Leaders of Tomorrow – Catharine Payton


Brought to you by CPA Australia

At the age of 25, GE analyst Catharine Payton has already packed plenty into her travel schedule, with a demanding job that takes her around Australia and internationally, and her own personal case of wanderlust.

How often do you travel?

The past few years have been pretty hectic thanks to the GE graduate program in which you move every six months. From my hometown of Melbourne I moved to Perth, then to Atlanta in the United States, and now I’m based in Sydney. One of the reasons I took the role was that GE gives you the ability to go into different segments of accounting with great opportunities to travel interstate and internationally. From a personal perspective, I’m really interested in seeing other cultures so I like to go overseas at least once a year.

What is your favourite activity between meetings?

I feel that when I get a chance to travel with work I should seize every opportunity to get involved in the culture of the place, so I love to go sightseeing and meeting locals. When I was based in Atlanta I’d travel to a different city in the US every weekend. You have to take the opportunities when they arise.

What’s your secret to success in business?

It’s important to have confidence to try things that are different: to think, ‘Why not?’ instead of, ‘This is the way it’s always done’. Graduates need to be active listeners, to obtain the advice of anyone they encounter in the workplace, whether that means the chief executive or a manager. Each person brings their own perspective to things. I would love to be a senior manager or associate but a lot of them tell me they can’t just say: ‘These are the five steps to get there’. Just be well connected and opportunities will arise.

What is the best thing about working in Australia?

Australia is so small in the world but we benchmark ourselves against the world. It creates a culture of wanting to go a step further. Sometimes in America they benchmark themselves, but we look outwardly.

If you could have a business dinner with anyone in the world, anywhere… who would it be with and where?

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook. She wrote a book called Lean In and a lot of what she says resonates, especially her view of how management can advance women in their careers. I’d love to meet her in Silicon Valley. We wouldn’t have to have dinner; she could take me on a tour of different companies that seem so nimble in having an idea and 12 months later having a product on the market. 

What is your number one packing tip?

A bigger suitcase!

What has the CPA Program taught you about leadership?

The key to the CPA Program is that it really teaches you to go beyond the numbers, to apply knowledge to complex and competitive business environments. It aligns strategy and strategic thinking and builds it into the accounting process.


Your role at GE has brought about a lot of travel for you – what has this done for your global network?

It really opens up a talent pool I can tap into. For example, I couldn’t get a program to work the other day so I emailed someone in Dubai to help, and I have a contact in Europe I can talk to about different business perspectives.

SEE ALSO: Leaders of Tomorrow - Sarah Richards


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