Date posted: 6/06/2018 4 min read

Mentoring HK style

PwC partner Peter Li became a mentor in Hong Kong because he loves to see people change for the better - and he's proud to see his mentee Katya Danilova, propsering.

In Brief

  • CA ANZ’s Mentor Exchange connects the skills and knowledge of experienced members with new CAs.
  • Mentor Exchange allows both members to learn from each other.
  • Mentors volunteer their time so if the young CA uses it wisely, it can vastly enhance their career development.

Katya Danilova
Operations Performance and Analytics Lead
AIA Group Operations

After graduating from the University of Auckland, I joined EY as part of the audit team, which is where I completed my CA program. After EY, I joined AIA in New Zealand, first as a financial accountant and then Finance Manager – Operations & Control, which gave me a lot of insights on operations in insurance. I gravitated to more project and transformation, and so when I wanted to move to Hong Kong, I was able to transfer to the AIA Group operation transformation team.

What have you learned from your mentor?

[PwC partner] Peter [Li] has been a fantastic help in teaching me how to navigate key career decisions, as well as building stronger relationships at work and in the industry. He teaches me to always keep a positive outlook and approach all situations without too many pre-conceived ideas of the outcome. He is always supportive and reminds me I should not rush things, but focus on how to be the best at my current job and to establish a strong work reputation first, as this will open doors in the future. Having his perspective and advice, as someone external to my workplace and as an experienced manager and coach, was invaluable in helping me learn more about myself and my own strengths and abilities.

Many times after heading home from a meeting, I was left with a strong feeling of positive energy about my career, and sense of security that things were on track. He also helped introduce me to others in insurance, who really helped me map out a career plan and set goals for the next five years, which was something I wanted to achieve.

What has improved?

The mentoring process really reminded me of how valuable it is to have an “independent” perspective and that there are always different ways of looking at situations and events. I think I have changed my approach to be more positive.  

I have also gained a stronger sense of my direction in my career and the types of next steps I want to take. And I feel more ‘OK’ with how much I am yet to understand of the Hong Kong industry and market. Peter has helped to reassure me that it is not easy and that it is OK to build up over time, which has helped a lot of my initial fears about being in a new country and a new working environment. He went through something similar when he moved to Hong Kong and it was great to hear his experiences and his advice.

A key takeaway for me from Mentor Exchange is the benefit of having a person “from the outside” as a mentor
Peter LI  PwC Partner, Mentor and Financial Services Assurance Leader in Hong Kong

Why did you join Mentor Exchange?

I have always had informal mentors in my past roles, either in other departments from my company or from my group of friends. Moving to Hong Kong, I did not have the same level of connection and I knew it was something I was really missing. When the opportunity came up as part of CA ANZ, I thought it was a great chance to gain that valuable support and advice.

How can a mentee get the best out of mentoring?

I think you should always come with an open mind to listen and learn. It’s great to have a list of goals and what you want to achieve as part of the overall program, so it gives focus. I would also suggest taking time to talk through personal growth and development opportunities rather than just networking or connections. 

What are Peter’s strengths?

Peter has a great ability to listen and understand key concerns or difficulties the other person is facing. He offers suggestions and new ways of looking at things, but always makes sure it’s about the mentee and not just his view on things. He also has a very calm and positive energy and seems to never get fazed or overly stressed – which is something to strive for, I think.  

Would you recommend Mentor Exchange to other new CAs?

Absolutely – it has been a fantastic experience for me and very valuable. I credit a lot of recent changes in my role and career plans directly to the help my mentor Peter was able to give me.

Peter Li FCA
PwC Partner, Financial Services Assurance Leader in Hong Kong

I came to Hong Kong in the early ’90s from Australia, where I graduated and worked for three years with a Big 4 firm and gained my CA qualification. In Hong Kong, I really was just looking for a bit of a change of scenery and the chance to work out for myself what Hong Kong was all about. Although I was born in Hong Kong, I had spent most of my life back in Newcastle so, as odd as this might sound, this was all quite foreign. 

Here I joined the Banking Policy Department of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and learnt a lot about policy development, with new policies rolled out following the Asian Financial Crisis. Later I returned to PwC to leverage my regulator experience and have taken on client servicing roles and greater management responsibilities.

What have you taught your mentee?

Katya was fairly new to Hong Kong, having been here for only about a year at the start of the Mentor Exchange programme. From my own experience, I know how that can feel and I knew how important it is to have someone there to reaffirm abilities and maintain a positive frame of mind. One thing is for sure, Hong Kong works people hard and if your head is not in the right place, that can make life doubly tough. Katya is very smart and she has lots to give but seemed just a bit unsure. I felt all she needed was a timely reminder that she can and should “have a go”. We met regularly about once a month and I was glad Katya had a bit of faith and took on board some of my suggestions and it has turned out very well for her. I think we were both pleasantly surprised when she was offered a promotion and I was super proud of her.

Has the mentoring process changed your thinking?

A key takeaway for me from Mentor Exchange is the benefit of having a person “from the outside” as a mentor. I try to mentor at work but sometimes, even with the best intentions, there are still barriers simply because of the workplace structure, so there is value in having someone external to provide that perspective.

Have you introduced Katya to your network? If so, why?

We started that this year and I introduced Katya to one of my fellow partners who focuses on clients in her industry. It was fairly natural to do as it is really just another step in one’s career development. 

What benefits do you receive from mentoring? 

It just feels great when you put in some effort to help someone and see a change for the better. More importantly, when you build new relationships, you always learn something new.

How can a mentee get the best out of mentoring?

By being proactive and committed to the mentoring relationship.  Remembering that a mentoring relationship is a relationship first and foremost. So maintaining a constant dialogue and keeping each other updated on what is happening is vital.  

Related: Mentor Exchange

We help to connect our experienced members with new CAs starting out in their careers. 

In what areas will Katya possibly develop?

I am big believer in always seeking to improve. If you look at our line of work, the most difficult part is not so much technical skills, but dealing with people. However, if you believe that teamwork trumps working alone, then the smart move is to take on the role of a “peacemaker”. 

If I find someone who can act as the glue between highly-rated individuals bringing them together to work towards a common goal, then that person is, often in my experience, the most valuable player in the team. Katya is a well-grounded person but as a young CA who has already worked in different countries and in various roles, I see this capability in her and I would encourage her to set more ambitious objectives for what she can achieve in her career.

Would you recommend the programme to other mentors?

Highly recommended and the team running it certainly put in a lot of heart and effort. The sharing among the mentors and mentees was fun and left a great impression.

Do you intend to continue with this mentee or with any others? If so why? If not why?

I intend to continue the relationship Katya and I have built. I think I have also just found another mentee from the programme as well. I am very much looking forward to that.  

Photographs: Tim ORourke

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