- Lauren McCleary CA met with mentor Victoria Hickey CA to help her decide on the next step in her career.
- Hickey saw a lot of her younger self in McCleary, as she faced a similar career decision when she was at KPMG.
- The best advice McCleary received from Hickey is that it’s OK to enjoy the job she is doing now.
As told to Susan Muldowney
Lauren McCleary CA
Audit director, Deloitte, Sydney
Picture: Lauren McCleary CA (left) and mentor Victoria Hickey CA. Image credit: Graham Jepson.
I’ve always loved numbers and I went into professional services because it gives you a solid foundation for a career in almost any industry. I began my career at Deloitte in Brisbane and, five years later, I had an opportunity to work for the business in London. It was a fantastic experience to be part of a market that is just so big and so globally influential.
The decision to leave London was not an easy one. I lived there for four years and leaving was not a career decision. My family is based in Australia, my sister was having kids, my parents were getting older, and a 24-hour flight is a long way to travel.
I moved to Sydney two years ago and, while it’s a big city, it’s relatively small in terms of accounting and women in leadership roles. People here tend to have well-founded relationships in the market. I didn’t feel like I had that, so that’s the main reason why I joined CA ANZ’s Mentor Exchange Program.
I was teamed with Vickie last year and, straight away, I knew she was the perfect mentor for me. I was trying to decide if I wanted to stay at a Big Four firm and become a partner or try doing something in industry. Victoria has done both those things and gone through a similar thought process. She had a great deal of empathy and insight into what I was experiencing.
We clicked straight away. I think the CA ANZ team goes through a detailed process to put the right people together. I owe them some chocolates or a bottle of wine because they did such a great job in matching us.
During our first meeting, we talked about our career experiences to date and what the path ahead looks like. Being promoted to director [audit director at Deloitte] was such an accomplishment and, having started to settle back into life in Australia, I began questioning the next step. Do I want to be a partner or is there something more challenging and better aligned to me out there?
I really appreciated Vickie’s honesty. She wasn’t trying to influence me one way or the other because she has had great experiences at a Big Four and in industry. She’s also a great example of a female in a leadership role. She doesn’t frame challenges around gender, which I really appreciated.
We talked about boundaries and making sure that she’s at home for her kids when they need her, or fitting in the things that are important. However, it was one of the first times where someone was able to have that conversation with me and it was not all about gender. It’s about finding that balance for each individual.
I still connect with Vickie fairly often, even though we’ve finished the mentor program. I’m also still making the decision about my next move.
During the many discussions I had with Vickie, she reminded me that I’m probably going to be working for another 30 years. It’s OK to step back and say, “I’m actually enjoying what I’m doing right now.” I don’t need to be running towards the finish line.
Victoria Hickey CA
CFO, Business and Private Banking & Wealth, Commonwealth Bank
Picture: Victoria Hickey CA (left) and Lauren McCleary CA. Image credit: Graham Jepson.
Accounting wasn’t my first career choice. I actually wanted to be a florist, but when I did work experience I discovered I had allergies. I sneezed the whole time. I thought, “Well, this isn’t going to work.”
“I actually wanted to be a florist, but when I did work experience I discovered I had allergies. I sneezed the whole time.”
My dad was an accountant and I enjoyed the work experience I had done with him, so it seemed like the right career.
In my last year of university, I got a job at KPMG and I’ve never looked back. I worked there for 21 years in both Sydney and London, and I was a partner for nearly 10 years. I joined AMP Bank as CFO in 2017 and was there for nearly three years. I’ve recently joined the Commonwealth Bank as CFO Business and Private Banking & Wealth, reporting into the Group CFO. I’m looking forward to this next chapter in my career.
I enjoy helping people, and that’s basically what you do as an accountant. You are there to help people solve their problems.
Throughout my career, everyone has been so welcoming and open with their time, and I wanted to give my time back to others. As soon as I had enough experience to start mentoring people, I took the opportunity. I’ve also had some amazing mentors in my life, and I still do.
When I saw the email from CA ANZ about the Mentor Exchange Program, I applied straight away. It was great to be teamed with Lauren. She’s an amazing person with so much potential. I loved hearing what she wanted to do and where she wanted to go. I saw a lot of my younger self in her. I could say to her, “When I was in your position, this is what I did.”
We met up once a month for a coffee or a glass of wine. I’d encourage her to think about what she wanted to discuss. This is a helpful way to structure mentoring sessions, because we could talk for hours, but how do you identify their burning platform?
Listening is an important skill for mentors. I also think it’s important to try to get your mentee to think of things from a different perspective. With Lauren, I would often say, “OK, you’ve told me of two options, have you thought about a third?” I’d also share different experiences to encourage her to think of what else she could do.
When I was a senior manager at KPMG, for example, people would ask me if I wanted to be a partner some day. I would say “I don’t know” because it seemed like such a big thing.
One of the partners at the time pulled me aside and said, “You’ve got to stop saying that, Vickie. You need to say, ‘Yes, I would’ and, when the opportunity comes, then you can make the decision. But if you don’t put yourself forward now, the opportunity may not come your way.”
That’s the advice I gave to Lauren, because she was facing a similar decision at Deloitte. The best thing to say is that you’re interested.
The greatest thing that I took from the experience of mentoring Lauren was watching someone else’s career grow, and to see another amazing woman stepping up to the plate. She’s going to inspire other women to do the same thing.
Find out more:
Seeking women mentors for the CA ANZ Mentor Program
Younger female accountants are craving advice from experienced colleagues, and CA ANZ needs its women members to lend a hand.Find out about mentoring