Lauren Zwierlein, CFO/COO of Urban Connect, had her heart set on becoming an anaesthetist, and had never considered a career in accounting.
However, a love for numbers and a talent for making sense of them soon caused her to change her career path.
"I've always been quite good with numbers, and accounting’s one of those vocations that really lends itself to that strength,” Lauren says.
“For me, accounting has been a career path that suits my sensibilities, makes me feel good, and has led to so many opportunities.”
While completing her studies and earning her CA designation, Lauren began working at Pitcher Partners in Melbourne.
Though studying and working full-time was challenging, the experience was paved with possibilities, including the chance to work overseas at a partner firm in San Francisco.
"I wasn't really sure what to expect before I started working there,” Lauren says. “When I arrived, the pace, the environment, and way they did things was completely different to the firm in Melbourne.
“It really blew my mind. I learned so much and I didn't want to leave," she says.
Having been bitten by the travel bug, Lauren returned to Melbourne and immediately began looking for other opportunities to work abroad.
The next one arrived in the form of a London-based finance firm, where Lauren used her CA designation to immerse herself in the business and open new avenues for career development.
While in London, Lauren developed skills in contracting, financial modelling, project work and merger and acquisitions.
“You're learning a lot, and as you expand your skills you become very valuable to employers everywhere,” Lauren says.
Looking for her next challenge, Lauren decided to move to Munich, Germany, an experience she says was like “starting over again in a new country.”
After six months of language lessons, she became more familiar with the culture and the people around her and was able to appreciate the personal and professional nuances of her new home.
Lauren was able to build up the finance department at Lilium, an aviation and aerospace company with a mission to build better ways of moving with their all-electric 7-Seater Lilium Jet, and watch the company grow.
“You need to learn everything from scratch in terms of the legal and regulatory environment, and the statutory requirements,” Lauren says.
“The benefit of living in another country, long-term, is that you get to really know the psyche of the people and the culture, it really broadens your horizons.”
Lauren is currently based in Zurich and holds the position of CFO/COO at Urban Connect, a sustainable mobility platform that offers companies an ecosystem of low-emission, shared vehicles. She is passionate about finance’s role in making a positive impact on the environment.
In her combined role, Lauren manages and maintains the financial and operations processes at Urban Connect. As the head of both departments, Lauren has a wide range of responsibilities, from day-to-day intricacies to large international projects.
“There's a lot of tensions and responsibilities you need to balance. Because in the finance and accounting functions, you're like a backbone. And you want to grow very strong and stable, because without the right backbone, the company crumbles,” she says.
Through Urban Connect, Lauren and her team have been able to work with companies like Lindt & Sprüngli and Lonza, the company making the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, to reduce their carbon emissions with sustainable transport.
Urban Connect enables companies to reduce their carbon footprint through a carbon neutral mobility platform that provides fleets of environmentally friendly vehicles, which can be shared among users with no residual emissions.
Lauren credits her time in the CA Program and her designation for the opportunities to travel and for the transferable skills she continues to use in her role in finance today. She said it was a privilege to see a company from a bird’s eye view and to become a powerful and impactful voice in an organisation.
“Not just in Europe, but also in the US and most of the world, you have a set of skills that's really valuable to employers. Numbers are universal.”
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