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DFK Young Professionals - a success story!

Donna Gould, Crowleys DFK

DFK International’s Young Professionals conferences are a growing force in helping to create the next generation of leaders within the association – but what do those future leaders gain from attending the events?

Donna Gould is a manager with Crowleys DFK who gave a powerful insight into her experience when she presented at the UK & Ireland Young Professionals Conference hosted by her firm in Ireland earlier this year.

When did you join Crowleys DFK and how have you progressed within the firm?
I joined Crowleys DFK in 2009 as a trainee accountant. Once I qualified in 2013, I worked as a senior in our audit and accounts department until I was promoted to assistant manager in 2016. The following year, I was made manager of our accounting services department.

How did you first get involved with DFK International, and the Young Professionals conferences?
I was fortunate enough to be asked to attend my first DFK conference by Crowleys DFK’s managing partner James O’Connor. James attends DFK conferences each year in UK and Ireland, EMEA region and North America. Our involvement with DFK is welcomed and encouraged by Crowleys DFK. It’s the firm’s policy to send the same team to DFK conferences for a number of years, which I strongly agree with as it enabled me to build strong relationships with other DFK members, especially with the delegates that are regular attendees.

How many Young Professionals conferences have you attended and where?
My first was the UK & Ireland Young Professionals Conference in 2014 in Belfast. In the same year, I also attended the EMEA Young Professionals Conference in Munich. Since then, I have been to conferences in Newcastle, Barcelona, Southampton, Athens and Lisbon. Also, in April this year Crowleys DFK hosted the UK & Ireland Young Professionals Conference here in Ireland where I gave a presentation on my experience as we wanted everyone to know what the conferences meant to me and how they have helped to develop my career.

What is your overall experience of the conferences?
It has been nothing but positive. Every conference that I have attended has been excellent. The course content has covered areas that no text book would ever teach me! They always push me out of my comfort zone and improve my soft skills. There is also the networking which in my opinion is the most important part of any conference. It was at lunch and in the evenings where relationships were built.

Have there been any particular highlights?
The main highlight has been meeting members of other DFK firms. I no longer need to rely on the partners of Crowleys DFK to introduce me to other DFK members as I have my own connections that are at the other end of the phone. When a client contacts me for help in another country, I now have my own contacts that I can reach out to and refer work to. I am also here to provide assistance to my worldwide DFK colleagues where I can.

The conferences also allow delegates to experience the culture of each hosting city. This social aspect enables you to bond and develop relationships, but also friendships.

How have the conferences helped in terms of your own professional development?
Attending DFK conferences has improved my networking skills but most of all, built my confidence. Last December I co-presented, with one of the partners of our firm, three days of accounting training around the country for over 200 staff of one of our public sector clients.  I can honestly say that I would not have had the confidence to present the course without the training I had received at the conferences.

Has the experience been more beneficial than perhaps you had anticipated?
Absolutely. I attended my first conference not knowing what to expect. I had heard a lot about DFK within our firm, but it was only from attending the conferences that I realised how big the association was and how much support there was worldwide. It was great to meet the young professionals from other DFK firms, many of whom I am still in touch with. I now have DFK connections not only in the UK and Ireland but also worldwide.

Would you encourage others to get involved and if so, why?
I would 100 per cent encourage others to get involved and attend the conferences. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, improved my soft skills and introduced me to a large circle of DFK members, both young professionals and partners of other member firms.

The Young Professionals is seen by DFK as an opportunity to create the next generation of leaders within the association.  Do you view your experience as the start of your DFK journey and will it encourage you to be more actively involved in the association going forward?

Most definitely. I love attending the conferences and being part of such a large association. I recently became a member of the EMEA Young Professionals Committee, and am looking forward to attending the conference in Barcelona in October. I am excited to see what the future holds for DFK and want to be part of it.  I consider myself one of the lucky ones in terms of the opportunity given to me by my firm to be involved and I hope others can be too, as I’m sure there are a lot of young professionals who would jump at the chance!  

For more information on the DFK Young Professionals Programme please contact zdaniel@dfk.com