Date posted: 27/03/2018

Ben’s journey: Becoming a CA with the support of mentorship

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Mentoring has become a huge part of one young professional's career journey.

"I love being able to give back to people and I find giving time is the best asset. There's nothing better than being able to just have a chat with someone and help give them some guidance that impacts their future. I think that's quite a powerful thing," says Ben Eisikovich, Senior Finance Analyst at BT.

Ben discovered how rewarding being a mentor can be, first as a mentee and later as a mentor, through the UNSW Winter School Program known as Nura Gili, which provides Indigenous high school students the opportunity to get a sneak peek into university experience by attending classes, taking part in cultural activities and socialising.

"My job was to help the lecturers facilitate their workshops, looking after the students from 9 to 5 for the duration of their stay and then just having a chat about where they want to go, their experience to date, school and what their thoughts are."

Ben Eisikovich CA
Ben Eisikovich CA

He was also involved in the Indigenous unit of the university's pre-program as a tutor, teaching first-year accounting subjects to school leavers with aspirations for attending university.

Accounting wasn't even on Ben's radar until he started at university.

"I never, at any point, thought accounting was going to be what I was going to do. I always thought that finance was a bit sexier and more intriguing, but as I went through uni accounting started making a lot more sense," he recalls.

"When I got into uni, it was post-GFC [global financial crisis], and things had changed a bit. I guess you grow up. I realised that there's a lot more to finance and accounting than just investment bankers," he recalls.

While studying at UNSW, he worked as a cadet at Leighton Contractors (now known as CPV Contractors) on their infrastructure investment team for two years. There, he supported the team on various projects and research.

Following a restructure at Leighton Contractors, Ben decided to take on the CA Program, and with it, a graduate finance role at Westpac.

"Getting to rotate across a number of teams in finance really helped to deepen my skillset in accounting, but I also gained a sense of business acumen, the systems used and how things work. It's been pretty pivotal in my experience to date," Ben said.

He recommends the CA Program to anyone who would like to make a difference in the finance and accounting space.

"Take it on if you want to make a difference in community, add value and really feel like you're doing something. Why not take the opportunity to become a CA and make a change?" says Ben.

Ben has had some great mentors along with him on his journey - including one who's been with him since day one.

"My mum is my number one mentor and no cliché on that one. Coming from a single parent home, she was the driving force in helping me make life decisions. She used to work in business herself. She had a bit of that vision and could help me see mine. She's always been a good sounding board."

Then there's AMP Capital's Head of Corporate Responsibility and Business Platform for Real Estate, Adrian Williams, who he met at university. Together they identified a lack of Indigenous representation in business compared to other areas - such as education, law and medicine - and in response, the Indigenous Finance and Business Corporation (IFAB) was formed.

By providing support to Indigenous students and facilitating Indigenous and non-Indigenous business people to connect with these students, IFAB works to close the gap and improve the "economic participation and financial literacy" of Indigenous Australians.

"We're still getting members together so it's in its infancy but once it expands, the greater hope is being able to go into high schools and do mass tutoring, and then being able to lobby with government and have our members, who are Indigenous business professionals, have a voice in an independent body," Ben says.

The IFAB plans to hold the next Indigenous Accounting and Business Conference in 2019, an event previously conducted by Deakin University in 2016.

"The whole point of that conference will be to bring Indigenous professionals and non-Indigenous professionals together and hold a couple of days of career development and workshops to influence skills."

IFAB has designed the committee in such a way that board members are voted for each year, so one day Ben may have to step aside in order to give younger professionals the chance to be mentored by the more experienced board members.

Ben also credits the formal mentorship provided to him at Westpac with helping him navigate his career pathway.

"It's really helped me plan out my career. The number one piece of advice was, if you want something in a job, continuously seek it out. Don't just accept a job offer. If you really feel passionate about a particular field, or you want something particular in a job, look for it and if it doesn't exist then work to make it happen," says Ben.

"I feel there's this misconception that there's a ladder that everyone's climbing, but really it's just about working hard and creating opportunities."