Author: Simon Lynch, host of the Treasury Talent podcast (listen via www.apple.co/2TU07x8 ) and Director of Davey Lynch Treasury Talent, a global niche recruiter focused on treasury.
A common trait I hear consistently from top treasurers is the fact they have engaged with mentors throughout their rise through the treasury ranks. Why is it they feel its important to have mentoring as part of their strategy to get to become a Treasurer? Essentially, they feel they don’t have all the answers and having someone they can lean on to assist in the decision has helped them to get to the answer they were after faster or as a sounding board to confirm their decisions. But more than that having a mentor has helped them to fast track their career.
I have interviewed and spoken with many of the worlds top treasurers to get their insights and share their wisdom within the global treasury community. As part of my podcast the question of mentors has been a common thread.
Colleen Ostrowski, Treasurer of Visa Inc says “I think everyone should have a mentor. Someone who
they can bounce ideas off, ask questions of, but then I also think, the new term is sponsorship. A sponsor is someone who actually will push you forward and put your name forward for things (roles). I think that’s also incredibly important”. As a female treasury leader you can be in the minority so she adds “look for female mentors that are sponsors is better yet, that can really help you get to that next level”.
Sarah Scopel, Treasurer at Star Entertainment Group believes reaching out for advice is second nature and has helped her throughout her career, “I have a formal mentor that I’ve had since my first role in Investment Banking, but depending on what I’m thinking about, there might be someone specific that has knowledge about a particular sector that I’ll pick up the phone to. I’m not afraid to do that and people are very happy to be asked their opinion”.
Kirsten Nordlof, Treasurer, Global Head of Tax & Financial Services says “I haven’t sought out formal mentors. At PwC you have coaches. Formally you have a partner that’s your partner-coach, and so I had partner-coaches and they were all walks of life and personalities at PwC. I tended to gravitate to certain people that I thought were the best in class of their field and just tried to work with them, work for them, work on their projects and learn from them”.
Kirsten added “I think having a formal mentor is not necessarily needed. I think forming relationships with people who have experience or characteristics that you think would be valuable and getting in front of people is important. I do mentor. I have like a formal mentor relationship with three or four women at Autodesk, and I meet with them and I give them my advice. But if they didn’t call that a formal mentorship, I think I would give them the same advice. If you’re intimidated to ask somebody to be your mentor, I think you can just form a relationship with people and people are more than happy, for the most part, time or a lunch period or lunch hour to talk with people and just ask them questions”.
So whilst not everyone has formality in the mentoring process the ability to reach out and have support from people that you trust and can help advise you when needed is the common thread. Kirsten continues “So I can’t say that I had a formal mentor, but I had a lot of people in my career that I’ve taken little pieces from. Then in the last eight years or so after I left PwC, I have a coach who is somebody who was formerly at PwC who did a lot of their partner review and getting ready for the partner process. She’s now an external coach. I work with her on refining myself and thinking through problems and helping me grow as a professional”.
On the topic of having a sponsor Kirsten takes the attitude that if there is not growth available in her team she will encourage them to seek them out and be their sponsor. “I also am super comfortable with saying to somebody, “Hey, I don’t have a role for you. Let’s start looking externally because you’re ready for your next big role.” So I am hoping one day, if I’m gone at Autodesk, my AT would take the treasurer position, but if I’m still here and still being challenged in my role, making her a treasurer somewhere else would be equally satisfying for me”.
Interestingly, this selflessness is common in those that are the best people managers. Sarah is
consistently rated as a fabulous person to work by her team, the approval rating of treasury went from “disengaged” when she joined to the highest approval rating in the Caltex finance team under her watch. Sarah has been an advocate of reverse mentoring, where she really learned from her team. “Yes, I was very grateful for the opportunity, grateful to have a team of people that were each individually experts in what they did. I had never done any of their roles and I’d never experienced working in an operational treasury role before. That was the day to day. The daily funding, the hedging, the buy, the currency, and also all the reporting and compliance and any sort of fundraising up to about 500 million at the origin at the time. And really it was reverse mentoring”.
Colleen says some of the best advice she received early in her career came from her mentor when she was on her first graduate rotation “it was a wonderful woman who told me that when I joined Pfizer ‘don’t be a yes person’ and the point was that if you’re doing all these laborious task that no one else wants to do because you’re the go to person that always says yes, then you don’t have time to actually excel and work into more value added roles”.
“What she meant was I think that sometimes we’re very eager to please and so we do everything
that’s asked of us and unfortunately it gets in the way with your advancing because then they’re like, “Well, they’re doing that and I don’t want to take them off of that needed project to advance.” And so you have to make sure you’re balancing that and pushing forward and speaking up”.
Kirsten wants to work for someone who has her best interests at heart so spends the time to really do some background on her manager to ensure they will be her sponsor, “I always research the manager quite heavily before I make any kind of move internally or externally. You want to work for someone who you know will develop you, who will challenge you, who you can learn from, I think that’s really most critical”.
The common take out from talking to these top treasurers is the fact they are willing to seek advice and guidance from the mentors they have in their corner, whether that is a formal mentorship or just the ability to get guidance from people they trust. All have benefitted from having a mentor relationship as they have grown their careers in treasury.