Everyone has their own experience of mentoring, but it’s likely we’ve all had a mentor at some point in our lives. Getting a foothold in the industry you desire after graduating can be daunting and overwhelming and it can take a few years to really find your feet.
We sat down with Stephanie OIivier to learn more about her experience of mentoring.
After completing her studies and entering the pulp and paper industry, Stephanie immigrated to Australia and has been working at VISY for the last 9 years in a variety of areas – laboratory, purchasing, bulk chemical coordination, environmental, safety, technical areas.
Looking to enter Management, Stephanie joined the NAWO Mentoring Circles program to become more proficient in her current role as Quality Systems Coordinator at VISY.
Stephanie tells us a bit about the people that have impacted her career to date:
My career has been very dynamic since graduating. I had to change my restrictive tunnel vision thinking from “I can only do what I studied” to “I can do anything I put my mind to”.
I took up job opportunities outside my study field and had to work my way up. In transitioning between the nine positions I filled in two countries, I was able to job coach people taking up my previous roles as well as being job coached by others from whom I am taking over.
Reflecting back, I can now see how the skills and knowledge developed in one job helped opened the door to the next job opportunity broadening my horizon and building my confidence in my work field.
Even though most of my mentoring experiences were in job coaching, I did have several informal mentors along the way to either share their knowledge or keep me motivated (supervisors, colleagues, friends, family). These mentoring relationships normally started when one person is able to share their knowledge, connections or experiences with the other person.
This is the heart of where mentoring stems from – simply, those willing to impart and share their experience with those that want to learn – whether it be in a formal setting or otherwise.
We were keen to learn what drew her to the NAWO program.
I have participated in a one-on-one mentoring program with a leading woman within our organisation a few years ago. It had its own unique benefits and I truly valued the opportunity.
I have however experienced added benefits with the NAWO group setting outside our business with like-minded people from different industries. I valued the openness that it offered, as it were people from other independent businesses.
I found mentoring by a colleague or supervisor could potentially add extra complexity to the relationship that could prohibit open report.
We were able to discuss our shortcomings and discuss how we could support each other in achieving our individual goals. The strengths of one person could be shared with the other mentees in the group, adding a different perspective on the matter.
This is common feedback we receive – that mentoring opens up a line of communication unlike any other relationship in their immediate workplace. It cultivates a supportive environment where an employee can seek honest feedback or advice without any fear of it impacting their role. It results in more engaged employees that are bolder, stronger and more confident in their decision making.
The VISY human resource team with support from top management has placed a strong focus on supporting women in operations. To support this initiative they decided to enrol 5 suitable participants into the NAWO mentoring program.
Going into the program, Stephanie’s Mentoring Circle set goals and expectations for what they wanted to get out of the program, very early on. This ensured the whole group felt prepared and were held accountable.
At our initial opening meeting, we set up the mentoring circle agreement in which we decided the format of our future meetings (duration, communication methods), the roles we are expected to fill as a mentor/mentee, the ground rules to ensure confidentiality and trust in the group.
We all had the opportunity to share what we wanted to gain out of this program. Based on our inputs we jointly planned the dates and topics of our next meetings in advance. This ensured our mentoring circle had structure and each participant understood their accountabilities.
The aim was that by the end of the program we would be in a position to confidently draw on our “skills toolbox” that we built during this process that would, in turn, support us in our careers and everyday life.
Building out each individual’s “skills toolbox” is just such a wonderful way to approach mentoring. As all mentoring relationships are different, finding the right level of structure can sometimes be challenging.
We asked Stephanie about her mentor, Diana Hall, who led the seven women through the program.
My mentor Diana Hall (Castrol) has a wealth of experience that she could share with us. She is kind yet professional and makes us feel at ease to open up and share with the group.
She has this ability to guide conversation by asking the right question at the right time. Instead of her supplying us with the answers upfront, she was able to guide us to discover the right outcome, making the learning our own. She respected each mentees point of view.
In the lead up to International Women’s Day, we asked Stephanie her thoughts on why its important to mentor women.
I will answer this from my perspective in this NAWO mentoring program as a female mentee, being mentored by a female mentor. My mentor Diana Hall has been a real role model and inspiration to me.
By seeing what she has achieved in her career and personal life is very encouraging. I could learn a lot from her and how she composes herself. As we are both women, I could associate with her and she was able to relate with me when she explained certain scenarios in the workplace.
Because of my mentor’s openness, she was able to give us real-life experiences she went through, to enable us to take learnings from it. The contributions made by the other female mentees in the group added different perspectives to challenge the status quo.
This openness that Stephanie describes – to listen, share experience and in turn support are the key ingredients to support women in all industries – in Stephanie’s case, operations.
There are certain aspects of working in operations that may scare potential/new employees off (male & female). This could be anything from the work environment, culture or job expectation.
This is a loss to the company as it has been shown that operations would greatly benefit with improved gender diversity in the workplace. This is mainly due to the unique attributes that each gender/ individual could contribute to the business.
The support from other women in operations (either as a mentor or fellow mentees) that has experience in the industry could help alleviate any concerns they may have and help build confidence. The NAWO mentoring group could provide this support resource to female leaders/professionals that are at early stages of their careers with the aspiration to progress.
The NAWO group was able to instate inclusive leadership cultures/styles in which men and women can thrive in new ways. This, in turn, will help the business to retain and as such attract more women to the business.
Stephanie goes on to tell us about what she has learnt, about mentoring, her preferred mentoring style and the changes she has seen in herself since beginning the program.
Knowledge is power, and this has helped me to be more confident in my actions.
Going into the program, my aim was to develop strategies and skills to assist with daily obstacles/challenges. In our sessions, we often referred to this as building the toolbox that we can later draw on.
Each mentoring objective was approached using the 70:20:10 method (conversation, action and research). This helped me to apply the learnings to my work as well as personal life by evaluating my own situation.
Self-evaluation was a big part of the program to assist in effectively implementing customised strategies to achieve a mutually beneficial goal.
I have learnt a lot about clear communication, personal branding, negotiations and conflict management and resolution. I have also evaluated the attributes that I would like to embrace, the experiences that I would like to gain and knowledge and skills I would like to develop in future.
I have been more aware of my actions and how I present myself. My skills gained in conflict resolution and communication have even helped me outside of work.
NAWO’s flagship mentoring program, offered exclusively to their members, provides executive mentors with the opportunity to partner with a group of 5-8 high potential, mid-career women and guide them through a series of sessions that have the potential to have a profound impact on their future careers.
Mentorloop is proud to be contributing toward filling the pipeline of talented women in operations and strengthening female leadership.