How mentor advice helped CA Tom Filer’s career

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Vikki Douglas By Vikki Douglas

15 July 2015

Vikki Douglas, Programme Manager, Professional Development, speaks to a mentor and a mentee involved in the ICAS virtual career mentoring programme.

Derek Smith: The mentor

Derek Smith CA (pictured above, left) is chief executive of Optimus Seventh Generation, a consultancy business focused on high hazard industries, and Tom Filer CA is a senior procurement financial controller with Airbus. Derek has been Tom's mentor on the ICAS career mentoring programme since August 2014.

Why did you become a mentor?

I wanted to give something back to the CA profession. I was privileged enough to be trained and to qualify as a CA, a foundation that has allowed me to build my career over the last 30 years.

Taking part in the ICAS career mentoring programme allows me to give back to the profession and help younger CAs who are on a career path that I have experienced.

What are you gaining from having a mentee?

The gain for me is the satisfaction of knowing I have helped someone to make sound career decisions.

Would you recommend the programme to other CAs?

Absolutely. We have all had formal or more likely informal mentors as we have gone through our careers. This is a great chance, through ICAS, to provide mentoring in a more formal context. It puts participants in touch with fellow CAs they otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to meet.

Tom Filer: The mentee

Tom Filer (pictured above, right) works for Airbus in Bristol. Prior to this he trained to become a CA with EY. Tom is one year post-qualified (PQE).

What attracted you about becoming a mentee?

I signed up because I had recently moved from working in practice into industry. In practice, your career is relatively well mapped out, but in industry there is rarely a set path to follow. I was thinking about my next opportunity and signed up to the mentoring programme to make sure I was doing as much as I could to set myself up for the next stage in my career.

How was the sign-up process?

It was very easy. It's a bit like an online dating website – you're asked questions about yourself and what you want to get out of the programme. You're matched with several mentors who fit with the information you've provided and, by reading their profiles, you select the one that you feel best matches your needs.

You are then given each other's email address and some guidance and materials to aid your mentoring discussions, but from that point on it's really up to you and your mentor to make the process work.

How does a virtual mentoring programme work?

Despite our being in different locations, we both had a link to Glasgow and decided to meet there. Apart from that initial meeting, our discussions have all been over the phone, usually every couple of months. Other mentees use Skype and Facetime, and of course there are emails flying between us.

Having the perspective of someone who has not only 'been there and done that' before you, but who is also impartial and independent, is invaluable.

What are you gaining from being a mentee?

Having a mentor who has been at the same stage in their career, who can share their experiences and say where they might have done things differently is invaluable. I don't think you'd get this kind of guidance from a mentor or manager in your own organisation.

What has been the best part of the programme for you?

Derek never tries to push his opinion forward, preferring to ask probing questions and conclude on the responses I have given, while adding in some of his own experiences and examples. This collaborative approach works really well.

How has being part of the ICAS programme helped in your job?

Having a mentor allowed me to regain the perspective that I was starting to lose and to wait for the right opportunity. I don't think that I would be in my current role without Derek's advice and guidance. I would highly recommend the ICAS  Career Mentoring Programme to fellow CAs.


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