- When Janet Liu CA moved from China to Australia, the cultural shift proved bigger than she had anticipated. Her mentor Paul Greer CA helped guide her onto a pathway that suited her to a tee.
- CA ANZ Mentor Exchange is a six-month program for early and mid-career members who want to boost their career development.
- 2024 CA ANZ Mentor Exchange registrations are now open.
As told to John Burfitt
Janet Liu CA
Corporate accountant at WesTrac, Perth
Pictured: Janet Liu CA. Image credit: Fabrizio Lipari
To me, accounting has always been a form of storytelling, like taking a snapshot of a company to tell its stories. I studied accounting at Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing and graduated in 2005. I then joined the Beijing Daily newspaper as a finance supervisor and stayed for 14 years.
I had been doing the same thing for a long time and felt ready for new challenges. I visited Australia in 2018 and I really liked the life here. In 2020, the South Australian Government sponsored my visa as a skilled accountant and I did my first Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand Mentor Exchange program to help with job hunting, until I landed a role with BDO Australia in Adelaide, in the business services team.
After 14 years in my other job, BDO was a very different environment and in a new country. For starters, I had transferred from commercial accounting to public practice and most of the work was case based. The way people interact with each other in Australia is so different to China and something I needed to understand. In China, we speak more directly about what we need. In Australia, the communication is more casual with more small talk – both inside my team and outside the company. After a while, I felt very lost.
One thing I have always known is nothing is too difficult, as long as you have a direction. This is why I reached out to take part in another CA ANZ Mentor Exchange program and was matched with Paul [Greer]. This changed everything. Paul provided me with lots of information about the Australian workplace, ideas on how to approach my role and how to interact with my colleagues.
He spent a lot of time analysing each scenario I found challenging, to focus on what I was doing right and to explore ideas in the areas I knew I needed to work on. I felt so supported in taking one step at a time, as I stepped out of my comfort zone. One of the best strategies he suggested was for me to think back to where I was a year ago and then focus on how much I had achieved. That put it all into perspective and soon, my confidence improved.
Through Paul’s help on career planning, I realised commercial accounting suits me better and discovered an interest in mining, so I started looking for new opportunities in Perth and, in October 2022, started with WesTrac. I really enjoy my job and feel confident in it. I recently presented a training session to a team of 10 – I would have been too nervous to do that a year ago.
Early on, I realised the important thing with mentoring was to put the good advice Paul was offering into practice. Some of it worked and some didn’t, so I would report back to him and he would then provide further advice, and this really made the difference. I finished the program with Paul at the end of last year. I still have a long way to go and much to learn about Australian culture, but these days, I do feel safe on my journey.
Paul Greer CA
Finance manager at Acciona Australia, Adelaide
Pictured: Paul Greer CA. Image credit: Randy Larcombe
Years ago, I worked for a year with a US-based company in the city of Chengdu in China. I always remember there was such a different approach to how they structured their teams and went about their accounting work.
I have been on the CA ANZ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Panel for more than four years, but early last year I also signed on to the CA ANZ Mentor Exchange program, after hearing Janet was in need of a mentor. I figured, with the insight from my time in China, I might be able to understand what she was going through in trying to settle into working in Australia.
Janet was having a hard time in those early days. She was trying to settle into a new country, but was also doing work very different to what she had done in the past. She had a very small network of support, which always makes life harder. She was trying so hard with all of it, but was exhausted.
I knew she needed some support, so we had a lot of sessions together in those first weeks. They were all online, so we’ve actually never met. I remember from my mentor training that the most important thing is to listen to what is being said, instead of rushing in with solutions. And that is what Janet needed – someone to listen and let her unload about the issues she was facing. By doing that, we established a level of trust and from there, we tackled one issue at a time.
She knew that as I had worked in China, I had an insight into different styles of working and communicating. It can be overwhelming when settling into a new country, not to mention different kinds of accounting work, and that was one of the first things we worked on. I got her to focus on all the positives of what this, as challenging as it was at the time, was doing to expand her accounting skills and what opportunities this might open up down the line. We also explored different ways of managing workflow, so she began to feel the work was more achievable.
Within about three weeks, I noticed a change. She was meeting targets and things calmed down in a big way. Janet had the fight in her to improve her situation and all she really needed was some support to come out the other side.
Once her confidence improved, she found a new role in Perth and that seemed a better fit overall.
What was so rewarding was to see her go through this journey and witness her getting better and better at settling in within a very short period of time. Janet has a very positive way in how she gets things done. The most rewarding thing about mentoring is seeing the mentee work their own way out of situations and then flourish – and I always knew that would happen with Janet.
2024 CA ANZ Mentor Exchange registrations now open
CA ANZ Mentor Exchange is a six-month program for early and mid-career members who want to boost their career development. Applicants fill in a questionnaire, which is used to match them with a suitable mentor. The program is open to all full members in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, the US and the UK.
Over as little as four hours of mentoring sessions, an experienced chartered accountant will help you develop your leadership skills or work on other areas of your professional development and career.
CA Library resources
CA Library has a curated mentoring reading list of guides and tips for both mentors and mentees.Find out more