10/04/2019 by Andy Winterburgh
MENTORING can change your career in ways you never thought possible. Whether mentor or mentee the benefits of becoming involved in this kind of relationship can broaden your horizons, take you out of your comfort zone and help you think in ways you had never considered. Valeria Locatelli, Audit Director for a large financial services organisation and Michael Woods who is an Associate from BNY Mellon met through a mentoring program which pairs individuals from different organisations with particular focus on D&I, here they tell us more about how the mentoring came about and what they have gained from mentoring.
Several years ago the British Banking Association launched an industry mentoring initiative which was sponsored by my employer at the time and I was encouraged to take part. My biggest learning at the time was understanding, and putting into practice, that mentoring is not about telling others what to do, but to transfer knowledge and skills to enable better decision making.
My interest in mentoring comes from my belief in the power of storytelling: I was brought up to believe everything is possible and I have always approached life’s challenges with that in mind. The downside of this has been that I often learnt, and still do, from my mistakes, something that can be rather painful! By sharing my stories, I want to inspire in others my belief that everything is possible, and get them to have a smoother ride, with fewer bumps and more fun!
Mentees often come to me with a very immediate problem to resolve, for example how to get promoted, move to a different role or tackle difficult relationships with colleagues. As a Mentor, I offer two things: diversity of thought and a safe environment where to share concerns.
Diversity of thought is very important: the questions I pose are Is the problem really a problem? Does it reflect the individual’s own objectives or those imposed by others/the environment they are in? Once the objective is achieved, what next? I draw from my own experience in the workplace, and neuroscience pragmatic models to encourage critical thinking, and each session normally ends with a list of actions for the mentee to take away and work on until we meet again.
The environment we live and operate in, work, family and our social circle, can inhibit, rather than encourage, critical thinking on career options and life choices. This is where the safe environment comes in. Talking to someone external and independent to the problem at hand provides a fresh pair of eyes, with which to look at things anew. Often, things that had been dismissed become important, and others that seemed impossible become a possibility. In its simplest form, it allows the mentee to access new skills that enable better analysis and resolution of the problem.
When I met with Michael he was interested in talking to me about Diversity & Inclusion, and how he could do more in this space. I’d like to think through our relationship Michael got some insights into what Diversity and Inclusion respectively mean, and into the various initiatives available in the industry. Michael and I also talked about what inclusive leadership looks like and I hope our discussion has supported his own development in this regard.
I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Michael. We both share a keen interest in social mobility and inspiring others in believing in their abilities. By talking to Michael, I have often found myself vocalising thoughts and experiences that, until that point, had only been in my head. Our open discussions and his thoughts and contributions have allowed me to test and develop my thought process several times. Like all reverse mentoring relationships, Michael has also given me a glimpse into what his generation is looking for in the workplace, enabling me to remain a relevant leader, rather than stuck in my ways.
I have been in a client facing role for just over 18 months having completed my organisation's Graduate programme. Still in the early stages of my career, my initial focus was on developing technical skills and knowledge that help me in my day-to-day role, however, I also felt it important to build my understanding of wider agenda’s that impact our organisations from a Diversity and Inclusion perspective.
Of particular interest was social mobility given my upbringing in a northern, predominantly working-class community. I became involved in a number of the employee resource groups (supporting D&I agendas) within my organisation.
I think everyone wants to feel they are having a positive impact through their work beyond doing a great job within their normal role. The opportunity to help shape our organisations in the future through embedding positive behaviours and values is a key driver for me.
As I learned more about different diversity and inclusion groups within our organisation, often, my pre-held views were challenged or reversed. This really made me think about why I held these views and how they were formed. I recognised that these were unconsciously inhibiting my ability to make balanced decisions.
My hope was that through mentoring I would be able to firstly explore many of these themes, and secondly, to begin to identify my own drivers and biases, understand where they come from and in turn, learn to understand the impact they have on my behaviours/ decision making.
Valeria has helped me to identify my drivers, unconscious biases and recognise the effect these have on my decision making. This understanding is hugely important in my day to day role. It enables me to make more considered and rational decisions but more importantly, it has an impact on the way I work with those around me.
Beyond this, Valeria has encouraged me to support the agendas I am passionate about, introducing me to a number of foundations and organisations linked to social mobility. This combines my professional and personal goals and so is hugely important to me.
In our very first meeting, Valeria asked a simple question about a comment I made which fundamentally changed the way I think about other people’s motivations and ambitions. It was a lightbulb moment, and as always when working with Valeria, there have been many more since that point too.
Valeria is a neuroscientist, psychologist, coach, mentor… and a Chief Auditor. Her knowledge and passion are incredible. In her mentoring sessions, Valeria creates an environment in which you can challenge and be challenged. She openly shares based on her own experience and couples that with deep knowledge of the theory and practical measures you can implement to achieve the desired result.
I feel very fortunate and thankful to have Valeria as a mentor. She has had a huge impact on me both professionally and personally. When I speak those that work with her I see that she has the same impact on everyone she meets.