In her 7 years at KPMG, Noeleen has been a trail blazer through the firm; winning and delivering transformational client engagements, shaping the future of the business and building a diverse and supportive community. In November last year, she became the first female partner in the Banking Operations and Customer team and is one of the youngest partners in the firm.
Noeleen Cowley
Noeleen Cowley
"If you are doing something you enjoy you are setting yourself up for success"

Noeleen specialises in driving large-scale banking transformation in an increasingly complex and evolving banking environment, partnering with clients to lead radical front-to-back business simplification from design through to execution. She works at the heart of the Banking industry with significant insight into the top issues in the market, helping her clients to respond to cost, customer and regulatory pressures.

Noeleen was also one of WIBF’s shortlist for Young Professional Award earlier this year.

Working with stakeholders can be challenging? What is your top tip for working well with others?

I grew up in a family of strong Irish women so I learnt my first stakeholder management skills negotiating with my six sisters for the morning bathroom slot! In reality I do think my Irish background plays a big part in how I relate to people at work. In my hometown, everyone wants to find out everything about you- they are interested in really getting to know people. When I am working with a challenging stakeholder I like to get talking to them on a personal level – to find out how they work, what motivates them, what their goals are. I believe you can always find a common ground with anyone you meet, it’s about exploring this and finding out what your united goals and values are.

When is a time you were out of your comfort zone and how did it ultimately help you?

I spent a sabbatical travelling across Africa in a Landover. This was a fantastic experience but I definitely found myself in some challenging border situations around Sudan and other areas. I discovered that keeping calm and being clear about your intentions goes a long way to helping you out of a fix! In my role now, when I’m in a tricky client situation, I think back to these experiences and use this calm and clear approach. Another tip- reach out to others around you – your colleagues, friends and family are an endless fountain of help.

What piece of career advice do you give others?

Anyone who has worked with me knows my advice catchphrase: ‘Drive your own car’. I think in a career, to a large extent, individuals have the chance to make their own luck. Opportunities go to the people who have worked hard and been proactive. On one of my first jobs as a junior consultant I was given the role of booking taxis for the team. This wasn’t the role I wanted but I worked hard and showed a positive attitude. In a few months I had earnt my place running a major project workstream! Challenge yourself to learn new things and remember – if you are doing something you enjoy you are setting yourself up for success.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from a mentor or mentee?

I have had lots of mentor and mentee relationships and everyone has taught me something new. The lesson I always keep in mind is to be true to my personal style while remaining aware of how to flex this. I work with a huge number of people every day and have really learnt how different personalities have different working preferences. My style tends to be more relaxed but I am careful to tune this if I am working with a more formal colleague or client. I think mentoring relationships are so valuable – whenever you get support and advice from a colleague remember to pay it forward! We can all build a supportive culture if you pass on the good advice.

How do you manage your work/life balance?

I try to keep at least one day a week as a personal zone. I see friends, spend time with my family, walk my two dogs or just read a book! It’s so important for me to use this time to re-set each week. I also love to get up early to exercise in the mornings and getting my endorphins pumping! But this is only what works for me. I always prefer to think of work-life fit rather than work-life balance. The fit that works for you is a very personal thing. I have colleagues who prefer all sorts of schedules, whether it’s getting to work early, leaving work on time, or catching up on tasks at the weekend. There are endless ways to find the right fit - figure out what works for you and stick to it.