Marama Alliance UK
Mentoring - The Gift that Keeps on Giving (Part. 2)
LISA LAGILAGI - MENTOR
Lisa Lagilagi is a UK civil servant in a middle management role that involves people and project management. She is a lawyer by profession, and worked for Native Land Trust Board (now iTaukei Land Trust Board) whilst she was in Fiji.
Lisa got in touch with Marama Alliance UK when we launched the Mentoring Programme, expressing her interest in becoming a mentor. Through our discussions, I was able to ascertain early on that she possessed the right reasons and values, which are essential for a mentoring programme.
She understood the importance of confidentiality, she was confident and had prior mentoring experience, equally important for steering their mentoring relationship in the right direction, requiring minimum support from myself. She shares her mentoring reflections below:
Reflections on becoming a Mentor under the Marama UK Alliance (MAUK)
In August 2019 I was introduced to the concept of the Marama Alliance UK by a close friend. After following the alliance on social media, I was fascinated by the content and positive and empowering vibes of this group of women cheering each other and themselves on in their common yet different endeavours. I could identify with each and every woman I read about and followed on this platform. So, when I saw an opening in the mentoring program, I jumped at the opportunity of becoming a mentor, as I felt that it was a good opportunity to maybe impart some of my experiences and knowledge if not just as an act of giving back to my community.
Relationships provide a good platform for learning, so I also saw this as an opportunity to learn, as although I had just become a first-time mentee myself to a Senior Civil Servant, I had not been involved in a formal mentoring program before. I have however over the years of living in the UK assisted when I can with employment applications, letter writing and general advice on subjects I am familiar with, so I saw this as a form of mentoring, although informal; and I felt that apart from sharing my own experience in my personal journey career wise, this was an area where I could benefit the mentee the most. I anticipated that the experience was going to provide a learning curve for myself, and one which I intended to enjoy.
After starting a family and moving to the UK, I took a career break to raise my son full time for 6 years, before I joined the Civil Service into a middle management role; and so my aim for joining the mentorship program was hopefully to meet someone who like me, held a professional career in Fiji or outside of the UK, and maybe took a long (or short) career break like I did, and was looking to rebuild a meaningful career in the Civil Service. I hoped to impart experiences and knowledge that I could, if there was an interest. There was interest indeed, and I was matched up with Sisi.
We were strangers before our mentoring relationship. I expected that for both of us, it was going to be an experience of self discovery. I later found out that Sisi and I joined the programme for very much the same reasons. And like myself, Sisi is a private person, so putting herself out there was a brave thing to do, and I commend Sisi for allowing the relationship to begin. Maintaining a friendly but professional approach, and setting boundaries is key (I like to think this was established during our first meet and it was more of a meeting of the minds than anything). I was also mindful that the mentor/mentee relationship is based around the needs of the mentee and the mentor being able to provide the necessary support to meet those needs. Support can vary from being a sounding board, signposting, and also providing other face to face opportunities like shadowing - but otherwise the experience is tailored around the needs of the mentee. Our first meeting was over food :-) as we do! And so, food and (soft) drinks provided the perfect ice breaker to begin our relationship.
Sisi was lucky to have already held a role in the semi private sector and was looking to join the Civil Service. It didn't take long (and without any input from me at all) for Sisi to find herself a role in the Civil Service shortly thereafter. From the very outset my relationship with Sisi has been more of me being a sounding board to Sisi's thoughts, aspirations and ideas and adding to them suggestions, guidance and advise (if I can call it that) when required, and especially so during the transition from her previous role to her current role. We meet up when we can but also stay in touch via the telephone, emails and Skype. The mentoring experience is ongoing between Sisi and myself, and I do not intend to ever stop supporting Sisi in any way I can.
From our relationship I have learnt that as human beings we are all the same - life is all about the grind! Whether its grinding at home looking after all the little people and the loved ones, or grinding at the beach taking a break from it all, or grinding at a paid job, its all about moving forward in a direction that satisfies your needs. Why needs? Because needs are essential, they absolutely have to be met - and I believe that having a 'purpose' is a basic need. Purpose always give us a reason to do something, it keeps us going. As a woman I like to think that I respect that in other women - I respect their 'grind' or their 'purpose' whatever it may be; and that although our grind maybe different, we are all the same - we all have needs, wants, dreams, we all face mountains and valleys - once we respect that, we can then begin to know where to fit in - to expand our purpose to include helping each other grind better.
What I have learnt from Sisi, is that as a strong woman she knows her way; and I believe most women out there are strong and they know their way; the mentoring relationship therefore serves to provide a safe space of affirmation, of encouragement, and of healthy challenge - the kind of challenge that instigates development and growth. Like any relationship, it is a two-way street and takes commitment from both to have the relationship thrive. I further commend Sisi for her commitment, in allowing the relationship to be successful.
It has been an enriching experience for myself, I have learnt so much from Sisi and from our relationship, and the feedback I have received from Sisi reflects the same sentiments. I would like to commend Leonora and MAUK for providing an opportunity for learning and growth for both Sisi and myself. Kudos to all the strong women out there - keep on grinding!
Lisa Lagilagi - Bulford, Wiltshire UK
SISI SERU - MENTEE
Sisi was matched up with Lisa, whom she didn't know prior to their initial meeting. She introduces herself and shares some invaluable feedback below:
I am a mother to one “super-active” almost 6 year old boy. Married to an amazing husband. Working mother and a struggling part-time Legal Secretarial student. Together, we make #teamseru! I am passionate about cooking and baking, and I also enjoy playing netball.
My strengths and skills lie mostly in the Administration sector. I am a civil servant, currently a PA to a Brigadier, who is the Head of Legal Advisory for the Directorate of Army Legal Services, at Army Headquarters based in Andover.
I was adamant to not pursue this Mentoring Programme only because it was something I didn’t see myself doing or didn’t think I would one day do. However, embarking on this Programme was the best decision I felt I made on a more personal level. This has enabled me to grow, learn and develop. It has been a great first experience!
My feedback below:
1. What is the one thing - key insight, best advice, or invaluable lesson, ‘takeaway’ message you gained from your mentoring sessions and whole experience as a mentee?
“Being Yourself” – This was the greatest take away for me from these 6 months. Being Yourself – was about the “Be You” experience. I was able to develop and enhance my skills – both personally and professionally and most importantly gain confidence to believe that I was able to trust and have faith in or rely on my Mentor & the Programme.
2. Would you recommend mentoring to your peers or friends? And why?
Absolutely! To be honest this was not my cup of tea but it turned out to be a great learning experience. But as a Mentee, I would recommend mentoring because, you are able to take responsibility of your own learning and develope trust, this did not come naturally or automatically, but it required work where it had to be developed and nurtured. Most importantly, I have managed to build a great personal relationship with my Mentor.
3. Do you have any suggestions for improving our mentoring programme?
I just have one suggestion. The 6 months is a long time and because this was the first programme, I would have liked to have seen like a Tracking Progress type of process where a generic email or update would have been sent out to both Mentors & Mentees with a short survey type to gain some feedback on their experiences along the way. And I feel that these short questions, at the end of the 6 months only, don’t do this great Mentoring Programme justice.
Sisi Seru - Tidworth, Wiltshire UK