Then and now: John Symons FCPA

Founder of The Finance Leaders Alliance, an executive mentoring and advisory practice for CFOs.

I chose the picture [at bottom] because it represents a step-change in my leadership experience and orientation.

It was taken for an in-house journal in 1996 when, after 15 years in functional finance roles at BP, I was keen to broaden my career and took on the role of human resources [HR] adviser.

I’d ditched the monthly accounts. Yay!

I joined BP at 19 as a bunkering branch assistant, essentially accounting for the fuel to run its vessels, and for my first 10 years I built technical depth rotating through core finance and early supervisor roles.

John Symons FCPA

John Symons FCPA

I found I was particularly good at being able to extract data to create relevant reports.

In 1991 I became the finance manager for BP’s 200 company-operated and franchise convenience stores – that was a very successful business unit and it taught me the value of being deeply integrated in the business.

From there in 1993 I took on the role of CFO for BP’s operations in the south-west Pacific based in Fiji.

It was a fantastic role, but I was still in finance leadership.

When it was time for me to re-enter the Australian market I felt the need for a change.

The decision to become HR lead was critical for me. My role was to bring the HR conversation back to the business.It helped me to discover the essence of leadership.

I learned the importance of listening, not telling, and engaging, not controlling.

I went on to bigger and better roles, culminating in BP’s Chief Accountant and Head of Control Australasia, finishing up in 2010.

After 29 years with BP, when considering what to do next, I realised that HR role had been pivotal.

It set me on my leadership journey and is the foundation of why I established the personal leadership practice I run today.

John Symons FCPA

John Symons FCPA

So what would you tell the young man in the photo?

Keep on choosing roles that broaden you and expose you to new networks and learning.

Take the risk and be sure to trust your own judgement.

This article is from the November 2013 issue of INTHEBLACK magazine.


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