Be a mentor
One Saturday last June I was introduced to my new mentee, one of the 2016 winners of the Queen's Young Leaders Awards. I had applied to be a mentor and had eagerly awaited news of my acceptance and then who I would be matched with. Knowing a little about the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme meant that I knew that I would be inspired by my new mentee, but the young leader that I was introduced to that Saturday blew me away and she has continued to do so ever since.
I was matched with Tsabi, a computer engineer and PhD candidate in computer science. Tsabi led the team that founded the Her Chance to Be Foundation, an organisation committed to improving the lives of women and girls in Lesotho, Africa. The foundation supports girls from rural areas to go to Lesotho’s top schools with scholarships and mentoring. Tsabi was also the founder and lead researcher of the Bophelo Haeso Project, which uses mobile technologies to support health education in rural Lesotho.
I was quite chuffed that the complex selection and matching process came up with this match. I admit that I was quite concerned about what I was going to be able to help this amazing women with, and quite excited about what I might learn from her.
Through our mentoring relationship over the last 6 months I have helped Tsabi with building confidence, authentic leadership, purpose, wellbeing and more. At the same time, I have developed my own confidence, authentic leadership, purpose, wellbeing and more. That’s the thing about mentoring, not only does it work, it gets results for both the mentee and mentor.
My perceptions of mentoring have changed. If I had been asked 2 years ago if I had a mentor, I would have said no. I was wrong. I understand now that a mentor is someone that you want to learn from, that you turn to for advice, and that I have lots of mentors. Very few are formal mentoring relationships, most often they are friends, colleagues and acquaintances that I seek out for advice. Thank you to every single one of you, my world would not be the same without you!
I also previously held a perception that mentor matchmaking didn’t work. I was wrong. The process used by the Programme made a perfect match, but we worked at it too. Being matched with Tsabi meant that we had to work through what our purpose would be beyond fulfilling an obligation to the Programme. Our first conversation, after getting to know each other a little, was spent reflecting on where Tsabi was in her career, what she needed help with, and how I could help. That setting of intent was the first secret to our success.
The second secret was good management, we had the structure, accountability for actions, and logistics all in place. They didn’t always work out, with me in Australia and Tsabi in Lesotho or South Africa, and both of us with full schedules, it was bound to not always work out, but the structure and shared accountability saw us through.
The last secret of our success was that we worked out very quickly how much we could learn from each other and that we are both genuinely interested in each other. The Queen’s Young Leaders Programme mentoring has completed, but Tsabi and I are still going strong.
Applications are open now for mentoring the 2017 Queen’s Young Leaders. I encourage everyone with insight and experiences to share with the Commonwealth’s future leaders to take a look here: Be A QYL Mentor