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Group of office colleagues in conversation
Group of office colleagues in conversation

Emily Tibenderana

Working Capital Controller - Finance department

How long have you been at A&O and what were you doing prior to joining us?

I joined A&O in 2021, but it feels much longer - in a good way! It’s been busy. I worked for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer as a Revenue Controller prior to joining A&O. The role was pretty similar.

What initially attracted you to A&O and what did you feel set us apart?

The culture of high performance, the expectation of excellence at all levels, the diverse markets we operate in and the value that we place in our people. I felt connected to the culture from the outset; I thought I would flourish here and could reach my potential.

What was your first ever job? Was working in the legal sector always your ultimate goal

My first ever job was as a shelver at a University library when I was doing my A levels. I’m an organised person and I enjoyed putting the books in order, and occasionally reading through them. I made good friends and looked forward to going to work every day. Working in the legal sector was accidental. I was targeting an accountancy practice, PWC to be exact, but fate had other plans. A few years later I'd moved to London, taking up a role as a Finance manager when a boutique firm which specialised in Intellectual Property took a chance on me (despite having no prior relevant experience!). I got promoted and stayed there for 7 years. I've never looked back. 

We are proud at A&O to offer an environment where people can be themselves … What gives you a sense of “belonging” at A&O? 

The people are accepting and I don’t feel the need to be anything other than myself, quirks and all. This is so important to me – plus it means I can just focus on doing my work!

What’s the best thing about the team you work in?

They are generous with their time, and hardworking and knowledgeable. I joined the firm in May 2021 during lockdown and the prospect of starting a new job under those conditions was daunting but it didn't hold me back. The team were there to help whenever I needed guidance, even when they had their plates full. When we finally got back into the office in September, it felt like I had known some of them for a long time.

What three things have enabled you to excel during your time at A&O?

In equal first place, the team and management. The team have blessed me with the wisdom of their experience, teaching me the way things are done here. My managers are supportive and available. They listen and I know my opinion matters. 

The opportunities I have had, (aka challenges!) … I think life and work are like a video game, solving one level of problems gives you a pass to proceed to the next and in that process one evolves and gets better. I’ve had a few opportunities which have enabled me to grow and develop. 

Which networks, extra-curricular activities, and/or pro bono and community investment initiatives have you become involved with since joining A&O (such as DE&I/sports teams/music etc.)? What have you valued most about these opportunities?

I’m involved with the Race & Ethnicity Network in Finance. I think it’s crucial that employers have conversations around how they can increase representation of minority groups in the workplace and improve their sense of inclusion. Being on the table is very important to me and I jumped at the opportunity when it became available. I get to share my lived experience and contribute to our initiatives as a department.

If you could spend some time in any of A&O’s international offices, where would you most like to go and why?

Certainly … Johannesburg in South Africa! It is the home of Africa's greatest leader, Nelson Mandela and because it’s less than a 4 hour direct flight to my parents!

If you could switch roles with anyone else at A&O, whose job would you want and why? 

I tend to aim high. It would have to be the role of Global Chief Finance Officer and Operations director. I’m deeply motivated by this role because in it you get to chart the direction and strategy of the finance function for A&O’s offices worldwide, working with diverse cultures and people.

What advice would you give to anyone considering joining A&O?

If you are hardworking, enjoy a challenge, value the spirit of team work and are accepting of differences, you’ll love working here.