Balancing the Grind with Ursula Lepporoli, Director at KPMG Australia

Ursula Lepporoli is the Director at KPMG Australia, a global network of professional firms providing audit, tax and advisory services.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I currently lead the expatriate individual income tax compliance team at KPMG in Australia. We call ourselves, Global Mobility Services (GMS). It’s a niche group where we make the complexity that can come with moving countries disappear. Well as far as tax is considered anyway.

I started my career at KPMG as a casual tax preparer in 2005 while I studied for a master’s degree at UNSW in Sydney.

As an international student turned expat, it was fate that I selected the GMS team as I found my home and all the challenge and charm, I required through the years as I advanced from vacationer to director.

In 2013, following a 7-month career break to travel the Americas, we relocated to Perth answering the call of the oil and gas boom. I was on maternity leave in late 2015 and had just settled into the slower pace of Perth living when I was asked by the partnership to come and start a new venture of centralised tax compliance into a Sydney hub called Delivery and Data Excellence (DDX).

The opportunity was made for me having previously spent time in India with our offshore team and loving to lead people. As a part of the leadership team we ‘reshored’ all components of our end to end compliance process in 2018 to our Sydney hub which was made possible with a strong investment in our onshore technology and expertise.

It’s technology, people and processes that keep me busy these days as we continue to deliver to our clients as taxes persist even through a pandemic.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I am an early bird, so I am usually awake before the sun. The quiet time before my 5-year-old son Markus and my husband rise are the golden hours of ‘me’ time. I use this time to exercise.

This is usually an in-home workout with weights although walking, cycling, and running are also great year-round outdoor options. I love living in beautiful SE Sydney.

At about 7am my son rises and it’s time to get him ready for kindergarten. I take him to school and return home to start the day.

My workday is a blur of meetings, check-ins, emails and strategy. We are currently developing a work allocation tool which I am the product owner of which takes some of my focus along with other tech projects we have underway.

A great day at work would include a chat with one of our clients. Providing practical tax advice and connecting with people is a perk of my role.

My husband, Mark, picks up my son and makes dinner. We eat together and if it’s not my turn to read books to Markus and put him to bed I go for a night walk, scroll social media, catch up on my chapters for the book club or binge watch Netflix before my ~9pm bedtime.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Fortunately, at KPMG we recently launched a 3-hub (office, home or client) approach which lets the employee choose the most appropriate place to work each day based on what’s best for the individual, their team and the client.

I usually spend 2-3 days in the office. As an extrovert my cup of energy is filled from interactions and face to face, even when distanced or behind a mask is just better sometimes. It’s Biketober and I cycled in for the first time in a LONG time this week.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

There are enough hours in the day for everything that’s important. For me, work-life balance is choosing where I focus my energy on any given day to reflect what’s a priority in my life at that time.

Adjusting, tweaking and understanding my schedule and routines to mirror my values is a daily must. I am one woman with so many awake hours, rest is super important to me.

Acknowledging that I thrive when I make a conscious decision to value my health, family and work enables my resilience and positive outlook on life.

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5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Wow, who hasn’t in 2020! On 6 Jan, I decided to commit to fitness and healthy eating… again. I was tired of moving clothes from house to house that didn’t fit. Instead of a quick fix I gave myself a year to lose about 10 kilos. I’m half-way there! The daily morning workout is a new habit that is working.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I started long distance walking (think 10-20km) during winter and started listening to podcasts to engage my mind. I love Hidden Brain, Heart on my Sleeve, The Pineapple Project, Oprah’s Super Soul conversations and the Michelle Obama podcast.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

If I were stranded on an island, I would have to have my iPhone, Apple watch (275 days and counting of closing my rings) and my wireless headphones. This island has the internet, right?

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Ursula Burns. She is the only black woman to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company (Xerox). She has a family, an amazing career and a pretty awesome name in my opinion.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Be kind to yourself. When you have high standards it’s easy to be critical and you may not be celebrating your successes enough. I manage my positive inner voice through song. Right now, it’s Beyonce’s “Bigger”:

Step out your estimate, Step in your essence and know that you’re excellent, Rise.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.