Women Lead Australia Mentorship Program!
You might think that an executive with a Ph.D. and more than 20 years’ experience as an executive at multinational companies would not be excited about an opportunity to work with a mentor, but when I saw that Women Lead Australia was seeking mentees, I thought, sign me up!
At every stage of my career, I have found I have had a lot to learn. First came all the challenges of the first years of my career, and once I got through those, another set of challenges that I had to face as an executive with more complex and sometimes daunting responsibilities. And I was trying to do it while female.
I say that not because I have any reservations about my potential specifically or women’s potential generally, but because my industry, like many industries in Australia, was and is still largely a boy’s club. However far you’ve risen as a woman, the chances are good you got there with a smaller network of mentors, colleagues, and sponsors than your male counterparts have, and with less help and advice.
Joining the first edition of the Women Lead Australia program in 2015 changed that dynamic for me, by making my learning curve just a little less steep. My mentor Guido, a CFO based in Sydney, gave me a lot of advice that helped me reach the two most pressing career goals I faced at that time: to build the world’s first sector-wide, collaborative food innovation hub for the global company at which I was then working (this has now evolved into the Monash Food Innovation Centre -- an independent innovation platform hosted by Monash University), and to start a second career as a member of executive boards.
Guido was invaluable on both counts. He gave me very wise counsel on how to build a multiple-stakeholder consensus on an innovation project for the global company I was working for, and at the same time, introduced me to a number of people who were very involved in the executive board world.
Giving back and getting more
His advice, combined with the events and guided exercises of WLA, helped accelerate my career so much that when the second chapter of the WLA program was announced in 2017, I wanted to pay back a little what I had been given, so I asked WLA to take me on again, this time as a mentor.
And this went so well that I am now on my second round of mentorship, and my third time as a participant of the Women Lead Australia program.
Interestingly, although I started this with no expectation that there would be much value for me in being a mentor beyond the satisfaction of helping someone, my mentees taught me as much as I taught them, by leading me to focus on important issues I had not been thinking about very much.
This year, for example, my mentee has talked mostly about finding better ways to integrate her personal and professional career, and I think once again, I’m learning as much from her as she is learning from me. In asking for help to think through better boundaries in her personal and professional life, she has helped me reflect on the value of being truly present, truly at the moment: If you are at work, be at work, and if you are at home, be at home. Don’t try to be in two places at once. In the office, even a simple thing like not checking your email at a meeting can make a huge difference in your productivity, happiness, and the happiness of the people around you.
An ear-to-ear smile
I can’t tell you how fulfilling some of our talks have been. We’ve had some wonderful breakfast sessions. At 7:30, we meet for a coffee, and for the whole day after that, I have an ear-to-ear smile. The satisfaction of feeling useful, making a new friend, and picking up some useful insights – with all those pluses, why wouldn’t you sign up?
Dr. Angeline Achariya is currently Executive Director for Innovation at Simplot Australia, a leading food manufacturer and producer of a number of leading brands. She also serves on a number of corporate boards. She works in Melbourne.