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Improving leadership skills: Maria-Anna & Sofianna's mentoring experience

Written by
Gabriela Dittrichova
Published on
August 10, 2023

Every month, we ask our mentees and mentors about their mentoring experience. In May, we spoke to Maria-Anna Omoscharka, a content manager at GLAMI who got paired up with her mentor, Sofianna Ng, the marketing and communications director at AccelerAsia. Together, they discuss not only various exercises to help Maria-Anna become a better leader, but also share some book tips. They have found that next to professional experience, they also have many personal characteristics in common and that makes this relationship even more special.

What inspired you to join the mentoring program at Femme Palette?

M-A: I knew Femme Palette from previous events, but what encouraged me to join was that I started having more responsibilities at work and needed someone who would allow me and help me grow. Besides, my manager has also participated in the Femme Palette program and having seen her utilised everything she learnt in her day-to-day work inspired me to apply.

S: I was approached by Femme Palette about two years ago and Maria-Anna is my second mentee. I was interested because I benefited from having a mentor myself and was hoping to pay it forward in a way and also to see if I can actually help someone (and hope I have).

M-A: I can definitely confirm that you have given back, Sofianna!

What were your expectations prior to the program?

M-A: I didn’t go in with too many expectations as I knew I would have to do most of the self-development work on my own but I hoped that I would meet someone who’s really inspiring and interested in the same field as I work in, so they could share their experience and know-how on their day-to-day. And that is exactly what I got from Sofianna which I am very grateful for.

What surprised you the most about your mentee?

S: I don’t think there was anything surprising. However, it was great to see there are people who are motivated and have the growth-mindset. When I was in management, I met all sorts of people but once I came to a slightly younger working crowd, there was quite a spectrum. So, when it comes to mentorship, especially here in this part of the world where I’m based (Southeast Asia), I think it’s a little different in terms of the expectations and motivation. In short, it is hard to find people who know what they want and they would often think that a mentor is supposed to help them find the direction - and that gets the wires crossed. Because if you don’t know what line you want to go in, then you might need a coach which is very different from a mentor (read more here). I am very lucky to get paired up with Maria-Anna because she knows what she wants and it is easy to help steer her in the right direction.

What surprised me was probably more about myself and that I was actually able to help somebody; I had imposter syndrome at the beginning, and was unsure whether I would be able to pass on any learnings from my experience. But the only way to find out was to try, so I did.

What else have you learned as a mentor?

S: Besides helping us get further in our career, mentoring can actually help someone with their life. We all have to work, and while work is not life, it forms a large part of it - five days a week is not a small fraction. What I find amazing is that I always thought experience meant the next promotion, next possibility, next new thing that I’m learning, but to see that your experience can also help someone else with their journey is a good feeling.

What topics do you cover in your mentoring sessions?

M-A: The main topic is leadership and then every time we meet we separate it into smaller parts, such as feedback, motivation, work-life balance, etc. We focus on smaller chunks that form together the responsibilities of a leader. One of the things I find fascinating is how my perception of leadership has changed since starting mentoring. It is not all about leading or managing, but giving back, sharing information and - even though I don’t want to overuse the word - inspiration, providing people with a sparkle, and showing them a new aspect of their work.

What have you learnt through the mentoring journey?

S: One of the biggest things for me was to learn that I could help people and add value. And I saw how things that I learnt could be passed on to help someone else. I gave little exercises for Maria-Anna’s team which we would discuss afterwards and it’s great to see that despite the distance, the way people communicate and interact is essentially the same.

What would you recommend to mentors/mentees to do?

S:  Staying objective, using the right language, finding common ground and developing a thorough understanding of each other is very important. We spoke about how Femme Palette works as a kind of match-making service in a way (laughs) because we found a lot of similarities in our characters and interests. For example, the way we read books or the kind of books we pick is very similar. And we have a lot of similarities in the content we consume and enjoy, so that is quite nice and definitely helps.With your mentor/mentee, it is as much about the personal characteristics and interests you share, as the professional experience.

M-A: It's great when you click. Otherwise, it can get very stressful or boring for someone. Connecting on a personal level makes the experience much better, especially now when you can’t really meet many new people; it helps you to make new connections.

What was your favorite mentoring moment?

S: For me, it was about many small moments like finding out that we are similar in many ways. I look forward to our bi-weekly calls. I have friends who are also looking for mentorship and we were comparing what we were going through, and it makes me feel good that the journey I’m on is very pleasant, helpful, and adds value to someone.

Commitment on both sides is very important and what is really nice to find out is that there are people out there looking to help because - especially as females - it can be tough sometimes, so it’s nice to know that there IS help if you need it and that YOU can be part of it.

M-A: I would agree that it’s impossible to pin down one moment. The best thing is that we are excited to meet every other week. I also enjoy being able to take the piece of information I obtain through mentoring and putting it in action. And I love coming back to the mentoring session and discussing how it went.

What else would you like to share?

S: I don’t know what other people’s journeys are like, but I do feel that it is good practice  to have practical exercises, so people can apply what they learnt. I think that if I had these tools when I was starting out as a manager, it would have helped me far better and get me where I wanted to be much faster. The best benefit of mentoring is to learn what the potential juniors want and what they are interested in doing. In a way, it works as data gathering for me.

M-A: Go in with an open mind and be flexible about your goals. And if you don’t click with the mentor, don’t stick it up. Just let people know and make the change because that is the only way to get the most out of mentoring.

You can read about the experience of other mentors and mentees here. And if you would like to join our mentoring program, apply here as a mentee or here as a mentor. We look forward to hearing back from you soon.

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