Veronika Stastna, a Lifestyle Product Manager at Top4Sport, joined mentoring to help her settle in her new job. Together with her mentor, Barbora Gerslova, the Country Sustainability Manager at IKEA, they managed to only overcome the various challenges at Verca’s work, and can also confirm that, when it comes to mentoring, preparation is key as you get out as much as you give in.
What inspired you to join the mentoring program?
Veronika: The inspiration behind applying for the Femme Palette mentoring program was my friend. And as I just got a new job, I thought it was the right time to get an external perspective on the challenges I was facing at work as well as to find someone to help me fill my skill gaps.
Barbora: I first saw an ad online which sparked my interest and as I was changing my position, I was looking for an opportunity to keep in touch with my old work and share my knowledge from there. And since I was already mentoring before, I wanted to repeat this joyful and rewarding experience.
What were your expectations before joining the program?
V: At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect. This was my first touchpoint with mentoring, so I was curious to find out what it could teach me, how it could change me, and show how I could improve thanks to that. It has been some time since I left school, so I wanted to know what it would be like to have someone I could rely on and get support from, similar to a teacher.
And how has it changed since you have been matched with your mentor?
V: Mentoring has overcome my expectations because I was able to share anything with Bara. Having a buddy who could help me reach my goals and improve at work was super useful.
What surprised you the most about your mentee?
B: As a mentor, you are expected to share at least one bit of advice that is useful and that is truly rewarding. So that was my expectation and, hopefully, it was met from Verca’s end.
Regarding my mentees, every time I was lucky with the match since all of them were keen to learn, eager to discover new ideas, and were always perfectly prepared. I saw that with Verca at our first chemistry session, that she was very driven and knew what she wanted to achieve.
And regarding the surprises, at our last session, I was pleasantly surprised by how far Verca got in a new position and how confident she became. I still remember having this session on data analysis when I asked her to do an exercise online and despite admitting it was outside of her comfort zone, she still agreed to do it. An attitude like this helped her progress in her career development.
What topics do you cover in your mentoring sessions?
V: We started with the soft topics, such as time management and task scheduling, focusing on priorities as well as project management topics. Bara told me about the new tools which we are now using at our current company as well. Later on, we progressed onto the harder skills, such as data analysis and product development which helped me boost my confidence.
What have you learned from your mentee?
B: It is hard to quantify as I enjoyed every single session, but it was great to watch the new perspectives of Verca. The way she asks questions encourages you to think differently about a common theme, so it was great to have this fresh point of view.
In the beginning, we did a value exercise and it was funny to see how different our values are and yet we got on so well. Both business-wise and career-wise, our thinking is very similar.
What has been the biggest contribution to your career so far?
V: For me, the important thing was to learn about data analysis but there were many other things as well.
What was your favorite mentoring moment?
B: It is hard to choose one as I was looking forward to every session. But the most favorite one was probably the very first meeting when I could see that we clicked almost immediately.
V: I also enjoyed every single session but the most memorable one was the time when we first met in person. It was about halfway through and even though we knew each other well from online, it felt different to meet in person and I loved it.
Is there something you would recommend to mentors & mentees?
B: To mentors, I would recommend just to go for it and be 100% in. Do not neglect the preparation but be also ready to go with the flow. Do not focus only on the goal, but also provide support whenever the mentee needs it. Always be there for them.
And to the mentees, I would also recommend going for it because it’s always useful to have an outsider’s perspective and, as Verca mentioned, having a discussion about your work life with someone who is not your friend or a family is very refreshing. And same as with the mentor, be prepared! Verca was always well-prepared, but if the mentee does not have a clear idea about what they want to get out of it, it is hard to achieve anything at all. So it is crucial to decide for the mentee what they want to get out of the mentoring program at first.
V: My recommendation to the mentees would be to definitely do it because it is a great experience to have someone listen to you with their full attention and give you objective feedback because the conversation is different with a mentor and with a friend. Your friend might not understand exactly what you do at work but your mentor does. And this could be super beneficial to someone who wants to grow and progress in their career.
And to the mentors, I can just say that Bara was always super-prepared and if one wants to improve in leadership or other skills, mentoring is a great means to do so.
Anything else you would like to add?
V: I would like to highlight to any potential mentees that they should not be scared. It can be hard to make that choice, share your fears and open up about challenges, but I strongly encourage you to join. There is no need to be scared at all!
B: I would like to thank Femme Palette for the great match as we clicked almost right away - both personally and professionally.
Thank you for being a fantastic mentoring pair and sharing your mentoring journey with us. Our mission is to help (not only!) women move forward in their careers, and thanks to the wonderful mentors and mentees like you, we are also able to do so. Thank you!