Date posted: 8/08/2017 9 min read

A fresh perspective

Mentoring has helped young CA Madison Boon approach work issues and roadblocks in a way that makes her more effective. And her mentor, experienced CA Ken Mulcock, has benefited from gaining a fresh new perspective.

In Brief

  • Mentors can be helpful when young CAs want to plan their careers to include an Overseas Experience (OE).
  • Mentors provide an unbiased, outsider’s view, allowing objectivity.
  • Being a mentor means taking time to reflect on your own career, and sometimes helping others learn from mistakes you have made.

After going from school to university to a Big 4 to getting her CA in just six years, Madison Boon found herself wondering: “What next?” The experience and wisdom of her mentor, Ken Mulcock, a CA for more than 25 years, helped Boon as she charted her course.

Madison Boon CA

I started my career as an intern in the KPMG Auckland Tax Team, while finishing my Commerce degree in commercial law and accounting. I was attracted to tax as a career path because it enabled me to use skills I’d learnt in both law and accounting, so I decided to take the graduate role offered to me at the conclusion of my internship. Following two years of experience in the tax department, I decided that accounting was more my calling and I transferred to the private enterprise division for one year. 

Three years in private practice with KPMG across the two divisions and completing the CA Program set me up perfectly to transfer into a corporate accounting role. Within the New Zealand finance team my role spans both tax and financial accounting. I would not have been able to transfer divisions within KPMG and then transition so well into the corporate world without the broad knowledge CA armed me with. 

While the move from KPMG to corporate accounting was absolutely the right move for me, what I was finding was a lack of clarity around pathways, something which was always very transparent at KPMG. I was also finding it tricky navigating the politics of the corporate world to which I was very new and inexperienced. I hoped to be matched with someone who could help identify future career pathways which might suit me and further learning opportunities I should be taking post CA studies, and provide advice on influencing office culture and being impactful in the team. 

Ken and I met for lunch on a monthly basis at a café near Ken’s work. I preferred the structure of our meetings as this gave me time to prepare and prioritise our monthly catch-ups. Agendas helped me order my thoughts and get the most out of sessions. 

I will definitely be keeping in touch with Ken; his insight into the thinking of CFOs and senior management is something I really want to keep tapping into.

Ken’s experience across finance, treasury and now as an executive is the pathway I had envisioned for myself. It was great to pick his brain about how he got to where he is and the experiences that have particularly shaped his career. Ken has children around my age, and so could sympathise with the Millennial viewpoint and was able to offer advice which I really appreciated. He seemed to ask all the right questions to get me thinking about the issues I raised in each of our meetings, in particular my curiosity (and indecision!) around the value of an OE (overseas experience) at this stage of my career. Ken was really understanding and allowed me to chat things through with a level of patience I really valued.

I will definitely be keeping in touch with Ken; his insight into the thinking of CFOs and senior management is something I really want to keep tapping into. 

I found it really valuable to have the ability to talk through work ideas and issues with someone who has no bias and is on the outside looking in. Ken had a wealth of experience and wisdom to share, and often looked at things from a completely different viewpoint. Ken has helped guide me in voicing my ideas for innovation at work, and approach issues and roadblocks I have faced along the way, in such a way that I have been able to be more impactful. 

I found myself a little lost after completing my CA. I had gone from school to university to Big 4 to CA, all within six short years, and I guess at the end of it all, thought: what’s next? Ken was able to steer the ship and help me focus on other ways of learning and development within my existing team, and also guide me to other learning opportunities post CA to help me stay relevant in the finance industry.

Ken Mulcock CA

I guess you could say I followed a traditional path into accounting by working for two local firms in Auckland. Processes and tasks were primarily manual then but today we see a tremendous amount of automation, as well as regular changes to accounting standards. In 1991, when I eventually had my “papers”, my wife and I went to Switzerland to work for a publicly listed firm in Zurich called ABB. It was an excellent experience. My CA designation from New Zealand helped with my credibility within the organisation in Zurich, as well as giving me a great base of knowledge and experience to eventually become the country CFO back in New Zealand. I still work in that capacity for ABB to this day. 

ABB actually have a mentor setup in place but Mentor Exchange presented an opportunity to look outside my own organisation. I was hoping to get a different angle on mentoring, and perhaps see things differently. I was also attracted to the idea of giving back – not in a charitable sense, but more about contributing back to the organisation that has supported me during my working life.  

RELATED: Tips for mentoring future business leaders

Claire Mackay CA offers her first-hand account of mentoring the next generation of young CAs.

Madison is an extremely focused and driven person, professionally and personally, who initially did not really know exactly where she wanted her career to head. Fully qualified, but still young, she was also looking to travel for some time in the near future and wondered how to fit this into her own career ambitions. She also seemed to get fully engaged with whatever she was doing, work wise as well as other activities (surf lifesaving). She also has a very valid sense of self-worth and seemed eager to take the opportunity to discuss career development and professional pressures in an open way, and listen but form her own opinion on topics.

For me, the most valuable aspect of Mentor Exchange was the opportunity to step away from my own immediate team at ABB and listen to a young professional looking for a good career, reflect on the views and perspective offered, and try and adapt this back to how my own colleagues must think and feel.

There is an old saying, “If only I knew then what I know now” – being a mentor provides the opportunity to give some acquired knowledge that might benefit a younger person earlier in their career. Mentor Exchange also fosters the wider benefits of being part of the CA community – there are others out there who can, and are willing to, help.