Date posted: 24/07/2017 6 min read

Expats, tap into your local CA community

Australian expat Sarah Fletcher CA explains how having a mentor helped her shape her career overseas. For her mentor, CA Lynette Seah, the relationship was a two-way street, giving her a deeper understanding of millennials in the workplace.

In brief

  • A mentor can be particularly helpful for a young expat CA when your usual support network might not be easily accessible.
  • A mentor provides a neutral but experienced source of advice and guidance.
  • Mentors might be surprised by just how much they can learn by mentoring a young CA.
When young CA Sarah Fletcher moved to Singapore, she was far from her support network. It’s no wonder she found a great benefit from the mentoring of Lynette Seah CA, who has three decades of Asia-Pacific experience. But it turns out Seah had things to learn, too – about the millennial generation of CAs.

Sarah Fletcher CA

Beginning in the audit team with BDO in Adelaide, I worked for three years on a variety of industries. I feel like this was the best start for an accountant as it allowed me to experience different aspects of accounting.

I then went over to London on a two-year working visa and worked on the other side of the fence as an analyst/accountant for organisations including the NHS and William Grant and Sons. It was there that I first worked on a project, a new system roll-out.

I returned to Adelaide and the BDO audit team for two years, finished off by a CA degree before moving to Singapore in early 2015. I began work for Coty, starting in the finance team before moving to the IT team and becoming a Regional IT Project Manager, which is where I currently am, working on a finance system rollout.

I’ve always wanted to have someone that I could reach out to as a mentor. Unofficially there are people in my life such as family, friends and colleagues.

But I wanted someone outside of work in a similar industry that I could speak to for guidance and general advice, and the Mentor Exchange programme presented a great opportunity. I felt it was especially important because as an expat your usual support network is not always as easily accessible.

Lynette and I had some casual catch-ups at a hotel bar after work and also over the phone as our schedules did not always allow face-to-face catch-ups.

Lynette is very bubbly and driven with such a rich working history, including now owning a very successful company. I liked that she had strong connections to Australia and her business is an IT solution, which is the field I am now working in.

As we have both worked in Australia and Singapore it was good to compare the working environments and talk about how to manage the different cultures, as well as generational gaps and changes.

Lynette is very direct and was happy to have frank and open conversations about all topics, which I really appreciated. Her directness also pushed me to think about my view on things and also how I choose to operate in the workplace. My chats with Lynette were always full of laughs as well as some great learnings and advice.

Our CA community is full of amazing people with such diverse backgrounds and career paths, and this is a great way to tap into that knowledge and be able to use and grow from it.
Sarah Fletcher CA 

I am finishing this programme with two very valuable takeaways. Firstly it was just talking with Lynette, learning about her career, the path that led her to where she is now, the choices she made, what she has learnt along the way, and how she deals with changing markets, society, etc. I found these conversations interesting and inspiring, and I look forward to more.

My career is only just starting and the CA designation can take you many places, so I was really happy to learn about someone else’s path and use this as inspiration and food for thought for my own career.

Secondly I now have someone who I can reach out to and rely on for guidance and support.

This programme, for me, is not just a six-month programme, because I have made a solid connection with Lynette and feel that for my time in Singapore and beyond she will be a great mentor and always fun to catch up with.

I highly recommend for others to be involved in the Mentor Exchange, especially here in Singapore. Our CA community is full of amazing people with such diverse backgrounds and career paths, and this is a great way to tap into that knowledge and be able to use and grow from it.

It’s such a great opportunity and Chartered Accountants ANZ does a brilliant job at pairing you with a mentor and supporting the process. You also are able to meet others who are part of the programme, which is great for getting to know your fellow CAs better.

Networking is something successful people do well, and as a relatively new CA it was good to join the programme and start my networking now, whilst learning from a great role model.

Lynette Seah CA

As an Australian Chartered Accountant who qualified in Sydney, I spent 28 years at PW (before the C), in Singapore and Sydney, Gene Shears Pty Ltd, in Sydney; ASK (acquired by Computer Associates), in Singapore; Grande Groupe Holdings, in Hong Kong; JD Edwards (now Oracle) APAC, in Singapore; Interwoven (now HP) APAC, in Singapore; and as VP Finance and Operations for Salesforce.com APAC. Then I started Alpha7 in 2014 in Singapore to help small and medium businesses transform with digital technology.

Related: Become a mentor

Find out more about the next Mentor Exchange

My experience in leading a women’s network in Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo, and mentoring a good number of mentees from diverse backgrounds over the years, led me to be involved in the Mentor Exchange, to share my “war stories” from career experiences for young CAs to learn from.

I was able to ask the right questions to get Sarah to look at things from a different perspective and provide her with opportunities and direction to think about and act on.

Also, to help her focus on what motivates her at work, at home and in the community, and how to balance her priorities in the different seasons in her life.
Chartered Accountants ANZ matched my and Sarah’s backgrounds well to pair us up.

Sarah was exactly what I expected from a millennial mentee with her profile – young (enough to be my kid!), confident, knows what she wants, knows what she wants to know to improve herself, holds a senior position in her role, adaptable to the working conditions she is in.

Get clarity. Make a decision, try out something new, get trained, talk about issues with people from diverse backgrounds – and find mentors to fill the gap.
Lynette Seah CA
As a mentor, the need to be open and transparent, and the sharing of experiences and scars is a two-way, not a one-way street – and there are lots of benefits for the mentor. I learn, as a mentor, how to motivate millennials, who are very different from my generation when we were young.

I’ve learnt through mentoring that the appropriate level of ask vs tell vs share depends on the background and profile of the mentee. A mentor also needs to be adaptable and adjust to different cultures.

Typical finance roles are morphing big time in today’s digital world. Share services vs decision support, back end vs front end, routine vs strategic, digital vs traditional, collaborate vs control – these are some of the choices the CA community is facing today. Ultimately, it’s the individual’s choice in what they want to do or move into.

Don’t just talk, whinge, complain, or speculate on areas of indecision or confusion. Get clarity. Make a decision, try out something new, get trained, talk about issues with people from diverse backgrounds – and find mentors to fill the gap.