Mentoring female (3)

Catalina Cotoara FCCA – mentee

‘Mentoring was a big step forward’

Catalina Cotoara shares her experience of being mentored by ACCA Global Council member Sharon Critchlow

Catalina Cotoara FCCA believes that peer-to-peer guidance is a great way to learn and achieve career development. So, when she heard about ACCA’s pilot mentoring programme in 2018, she registered to be a mentee.

At the time, Catalina was in the process of launching her own business called Finance Director London. It offers part-time financial advice and business partnering services to companies that are not yet big enough to hire their own full-time finance director. She was therefore looking for a mentor who could help her succeed as an entrepreneur.

Catalina found it easy to register with ACCA’s platform, which supports progress throughout the mentoring journey, from the application process through to setting development goals. The platform matched her with Sharon Critchlow FCCA, an ACCA Global Council member and co-founder of workplace wellbeing provider and personal development business Discover Your Bounce.

‘I was really lucky to be paired with Sharon,’ says Catalina. ‘At the time, I was trying to launch my business. I was confused about what I wanted and how to go about it. Sharon was extremely helpful. She guided me through my thought processes and helped me on this journey.’

Every four to six weeks for almost a year, Catalina and Sharon would speak on the telephone. They would discuss Catalina’s progress since they last spoke and identify new challenges for her to address, based on her priorities at the time.

Catalina’s greatest challenge was working out how she could sell both herself – and her business idea – to others. ‘I’m an accountant,” she says. “I keep my head down and do things rather than talk about my achievements or explain to people how what I’ve done has benefitted them.’ During the mentoring, she also focused on networking – something she had not done before.

‘Sharon helped me to clarify my ideas and come up with a targeted way of presenting my business,’ says Catalina. ‘Then I did my website and I went to networking events. I started to gain clients from those networking events.’

Over the year she was mentored by Sharon, Catalina grew enormously as a person. ‘It was a big step forward for me,’ she says. ‘Sharon was good at listening and at asking the right questions to help me figure out what I really want. One of the most important things that she told me was to be clear on my mission.’

ACCA’s mentoring programme has now launched globally following its successful pilot. Catalina believes the programme is invaluable because it enables ACCA members to help each other, which will improve the profession overall. ‘I wouldn’t hesitate to go through the same process again,’ she says. ‘And I would love to be a mentor myself in future.’

This is Catalina’s advice for other ACCA members who might be thinking of becoming mentees: ‘Don’t think about it too much. Just join the programme. The good thing about a mentor-mentee relationship is that the learning is focused on your particular needs, so it’s really focused where you need it most. But do be prepared for your ideas and beliefs to be challenged and to change over time.’

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Mentoring female (2)

Sharon Critchlow FCCA – mentor

‘I’m a firm believer in mentoring and coaching’

Sharon Critchlow shares her experience of mentoring finance director and entrepreneur Catalina Cotoara

Sharon Critchlow FCCA, co-founder of workplace wellbeing provider and personal development business Discover Your Bounce, is both an ACCA Global Council member and a qualified strategic performance coach. So, when ACCA launched its pilot mentoring programme in 2018, she jumped at the chance to participate.

‘I’m a firm believer in mentoring and coaching,’ says Sharon. ‘So, when ACCA brought out this programme, I wanted to support it.’

ACCA’s mentoring programme has an online platform that supports the entire mentoring journey. The platform quickly paired Sharon with Catalina Cotoara, a finance director who was starting her own business. It was down to Catalina to make the initial contact with Sharon, however. ‘The mentoring relationship is about change and wanting to make change,’ Sharon explains. ‘So, you’ve got to take a first step, which is to approach your mentor.’

Sharon mentored Catalina Cotoara for nearly a year, with the pair speaking on the telephone every four to six weeks. ‘In the beginning, we were having conversations that were more around the bigger plan and what she wanted from life,’ says Sharon. ‘I would challenge her in different areas and I also passed on some of my contacts.’ An important part of the process was helping Catalina to define her long-term vision and set out the steps that would help her to achieve that vision. Then Sharon would hold Catalina to account for each of the steps she needed to take to get where she wanted to be.

It is not just mentees who benefit from being involved with a mentoring programme – mentors can get a lot out of it as well. ‘Whenever you talk to another person, particularly if you’re challenging something, it invariably challenges something in you,’ says Sharon. ‘It’s very common in any form of coaching and mentoring that if you’re asking a question of someone else, you’re also asking that question of yourself.’

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