- Jodie Summer knew early in her career that a corporate job was not the path for her.
- Now working for aid group Motivation Australia, she made the transition to the not-for-profit sector by taking unpaid leave from her government job.
- She is also highly active in the Australian Council for International Development
Jodie Summer CA knew even as she was starting her career as a 20 year old that the corporate career path wasn’t for her. “When I was at PwC, I was already looking for different opportunities,” she recalls. “I could feel that I wasn't quite in the right place.”
With her alternative and green approach to living, she needed something that aligned to her core values. And it was a career in the not-for-profit sector that would prove to be the perfect fit.
Summer is now Finance Manager for Motivation Australia, an international development organisation based in South Australia that works with local organisations in countries such as Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
It’s a job that allows her to be “a lot more passionate and committed”, she muses. “My success at work, and my passion, and my commitment can then translate through to the programs that we're able to provide to the people who are receiving the benefit.
“I know that the thing that I'm doing in the office in South Australia is going to [have] a direct impact on someone in Fiji, and knowing that, coming to work every day, it's a different mindset. You're not coming to work to pay the bills. You're coming to work because you're going to help someone.”
Acting locally and thinking globally
As well as her work with Motivation Australia, Summer is also part of the Australian Council for International Development, a peak body with more than 130 members that is involved in international development and humanitarian action in 90 developing countries.
Its award-winning code of conduct guides the council and its members. “It’s a member support service, so it provides training and development opportunities … and there’s advocacy within that,” says Summer, who has been involved with the finance community of practice for the past five years and the human resources community of practice for one year.
Making the transition
Despite her move away from corporates, Summer looks back on her 2½ years with the Big 4 firm as “a great training base”. “The CA program lays those really solid foundations. I think PwC also gave me different experiences and … I was able to take those opportunities that were outside of my comfort zone and learn from them.”
After leaving PwC, Summer went to work for the South Australian Department of Health and the Ambulance Service, before making the transition to full-time work in the not-for-profit sector. It was a transition that took time, planning and risk assessment. Despite the many benefits of working at a not-for-profit, it does pose challenges, especially when it involves giving up a secure government job.
You’re not coming to work to pay the bills. You’re coming to work because you’re going to help someone
“I wasn't unrealistic about … taking that risk to move out of that security. While I was sort of testing the waters with Motivation Australia, I took unpaid leave from my government job, so I didn’t have to sever those ties completely. But it was such a strong step in the right direction that the risk was worth it,” she says.
“The work carried out by Motivation Australia, which includes creating services and capacity building, gives people options that they didn’t have before.
Aligning the professional with the personal
“It’s definitely that I’m needing to create that alignment between my own values and then working in an area that mirrors those. You couldn’t have a really … corporate career and then … go home to live an eco lifestyle because they have to complement each other,” says Summer.
That eco lifestyle includes living with her family in an eco village for the past decade. Her own home runs off 44,000 litres of rainwater and solar power.
“It’s an intentional community so everyone there has that eco-ethos. You get to take the time to understand your piece of land and how it interacts with the seasons.”
Never look back
For other CAs who dream of making the move into the charity sector, Summer’s advice is to ease your way in through volunteering. “I think take the opportunity to get involved in a not-for-profit board,” she says. “Especially because people with financial skills are so needed. If you’re not ready to go into it 100%, take a sabbatical.”
“I think if you believe in your values enough to make it work, you'll sever those ties and never look back.”
Related: Better to give than receive
Helping the community with pro bono work adds up to about 40,000 days of service a year for accountants, who love what they do, according to a report from CA ANZ.