Pippa Johnson has been shortlisted as a Best In-House Tax Team Finalist in both the 2012 and 2013 Taxation Awards by LexisNexis - the British legal publisher, was featured in Tax Journal's 40 under 40 pick of the best young tax professionals working in the UK in 2013 and won a PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Prize in 2006.
Pippa has been Head of Group Tax at Network Rail for the past three years, after climbing up the ranks from Corporate Tax Manager when she entered the company in 2008. Network Rail is the owner and operater of the majority of rail infrastructure in Great Britain; it is some responsibility. After studying a BSc in Natural Sciences at the University of Durham, she landed a job as a consultant at PwC in 2004, one of the largest professional services companies on the globe, where she worked for four years.
But Pippa isn't stopping there. Next on the agenda: a Masters In Finance from London Business School. She couldn't have made a much better choice; LBS boasts the best-ranked MiF degree in the business school world. A finance career is a popular choice among MBA graduates, and LBS is renowned for its Business Administration course. But Pippa chose to study the ten-month option of the finance-only course, and quit her job with Network Rail.
Pippa picked LBS to learn an additional skill set alongside a high caliber cohort. "For me, it’s leveraging my past experience, but giving me an additional skill set and contact with some of the best minds in finance," she said. "The standard of the people is fantastic and the international element is very strong. There is a lot of opportunity to learn from other people’s experience and there is a lot of technical content that wouldn't be available to me elsewhere."
The MiF course at LBS can be completed on a full-time (10 or 16 month duration) or 22-month weekend basis, and you will have the option specialize in Investment Management and Analysis, Corporate Finance, or Risk Management and Derivatives or take a general finance Masters. The MBA program also holds a top-five world-wide ranking and a flexible (15-21 month) structure. But Pippa wanted a speedy development. "I did consider an MBA, but this seems like a more efficient way to get the finance experience I want" she said.
Network Rail customers in Britain may not be particularly pleased with the company, after a summer of frustration and delays in service, but Pippa has enjoyed working there since she entered the company from PwC in 2008 as a Tax Manager. Flash forward two years to 2010, and she is running the company's tax division. Pippa's promotion was a "combination of good fortune" and coming in with a relevant set of skills and knowledge when a vacancy arose.
Pippa initially applied for a role in industry, and left a job with big-four firm PwC as a corporate tax consultant to "see things from the other side". She considers it a career progression and wanted to improve her personal performance and broaden her experience, getting exposure on the client-side of the finance world. "I chose to work for Network Rail because I really engaged with what they represent; putting something back into the country," she said.
"It’s a very interesting company to work for. Everything from the sheer scale of operation: the number of employers, the scale of the work - thirty-five-thousand staff, six billion of turnover - to the variety of projects: there’s a huge amount going on."
But studying a MiF at a prestigious business school isn't the first educational tool Pippa has used to further her career. In 2009, she studyied Business Leadership and Frontline Leadership at Warwick Business School for three years. The courses were sponsored by Network Rail and Pippa considers them to be "the most valuable course" she has completed so far. "The professional development programs were fantastic," she said. "It was the first time in my career that I had spent time learning about me, as a person and as a professional."
For a finance career in the transportation industry, a b-school qualification isn't "essential", Pippa adds, but its a strong intellectual challenge that can only enhance not only your job prospects, but your development as an individual. Pippa already had a successful career with the organization running Britain's railways, but an MiF can only make her CV stronger.
After leaving one of the best consulting firms in the world, Pippa will come out of her time at one of the best b-schools armed with a Masters in Finance in just ten months; and in a more punctual fashion than has come to be expected of Britain's inter-city trains.