Paved the way: Sally Powdrell

At this year’s BWN Speaker Series, we are celebrating women who are ‘Paving the way’ in their respective industries. Women who have walked remarkable and rocky paths, overcoming obstacles, thinking differently, and exploring the new frontier in business.

With that in mind, we’re taking a moment to recognise three noteworthy local women who are retiring this year. They have each left an incredible mark in industries – and have most definitely ‘paved the way’ for others.

We at the Chamber have had the privilege of working closely with all three. They are smart, clever, humble women, who have consistently given back and supported other women in their careers. We celebrate their journeys and thank them for their generosity.

Spotlight on Sally Powdrell – Partner at Cooney Lees Morgan

Q: How long have you worked at the same firm? 

A: I started my career with an Auckland firm in 1979, as a research assistant initially, but after admission to the bar in 1980 I worked as a solicitor in the litigation team for that firm for two years. But I moved to Tauranga and started with Cooney Lees Morgan as a staff solicitor in early 1982. I took leave to travel overseas for 6 months in 1984 but returned to Cooney Lees Morgan. When I became a partner of Cooney Lees Morgan in 1986 there were a few other women partners in Tauranga law firms, but I was the first to be appointed as a partner in one of the large local firms.

Q: What do you perceive or feel is your greatest achievement within business?

A: I have met the challenge of adapting to different areas of the law, and mentoring solicitors in the firm to develop skills in these different areas and encouraging them to take an active role in managing client relationships. I have also maintained longstanding business relationships with clients of the firm and built new client relationships. Achievements such as these contribute to the continuing growth of the firm, and to the firm being well placed to meet the evolving needs of clients and the community.

Q: Where do you see the career potential now for young women beginning their careers, as opposed to when you began yours?

A: When beginning my career, I did not see being female as limiting my career potential. For young women starting out now, their gender certainly should not be an issue. One development which will help them though, is the greater acceptance of part-time and flexible working options for women who wish to pursue, or continue, a career in the law but work less than fulltime whether for family or other reasons.

Q: Did you plan this career, or did it happen?

A: My career ‘happened’ rather than being planned. I was tossing up between journalism and law. The  careers advice given to me was to do the law degree first and if I was still keen on journalism I could do that later. When I finished my law degree I was encouraged to experience a couple of years in a law office before considering a different path… and the rest is history.

Q: What advice would you give that young woman now, with all the experience and wisdom you have gathered along the way?

A: Work with people who you find inspiring, whose company you enjoy, and who you respect. Make the most of opportunities to be mentored, take up new challenges, and get involved in business networks you enjoy. Give your career your best shot but maintain a balanced life… with the connectivity to work and clients through modern technology these days, work can become all-consuming if you let it. Interests outside work, and strong family and friend networks help keep things in perspective and will stand you in good stead when it does become time to say goodbye to the office.

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