Q&A with Dale Size, Department Leader – Finance, Cabonne Shire Council.
If you ask Dale Size what makes a local government accounting career stand out, she’ll tell you it’s the amazing variety of work that you do, and people you connect with. We recently caught up with Dale to discuss her career journey, including her switch from private practice into local government accounting, and what it is she loves about her current role.
Q. Can you tell us a little about your education and career background and how you arrived in this role at Cabonne Shire Council?
A. I didn’t actually do my university degree until I was 28! I was a late starter. I was working in accounting, but I had not completed any formal qualifications. So, when my daughter was just 6-months old, I thought I’d get a degree so I could do the best for her. I studied a Bachelor of Accounting and Financial Planning at Charles Sturt University. It took me six years because I was on my own with a baby, and working full-time at the same time.
After I graduated, I got a job at an accounting firm in a small town in central NSW. When my daughter reached high school, I moved to Orange to get her into a bigger school that would support her musical talents. I managed to get a role in a public practice accounting firm where I was for five years. In that time, I did a lot of additional studies including another Degree from the University of Adelaide and a professional certificate in self-managed super funds. I also became a registered tax agent during that time and did contract work over the seasonal tax period of July-September.
Around two years ago, I decided to go for a role that was being advertised here at Cabonne Shire Council for an Infrastructure Accountant. It was a great job! I worked with the technical teams, revaluing asset groups each year, disclosing of assets – basically making sure the infrastructure financials were correct and in place. I really enjoyed that role.
When our previous department leader of 14 years decided to take a Chief Financial Officer role over at Orange City Council, I jumped at the opportunity to make the step up to manage a team. It’s been three weeks now and I absolutely love it!
Q. Wow. Only three weeks! So, what are you enjoying about it so far?
A. I just love the variety – rather than just accounting, I’m getting to experience all the different departments, and the processes involved in delivering what we do for the community.
It’s definitely a challenge, but that’s also what I’m enjoying. I am getting to learn so much on the run. And, there’s a lot of support from the other department leaders who I know, are wanting the best for me, and helping me every step of the way. The culture is just so supportive.
Q. What would your typical day look like?
A. Well given I’ve only been in the role for a short time, my typical day is evolving. For the first three weeks I’ve used a finance team chat on Microsoft Teams to check in with everyone each morning. I have department leader meetings, project meetings to track all the different projects, and grants meetings as well. It’s currently our busiest period of the year, preparing financial statements to be ready for audit at the start of November. It’s all heads down wanting to get those draft financials completed.
Q. How would you describe your leadership style?
A. That’s also evolving! I’m conscious that my team has had the same leader for 14 years, so I want them to know that I’m not here to turn everything on its head. But I want to look at everything with fresh eyes, together with them. The team has some great ideas and it’s important to me that we’re all equal, no matter what role you’re in or how long you’ve been here. That’s one of my big expectations – fairness and equality, oh, and punctuality!
Q. What would you say to someone considering an accounting career in local government?
A. You’ll be so surprised about the variety. In local government, you’re going to experience all different aspects of accounting, because you’re managing the budget for the entire council. It’s a huge business. So, you’re using your accounting skills, but rather than just repeatedly processing the same financials, I’ve found there’s a good variety of tasks and so many opportunities to be involved in different aspects of the council’s business.
You’ll also work with a great bunch of people who aren’t just all accountants. Each day you’ll get to connect with people across Tourism, Environment, even Engineers who are designing amazing projects for the community.
I’ve discovered a great work-life balance at council as well. We have rostered days off every fortnight and we’re flexible if you need to leave early for whatever reason. Although right now, I don’t want to leave early! I enjoy being here, because I just love what I’m doing.
Is it time to find a job where you don’t want to leave early? Click here to check out the incredible finance roles on offer in local government right now.