One plus one: How to chart the years ahead
When Singapore-based Andrew Whitehead CA needed tips on how to chart the years ahead he turned to finance veteran Brahma Sharma FCA for guidance.
- "I am now at the other end of my career experience, so I want to offer something to others – something that was not available to me," Brahma Sharma FCA says.
- "Possibly the best lesson was his encouragement to network and engage with the broader community," Andrew Whitehead CA says.
- Get involved with the CA ANZ Mentor Exchange: Early and Mid-Career program.
As told to John Burfitt
Photo Leslie Heng
Brahma Sharma FCA
Chief operating officer, tax and legal, KPMG Asia Pacific
I started with KPMG’s predecessor firm in 1979 in Auckland, New Zealand and moved through to various partner level roles. In my early days mentoring was not a big thing and even training programs then were in their infancy. I was lucky to work with a number of very experienced people but it never evolved into a mentoring relationship. There was never one person to go to.
So when the opportunity came up six years ago to get involved with the CA ANZ Mentor Exchange program, I thought, ‘If I had this opportunity when I was younger, I would have definitely taken it up.’ I am now at the other end of my career experience, so I want to offer something to others – something that was not available to me.
I have previously worked with young mentees in the early parts of their career. When I received Andrew’s name I looked him up on LinkedIn and was surprised. He is quite senior and at the middle stage of his career. He’s very well-established at Jacobi Carbons.
I wasn’t sure if Andrew needed help, so I asked him directly. He replied he was sure he did and was keen to exchange ideas. As we are both in Singapore, we were able to meet face to face, which was a welcome change after online sessions through the pandemic.
In a mentoring relationship, the mentor is not there to direct the other person on what they should be doing, but to help that person find their own paths that you can provide guidance about.
With Andrew, we focused on taking stock of his current strengths, key interests in business and where those skills are taking him.
As we’re both in regional roles in the Asia Pacific, we talked about some of the challenges and cultural differences in this region, as well as ESG – environmental, social and governance – issues, which is such a big thing right now. That’s an area Andrew could get involved with speaking about or getting onto some panels because he understands it well.
Andrew is a very intelligent man with strong ethics and business practices. I think he’s capable of taking on more senior and wider executive roles. I learned a lot listening to him.
I enjoy hearing new and different perspectives of the people moving through our profession. Being exposed to new ways of thinking helps keep me fresh in my own work.
Pictured: Brahma Sharma FCA (left) and Andrew Whitehead CA both live in Singapore and shared their experiences working in the region
Andrew Whitehead CA
Finance director (Asia), Jacobi Carbons
One of the things that first attracted me to accounting is it’s one of the most transferable of skills. I started my career with Grant Thornton in Brisbane in 2005. In 2012 I joined Jacobi Carbons and did secondments in Sweden and Switzerland before landing in Singapore just over four years ago.
When I started working, there were lots of senior people around, so I never felt the need to have a formal mentor. But when this round of the CA ANZ Mentor Exchange program came up, I realised I didn’t have that same professional support as I did in a public practice and needed an outside perspective. I also think you can have a mentor at any age – you’re never too old.
I’m very happy with my current job, but you want to poke your head up every now and then and reflect on your career development and skill set. One of the first things I did was complete the online CA Capability+ assessment which puts a focus on skills. Doing that along with the mentorship program forces you to get off the hamster wheel and pay attention to where the gaps are.
When I was assigned to Brahma I was very happy as he’s someone I knew I could learn a lot from. Mostly, I was after a sounding-board and to get his input about the kind of planning I need to do over the next few years. I spoke to him about my fear that I might not have the opportunities for large, listed groups because I have not had listed statutory-reporting experience. Brahma told me as long as I knew the basics, it was something I could easily pick up later.
I was also curious about how he has navigated his way in a large firm with lots of personalities. In senior management, the higher you go up, it’s less about technical skills and more about people skills. He encouraged me to keep building my team and to focus on getting good people around me.
Possibly the best lesson was his encouragement to network and engage with the broader community. He spoke about the importance of public speaking and being on professional panels and only weeks later I was invited to be on a panel for a software group. I jumped at that opportunity and realised what Brahma said was so true.
I want to pass on what I’ve learned and have signed up to a Singapore group to mentor younger people coming into the profession. It would be good if I can now help someone as well.
Find out more:
CA ANZ Mentor Exchange: Early and Mid-Career program
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.Get involved