- "I wanted to know what steps to take to set me up for the future. When I was matched with Mark as my mentor, I wanted to set a career plan with someone who had already walked that path," says Diana Porta CA.
- "Diana was such a case. She has loved her career in accounting but just felt there were other things she wanted to be doing. I got her to focus on the wide range of possibilities with her existing skills and explore where they could take her," says Mark Sercombe FCA.
- Whether you are looking for a mentor or want to be a mentor, the benefits of being part of a mentoring relationship are numerous.
As told to John Burfitt
Photo Nick Cubbin
Diana Porta CA
Client manager at Bedford CA and finance manager at The Bread & Butter Project, Sydney
You could say I fell into accounting. When I moved from Italy to Australia 17 years ago, I saw accounting as my way ahead. The numbers, debits, credits and balances came naturally. I started at TAFE, then attended Western Sydney University and after finishing the Chartered Accountants program, landed a great job with Bedford CA, where I am still employed.
But I started thinking I wanted something more, so I did a Masters in Economics and Finance. Then I had a mid-life crisis when I turned 40 and I began to wonder why I took up accounting in the first place.
That’s when I became aware of the CA ANZ Mentor Exchange program and I thought, ‘That’s for me’. I wanted to know what steps to take to set me up for the future. When I was matched with Mark as my mentor, I wanted to set a career plan with someone who had already walked that path. Mark and I first met by telephone and later in person. I told him about my conflict and he immediately mentioned working in the not-for-profit sector. Mark and I did a lot of brainstorming about what I could do without giving up on accounting. Everything he said resonated with me.
I next had conversations with people in that sector and everyone was so energetic and excited. Mark talked me through all the possibilities and gave me the push to find the value in the skills I currently have. Getting that perspective came as a revelation.
The first thing I did was transition my role at Bedford into a part-time position and after a month I landed my other job as finance manager at The Bread & Butter Project, a social enterprise providing employment pathways for people seeking refuge and asylum.
One of the key things I am taking forward is to always think about my values and what my career brings to my life. I want to keep myself accountable.
A mentor reminds you you don’t have to do a career journey alone. Having access to someone like Mark with all his knowledge, connections and experience proved so invaluable, and is offered to us on a plate through this program. It can be life changing.
Pictured: Mark Sercombe FCA and Diana Porta CA.
Mark Sercombe FCA
Practice leader at Technology Risk, Sydney
I’ve always said what we do as chartered accountants prepares us for a range of things across a career. I started in accounting but today I work in information and cybersecurity.
I have done a lot of mentoring through the years. I’m interested in people’s journeys and what they experience along the way.
I did one CA ANZ Mentor Exchange Early Career program, but it didn’t resonate. I felt where I might be better suited is with the Mid-Career program, where the mentee has a few years’ worth of experience under their belt.
The thing I found so interesting about Diana was her story was going off in so many directions, but she could articulate her values clearly. Initially, Diana said she wanted something different. One thing I have seen too many times in mentoring is when people say they want to make a change but they throw the baby out with the bathwater. That’s not necessary when you’re better off looking at the range of your capabilities today, than just going off to do something different.
Diana was such a case. She has loved her career in accounting but just felt there were other things she wanted to be doing. I got her to focus on the wide range of possibilities with her existing skills and explore where they could take her. That was when we began speaking about the not-for-profit sector.
What made it work is Diana’s a good listener and also reflective about her processes. The thing with mentoring is to keep a focus on the process, so it’s about working out what are the two or three things you can do this week, then next week and so on to reach a goal. It’s about aiming for a couple of golden nuggets in the hope it grows.
As a mentor, I always find you learn something about yourself and reflect on your own journey. Mentoring can be a way of holding up a mirror to your own experience.
To anyone who thinks they don’t know how to be a mentor, my advice is to back yourself, be brave and go for it. You have got to where you are in your career, and have far more capability than you probably give yourself credit for.
CA ANZ Mentor Exchange Early and Mid-Career programs
Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand offers the Mentor Exchange program to full members. The three programs involved in Mentor Exchange are experiences designed to help members achieve their career goals and aspirations.Find out more