Date posted: 27/11/2019 5 min read

I would skype 500 miles*

Distance didn’t slow success when Anthony Robertson CA in Tauranga mentored Karen Long CA in Christchurch.

In Brief

  • Despite living more than 500 miles (actually 950km) apart in NZ, Anthony Robertson CA wasn’t fazed at mentoring Karen Long CA.
  • Robertson says successful mentoring is not about physical proximity, but about both parties giving an equal amount.
  • The CA ANZ Mentor Exchange Program connects experienced members with early to mid-career CAs.

As told to Susan Muldowney

Anthony Robertson CA
Executive director corporate services, Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology

Anthony Robertson CAPicture: Anthony Robertson CA.

I’m from Swansea in Wales and was working with what was then Coopers & Lybrand when I moved to New Zealand on a two-year secondment in 1997.

I enjoyed my two years in New Zealand so much I decided to come back in 2005. I’m a big rugby fan and took a six-week holiday to follow the Lions tour around the country. While I was here for that holiday, I met a Kiwi girl.

We lived in the UK together for a while and then moved back to New Zealand in 2010 when I took up a role in the tertiary education sector. I’m currently executive director corporate services at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology and have been with the organisation for about seven years.

I’ve mentored co-workers in the past, but Karen and I are based in different parts of the country – I’m in Tauranga and she is in Christchurch. I guess it would have been good to meet for a coffee, but the distance didn’t prevent us from communicating – we could email, call or Skype. We didn’t rigidly lock in a mentoring session; Karen could call at any time.

My approach to mentoring is quite informal. I like to start out by learning a bit about the people outside of work. As Karen is also from the UK, I was interested in hearing about why she’d moved to New Zealand. During our second session, we discussed her career goals.

I guess I’m guilty of not having a perfect career plan. I didn’t carefully plan out my secondment to New Zealand back in the 1990s and I didn’t carefully plan out my eventual move here almost a decade ago. However, I have kept myself professionally developed and have taken advantage of opportunities that have come along.

I believe our personal lives are often the greatest drivers of our careers and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. The fact both Karen and I live in New Zealand, for example, is driven by personal rather than career reasons.

“I believe our personal lives are often the greatest drivers of our careers and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
Anthony Robertson CA

There are lots of things I liked about Karen but her honesty stands out. Coming from the North of England, she’s very direct in her communication.

For mentoring to be a success, both mentor and mentee need to give an equal amount and I feel that Karen and I did that. The geographical distance was no obstacle, but I hope to meet up one day and have that cup of coffee.

Karen Long CA
Financial accounting manager, BT Mining

Karen LyonPicture: Karen Long CA.

My husband and I moved to New Zealand from northern England almost eight years ago. I managed to get two job offers before we arrived, and both were in Christchurch. I was a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, so I was able to join CA ANZ with the help of some references from England.

I’ve worked in audit roles for most of my career, including about six years at BDO. Last year, I was keen to get industry experience and I took a financial accountant role at Ōtākaro, the Crown-owned company that’s managing the anchor projects for the Christchurch rebuild.

It was about this time that I got an email about the CA ANZ Mentor Exchange Program. I wanted someone to bounce ideas off and help me see if my career path was moving in the right way. I thought, why not join up?

I was teamed with Anthony, who is also from the UK. I’m in Christchurch and he is in the North Island in Tauranga, but the distance was no problem. We set up about five Skype meetings over six months and we’d also email and speak by phone. Anthony was always available if I needed to call.

I came prepared to our first meeting and I was really impressed by the questions Anthony asked. He was interested in whether I’d read about certain trends or if I’d considered certain areas to work in, based on my skills. He pointed me towards some good leadership articles that focused on emotional intelligence, which I found useful.

Hearing Anthony talk about his background and how his career developed was also interesting. He told me he’d never really had a career goal, but that he’d taken opportunities that were in front of him. I feel that that’s been my path, too.

When I took a role at Ōtākaro, I had every intention of staying for longer. But within about 10 months, I got a call about my current role at Bathurst Resources [in its BT Mining section], which is an ASX-listed company where I felt I could learn a lot.

The call came out of left field, so I phoned Anthony to ask what he thought. He was so helpful – he even did a bit of research on the company. He also looked at the job description and my CV and helped me prepare for the interview. We had quite a few phone conversations in the run-up.

I called Anthony to let him know I’d been offered the job. He was very happy and told me he was stoked that I’d reached out to him for help.

I’d definitely recommend the Mentor Exchange to others. It’s so good to have someone completely impartial to share ideas with and give you some valuable advice.

(*Yes, the distance from Tauranga to Christchurch is actually 593 miles, but The Proclaimers didn’t sing that.)

Read more:

CA ANZ’s Mentor Exchange

In need of some career guidance, or looking to mentor? CA ANZ’s Mentor Exchange programs are designed to help members achieve their career goals and aspirations.

Learn more