Date posted: 20/02/2019

Penny Dickeson CA: Living & working in wine country

Imagine working five minutes away from home, in a job that provides work-life balance, situated in a picturesque location. Sounds like the definition of 'living the dream,' right? It's a reality for Penny Dickeson, who works as Operations Controller at Cloudy Bay Vineyards in Marlborough, New Zealand.

Originally from Adelaide, Penny and her husband made the move to Marlborough in the hopes of escaping the hectic pace of city life for something more relaxed.

"We decided we were looking for a change of lifestyle. We were living in Adelaide, and although it's not the biggest city in the world we still thought that it'd be really nice to move regionally," Penny says.

Taking charge in the country

In the role of Operations Controller, Penny is focused on management accounting as opposed to financial accounting - considering how the company operates and the cost of each of the company's processes.

"At Cloudy Bay, one of the departments I work with most closely is the viticulture department. Between myself and the viticulturist, we do a lot of work around finding out what grapes that we need to buy, what variety they are and how many we need in a given year," Penny says.

"That means that I have a lot of meetings with growers and there's a lot of personal interaction as well as working with the viticulturist on a daily basis."

For Penny, the highlights of her job include working for a respected brand in the wine industry where no two days are the same, with flexible working arrangements.

"Living in the country has some amazing benefits, one of which is that I live five minutes from work, so the commute is almost non-existent," Penny says.

"We have a lot of flexibility in managing our own time and there's a lot of trust involved with that. I don't get to work until normally about 9:30 in the morning, which means I get to spend some great quality time with my son in the morning when he is at his happiest."

"I decided to become a CA when I saw that it would take you places. The top people in business have CA after their name and that's where I want to be."
Penny Dickeson CA, Operations Controller at Cloudy Bay Vineyards NZ.

Discovering her passion

Penny's journey to her dream job started with her long standing interest in mathematics and organisation. She started exploring how to turn her talent into a career when she started high school.

"It was actually doing Business Studies that made me think about becoming an accountant, because I realised that I really enjoyed thinking about how businesses worked," says Penny.

Penny enrolled in a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Adelaide and after experimenting with some IT and computing subjects, she realised it was the accounting aspect of her degree that would help her to get a job in future. As a result Penny decided to major in Accounting.

Balancing knowledge with experience

In order to stand out during her studies, Penny knew she needed work experience under her belt. She was accepted to vacation programs at Ernst & Young and PWC which meant that by the time she graduated from university, her CV was already catching the attention of recruiters.

However, instead of heading straight into full-time work or a graduate degree, Penny took a gap year volunteering as an aid worker for a development program on a remote island in Papua New Guinea. “During my gap year I applied for the graduate programs at the big four accounting firms and ended up accepting a position with Deloitte in the audit program," Penny says.

Penny then began her journey to becoming a CA, having realised that becoming one meant she could become a key influencer in business.

"I decided to become a CA when I saw that it would take you places. The top people in business have CA after their name and that's where I want to be. Chartered accountants are respected for knowing a broad range of issues and being able to think about more than one side of each story," Penny says.