Mentoring Success Story: Natasha and Mariam

Natasha Williams, CFE, is a mentor in the ACFE Mentoring Program. She has more than 20 years combined experience in auditing, banking, compliance and accounting. She has managed audits across the globe throughout Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region. She has experience consulting small startups as well as working with large, complex global companies. Natasha participated in the last session of the ACFE Mentoring Program and had two mentees. One of those mentees was Mariam Afzal.

Mariam is an Audit Lead at United Airlines. She wanted a mentor who could help her build a professional brand in the in the anti-fraud community. She aimed high and made one of her career goals to become a professional speaker. Here is more on their mentoring relationship.

Why was it important for both of you to join the Mentoring Program?
Natasha: I am always eager to help other people in any way that I can, so when the opportunity to be a mentor for future professionals in the anti-fraud field came about, I jumped on it right away. I am always asked how I landed my awesome job traveling the world looking for fraud and corruption, and I thought this would be a great platform to share how I did it, as well as other career advice that has helped me along the way. I had to learn the hard way through a lot of trial and error, so if I can assist someone to move their career to the next level more easily and help them to avoid making the same errors that I made on this path, I thought that would be great. I wanted to provide the information I wish someone would have given me when I first started this journey.

Mariam: I strongly believe in the power of surrounding yourself with positive people, especially those who have the desire to give to others and help them grow. The influence of a mentor can help to elevate and empower you toward your dreams. Mentoring has had a very positive impact on me throughout my life. When ACFE offered this program, I felt it would be an excellent opportunity to be more connected to the anti-fraud community and grow professionally under the influence of an accomplished mentor.

Natasha, how did you know Mariam would be the right mentee for you?
During our Discovery Call, I knew right away that Mariam would be the right mentee to work with because she had a bubbly personality, was very easy to talk to, was eager to learn and was open to suggestions. Our personalities are similar, so we had great communication. Most importantly, she had a “can-do” attitude and was willing to step outside her comfort zone. You have to stretch yourself if you want to grow. Stretching often requires venturing outside of your comfort zone which also brings along its best friend, fear. I told her to fight the fear and do it anyway. She listened, she did it and I think she’s going to get some good results.

Mariam, what were you looking for in a mentor? What inspired you to request Natasha?
I wanted to expand my horizons and request a mentor who was in a completely different industry than me, different geography, had a strong technical skill set, had been in leadership positions and had global work experience. That was quite the criteria in my mind, and I didn’t think I would find someone with all these requirements.

However, when I came across Natasha’s profile, I was beyond impressed. She not only had a remarkable list of certifications and extensive experience working in many countries, but she was also a subject matter expert in anti-fraud and corruption audits. This is an area that interests me immensely. To top it off, she has had numerous speaking engagements with and outside of ACFE and leads a global team of anti-fraud and audit professionals. I thought to myself, “Wow, what an inspiration!” So much of what Natasha has accomplished is what I would like to learn and accomplish as well. I could not believe my luck when I received an acceptance from Natasha. When our mentoring session started, she was so warm, compassionate and willing to share knowledge. She advised me on so many professional and personal areas. Most of all, she is a frequent traveler and despite that was also available via emails and calls to help me whenever I needed her.

What advice do you both have for anyone who wants to join the ACFE Mentoring Program?
Natasha: I think being a mentor is an awesome way to give back. There are not enough people out there willingly sharing their failures as well as their experiences. If I had a mentor along my career path, I truly believe I would have gotten a lot farther faster. However, I believe everything happens for a reason and all the stumbling blocks helped to build my character and build the skills and tools needed to succeed. Now, I am able to share those experiences with others. We all have different paths to success and each of us has something valuable to give another. I truly believe in the sentiment…Each one, teach one. If we all did this, we would build a powerful collective of awesome professionals working in a segment of the industry that future generations will flock to in droves. Doing so makes our profession stronger both technically and socially.

Mariam: This is a great platform for your professional growth. Take this as an opportunity to create your circle of influence with people who inspire you to reach greater heights. Come with an open mind and seek to gain perspective. Don’t be scared to discuss your current challenges and fears. A mentor’s experience is often just the advice you need. Lastly, a mentor can be a great sounding board as you frame up your future possibilities.

What has been the most rewarding part of your journey together?
Natasha: The most rewarding part of this journey has been the new friendship that we established through this process. We have made a remarkable connection and it feels like we’ve known each other for years instead of only a couple of months. I believe we have helped, encouraged and motivated each other along the way and that’s the best reward ever.

Mariam: I have grown in so many areas during my mentorship time with Natasha, the greatest of which is confidence. Her advice has helped me create a map to take my current accomplishments and start building my areas of specialization. I have a passion for sharing knowledge with others and she has advised me on the steps she took to become a speaker and be more involved in the anti-fraud community. Lastly, I have found Natasha to be a positive role model to look up to and a person I can always turn to when I need any advice.

Enrollment for the upcoming session of the ACFE Mentoring Program is now open. Visit the Mentoring Program homepage for more information on how you can enroll.