’s a demanding role and often they don’t have the capacity to think outside of their core business. But I think regulation has really been a big driver to help push sustainability forward. People are now realising, “Ok, the standards are coming into effect next year. We have to actually report now.”

My first few weeks at Sumday has helped me realise our stance here is to empower accountants for this new era of carbon accounting. Yes, this is a time of big change for the profession, but we are here to support them through the whole thing.

But also, it's not that scary. It's exciting to learn and empower advisors to give them what they need to be able to do this, and do it confidently. It’s cool our job is to help unlock the potential of accountants and help them realise, hey, you do play a big part of the equation to help solve the world's climate problems.

The challenging bit is that some are struggling to make the connection that while carbon accounting may feel new, it’s still a set of standards and rules that accountants are great at following. And it's important to be aware of the regulation that’s coming, but also identify what the business potential of this can be. People are asking, ‘Can carbon accounting be a business unit?’ and ‘Are people going to pay for this service?’. And the answer is yes. But that proof of concept took quite a long time to establish.

As a learner that’s been through traditional training as an accountant (high school, uni, professional qualification), I know what the materials are like, what’s good or bad about them, and what style works best. As a visual learner myself, and in a world where there is an overload of information, I know how important it is to break through the noise, find the practical tips, and create engaging content so we can learn in the most effective way possible and start working towards making the world a better place.

As a society, we are moving towards more conscious and meaningful work, and regulation is one of the driving forces behind it. I’m excited to help the accounting profession realise its potential, identify transferable skills, and connect the dots between their traditional accounting skills and sustainability, by making their learning experience as engaging and valuable as possible.