Date posted: 14/09/2020 5 min read

Mentoring: Career advice for a not-for-profit role

Mentor Mark Twomey CA has worked in not-for-profits for a decade and had good career advice for Pradhima Shyamsunder CA.

In Brief

  • Pradhima Shyamsunder CA and mentor Mark Twomey CA both work in not-for-profits.
  • Twomey says the mentoring relationship opened his eyes to how the younger generation approaches careers.
  • Shyamsunder says she got valuable advice on how to be a better manager and make an impact in her new role.

As told to Susan Muldowney

Mark Twomey CA
Chief corporate services officer, Ability Options, Sydney, NSW

I’ve had an eclectic career. I started out in banking and finance and spent almost 20 years with ANZ bank where I worked in treasury, corporate and commercial finance, HR and strategic planning, rural lending and a number of other roles.

After I left the bank, I did my master’s in accounting and became a CA. I spent 10 years working in a mid-tier accounting firm and then I moved into the not-for-profit sector about a decade ago. I’ve been with Ability Options for just over a year and we’re focused on supporting people with disability across NSW.

I joined the CA ANZ mentoring program because I believe you have a duty to give back if you can. I have been mentored throughout my career and I found it to be very helpful to have someone who is outside of your day-to-day working environment and who is happy to listen and to bounce off ideas.

My first impression of Pradhima was that she was very enthusiastic and driven to advance her career. She set the agenda about what she wanted to gain from the program. She had just taken on a new management role, and I think I helped her with things such as how to have difficult conversations, the importance of communication skills and being clear in your expectations of what people need from you and what you need from them.

I also helped her with a few techniques, such as learning the ‘four Ds’ of email management: Do it now, Delegate it, Dump it, and Decide when.

I think I was pretty lucky to be teamed with Pradhima. We’re from different generations and, although I was the mentor, I gained so much from seeing how her generation approaches their career. They view their career through a different lens to my generation. It’s much more than just work for them – it’s about what they value as well, and I think this attitude prompts you to question your own views on what a career can give you.

“They view their career through a different lens to my generation. It’s much more than just work for them – it’s about what they value as well.”
Mark Twomey CA

Our formal mentoring relationship ended just before the COVID-19 restrictions came in this year, but we’ve had a few catch-ups on the phone since then.

I think Pradhima will be a very successful manager, because she’s willing to listen and to admit what she does and doesn’t know.

I got a lot out of the mentoring experience, particularly in that it encouraged me to reflect on my own career and the disciplines that have helped me to manage multiple priorities over the years.

I’d recommend the program to others, because it’s an opportunity to connect with people. In my case, it was with someone from a different generation, and I gained a lot from that.

Mark Twomey CA and Pradhima Shyamsunder CAPicture: Mark Twomey CA and Pradhima Shyamsunder CA.

Pradhima Shyamsunder CA
Commercial manager, Barnardos Australia, Sydney, NSW

My dad has a tax and accounting practice and I used to spend a lot of time there after school. I loved listening to him talking to clients and the way he helped them with their finances, and this inspired me to become an accountant.

I started a cadetship with KPMG when I was 18. After finishing my CA qualification, I started to volunteer with a charity called Palmera, which opened my eyes to the disadvantage that many people face.

My family is Sri Lankan and there has been civil war in the north of the country, which is where we are from. I felt very lucky to be in Australia and I realised that I didn’t want my career to just be about making money – I want to make a difference to others.

I had a great manager at KPMG, who suggested that I specialise in non-profits due to my passion for the sector. That was the moment that I became excited about being an accountant.

Since leaving KPMG in 2013, I’ve been on a path to discover different types of charities where my accounting skills can make a real difference. I’ve been with [child protection charity] Barnardos Australia for just over two years and I joined the CA ANZ mentoring program because I wasn’t sure about my long-term goals. I realised that I needed some external perspective.

“I’ve been on a path to discover different types of charities where my accounting skills can make a real difference.”
Pradhima Shyamsunder CA

Mark was the perfect mentor for me, especially as he works for a non-profit organisation. My first impression of him was that he looked like a CFO! He has a lot of experience and was so open with me about his career. He’s kind and nurturing, but I also learnt that he can make tough decisions when he needs to.

I have been acting in a senior management role within corporate services since last year. It was the perfect timing, as I had just started the CA ANZ mentoring program.

Mark gave me great advice about how to make an impact with the opportunity and how to really shine. He coached me in building credibility and how to empower my manager by putting myself in his shoes and prioritising what he needs.

The result is that I have created a great relationship with my manager, and have participated in key projects for the organisation. I’ve realised that I’m someone who is trusted, which is very important in my role as a business partner.

Mark taught me to seek opportunities to work across the organisation and to identify my strengths and weaknesses – and to build on them. I’ve also gained confidence in my abilities and to go for what I want, which is to be a great non-profit leader who makes an impact and empowers people, and to honour why I took the risk to move from a Big Four into the non-profit sector.

In non-profits, there’s limited budget for training. This has required me to seek out development opportunities, so it’s great that CA ANZ has a mentoring program. I encourage more accountants in the non-profit sector to take it up. It has helped me in many unexpected ways.

I’m very grateful to have met Mark and will continue to be mentored by him.

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