Meet Abigail Harris
We interviewed Abigail Harris, Senior Director of International Mobility for SunGard. In this fascinating interview, Abigail discusses her career journey, her passion for the industry and what her position entails.
Can you describe your current role and responsibilities?
As Senior Director of International Mobility at SunGard, I am responsible for international mobility globally, across all of SunGard’s businesses. As a result I am responsible for managing SunGard’s risk associated with immigration, tax, assignment contracts, assignee welfare, and support for employees to achieve a positive and successful relocation.
Can you describe the career path which led you to a strategic role at SunGard?
I completed an International Business Degree with a major in French. I spent three and a half years in Paris with KPMG, working in international tax and social security in their international tax group, before being assigned to the Sydney office to focus on Australian and US tax for four years. I then moved into the Global Mobility team where I worked with KPMG’s population of employees that were transferred in and out of Australia, as well as providing consulting advice to clients in the areas of policy, package design, international payroll, and assignment structure. I then spent a year at Macquarie Bank as their Head of International Assignments, where my key successes were in implementing one global policy across all business divisions, and reshaping the internal support function with a focus on upskilling the in-house global mobility team. After some time off on maternity leave, I joined SunGard to initially manage Mobility for the EMEA and Asia regions. My role quickly expanded to become responsible for mobility globally, with an emphasis on streamlining the employee mobility program across our global regions, and building an experienced global mobility team. Following an initial period of review, redesign, and recruitment, the current International Mobility team, Policy and processes were developed.
As the Head of International Mobility what does a typical day look like?
A significant portion of my time is spent managing and providing support to the team, and managing situations which have reached an escalation point. A business manager may try to make a decision that could create some risk or wish to make exceptions to the policy. In addition, a large part of my role is focused on mobility projects. Currently I am working on the trial of SunGard’s International Business Traveler Program – currently live with a small group, with the remaining groups phased in over the course of 2014. Other projects include a global shadow payroll review, the design and implementation of a global compensation accumulation process, and a global social security review with particular focus on pensions.
Having come from a tax background, what was it that attracted you to the Employee Mobility Industry?
Actually I think it was the interaction with people and seeing the impact on employee’s lives – the ability to make a difference. Even as I have moved up into senior roles, I haven’t lost that part of the job completely and I do enjoy that. I also enjoy designing and then implementing policy, compared with providing advice as a third party provider but not necessarily seeing the practical application.
So what would you say you like most about your role at SunGard?
I can honestly say I love my role. I have a fantastic team which truly operates, and is regarded as, a Centre of Excellence. As a result, in a relatively short period of time we have been able to make some significant policy and process changes. SunGard also currently has a strong culture of change and implementing best practice. This, together with a very credible team, has presented some very interesting opportunities for my own personal development, including the International Business Traveler Program and Talent Mobility Strategy.
What advice would you give somebody who wants a career in the Employee Mobility sector?
I would definitely recommend getting both professional service experience and internal company experience. Professional services firms offer great opportunities for training, professional development, and exposure to mobility, tax, and immigration. Internal roles will provide the opportunity to learn about the practical operations and working s of a mobility team. For junior mobility professionals who have not worked in professional services, I would also say that some level of understanding of international tax and social security is important.
What further training do you feel would benefit you in performing at this level?
I think there is quite a lot of training available on tax and immigration, policy and practice. I would like to see more opportunity to network and share information with peers at a similar level. I would also benefit from targeted sessions aimed at senior leaders on current topics such as creating a talent mobility strategy and developing international business travel programs.
BY LANA LACHYANI
Lana Lachyani Freelance Writer firstname.lastname@example.org Tel:+61 434 842 255 www.lanalachyani.com www.thehealthytagine.wordpress.com
Lana Lachyani is a Melbourne-based Freelance Writer and Communications Consultant. Lana lived overseas for several years, working across Europe and the Middle East before returning to Australia in 2012.