For aspiring business leaders, mentorship is often a life-changing experience, catapulting a burgeoning business career to new heights.
Facebook co-founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, attributes his colossal success to the support and guidance he received from former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. For Sir Richard Branson, the advice he received from airline entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker was integral to the success of Virgin Atlantic.
At UWA, MBA students are offered expert advice and support from top-level mentors, who help them with career guidance and to develop their professional networks and managerial and leadership skills.
BusinessBecause spoke with one of this year’s pairings. UWA MBA student Chris Yates previously had a varied career in accounting, which saw him work for local government and a leading oil and gas services company, M-I SWACO.
Chris is mentored by experienced chief financial officer Mark Hanlon, former finance director of mining corporation, ENK plc.
Chris Yates, mentee
What’s the best thing about working with Mark?
Mark is someone who I respect and admire, who places great importance on “doing the right thing” and being trustworthy.
It is very easy to be relaxed and open in our meetings. He’s an honest, positive person who has helped me through overwhelming, busy times — as well as to develop and gain confidence in my leadership and decision-making abilities.
It has been great to get advice and feedback from someone who is so knowledgeable and has such a great outlook on life and business. I can see that my mentorship with Mark will keep going beyond this year.
How have you profited from the mentoring program? Would you recommend it and why?
The program has helped me put my career ambitions into a new, positive perspective. It has helped me to recognize the important things in life and has encouraged me to make some good decisions this year, including joining a not-for-profit board.
I would definitely recommend the mentoring program. It provides access to a professional person in business who is willing to pass on their experiences and advice at their expense.
What is the biggest challenge?
Making sure that there is a good fit between the mentor and the mentee. I was a bit concerned about who I would be partnered with due to my age (42), [and] my 20 years of work history.
Why did you choose to study for an MBA at UWA?
The original plan for 2015 was to get a job and continue with my career as an accountant. I had not even considered doing an MBA until it was mentioned to me by our family tax accountant.
I was also concerned about an MBA’s impact on my family. I had spent the majority of 2014 parenting my children, [who were] one and two years old at the time.
However, with some encouragement from my wife I decided to have a look at the MBA program at UWA and found the course very appealing. The full-time one-year program interested me the most.
It would give me the chance to build networks and gain a better understanding of business.
The main reason for choosing UWA was firstly because of its prestigious brand in Western Australia and secondly because the university is located close to my family. We love the western suburbs of Perth so going to UWA was appealing to my family.
Was the mentoring program something which stood out for you?
Yes, definitely. I never would have thought that a mentoring program would be available during a year of study so I was very happy to have this offered.
I felt that this was an opportunity to connect with someone in industry who was willing to share their advice and experiences with me, to provide guidance on future work and life choices, and to help me develop my leadership skills.
Mark Hanlon, mentor
How has your experience as former finance director of ENK plc helped you to participate in the mentoring program?
My role involved an overview of all business aspects of the corporation — not just the financial side — and this broad approach required me to understand the different needs of the various stakeholders.
By combining this experience with my past roles as CFO across a range of industry sectors, I have continued to learn about the drivers of business success, about how to deal with failure or potential failure and what are the fundamental characteristics that can guide you through your career.
What advice do you have for aspiring business professionals?
Be passionate about your work and take pride in anything you produce.
A careless or sloppy report will be viewed as a reflection on you, so always go the extra mile to get it right and make sure you re-read what you have written, taking into account the point of view of your audience.
Be enthusiastic and willing to try new experiences and roles across a broad range of sectors and industries, and take responsibility and ownership of your actions.
What’s the best thing about working with Chris?
Chris has the drive and enthusiasm to recognize that for him to move on from a straight-out accounting role he needs to differentiate himself from the crowd and move outside of his traditional comfort zone.
He is willing to try new things and has the “fire in the belly” to ensure that he will succeed in anything that he sets his mind to.
He has embraced the full-time MBA with gusto and is passionate about learning and challenging himself.
As a mentor, how do you profit from the program?
I am interested to be involved with a different generation of business professionals and get enjoyment out of trying to help.
Being a mentor gives me a chance to help my mentee make choices that will hopefully guide and assist career decisions.