At 23, Najah Ayoub became the sole marketing coordinator in the Australian office of a multi-national technology company. She decided she needed a mentor and met marketing consultant Caroline Lewis earlier this year. They tell their story to Women’s Agenda.
Najah Ayoub, marketing coordinator, QAD
I joined the Sydney office of the LA headquartered software company, QAD fresh out of university. It’s been a crazy, whirlwind journey ever since, and I’ve been given an incredible amount of responsibility looking after all things marketing for Australia and New Zealand.
I really wanted a mentor initially because I had no idea how I was going to tackle all the work ahead of me in my current role. All I knew is that I wanted to be successful; I wanted to know how I could build my skills, confidence so that i can differentiate myself in any role in any industry. I knew that to get there I was going to have to leverage the experience and knowledge of someone who had been there and done that all before.
When I first met Caroline (they were paired via the Network Central mentoring program) I was a little intimidated. At the meet and greet dinner she put her hand up and said “I think it’s really important that mentees have clear goals”, and I thought “Oh dear, I’m going to waste this woman’s time!”
Just before our first official one-on-one meeting, I had broken up with my long-term boyfriend so all I could think was, “she already thinks I have no goals, now she’s going to see me and I’ll be a complete mess”. I am the sort of person who shares themselves, I do not hold back. Obviously I don’t share every minor detail of my life with Caroline, but being honest and not pretending to be something I’m not has really help me get a lot out of our relationship. Caroline always shares with me the importance of being honest with yourself.
When we catch up, usually on a fortnightly basis, the first thing on the agenda is life, and then we get into the particulars like certain campaigns I might be working on and practical ideas for better executing my activities in my current role. It’s about delivering on the short term goals, while establishing long term career planning goals.
She taught me that you have to grow yourself holistically, that it’s not just about how you build yourself in your jobs but all areas of your life. She told me she could help me build business contacts, and we could discuss the particulars of marketing, but what our relationship would be about is how I could learn to set myself apart in the work place.
A part of me thinks I’m taking so much from her, she is an amazing women. I’m only 23, what could I possibly offer? But then I realize there are certain things I can give: I’m energetic, I think differently. Caroline is human just like me, so I try not to get intimidated by her, but it is hard when your mentor is everything you aspire to be.
I feel really grateful that I’ve gone through this experience. The amount of knowledge that’s been passed on, and the relationship I have with Caroline, is really helping me in all areas of my life — not only work. When I sit in a boardroom in a male dominated industry, with co workers with years of experience it’s easy when you’re young and you’ve just come out of university to take things personally and become easily intimidated. Having a mentor explain that certain behaviours are more about the corporate world rather than a reflection on you, can really help your confidence.
Caroline’s really puts things into perspective for me. She has become a sounding board and my reality check. I look at my career in a completely different way now partly because of this experience.
Caroline Lewis, principal and project manager of Chaos2Order Creative Solutions:
A friend of mine, pairing for the Network Central mentoring program, said she had somebody perfect for me. I met Najah and liked her immediately.
We got to know each other fast. At our first meeting, having just gone through a personal crisis, she remained completely professional while telling me what had happened. I just hugged her and then we just got on with having our meeting! What a start!
The first ‘trimester’ of our relationship was learning about Najah as a person; her life, background and upbringing as well as her present working conditions. Najah has an amazing strength and intelligence, grasping and learning things easily, skills she can take with her wherever she goes.
The second part of our relationship was focused on her current work situation; improving working relationships, dealing with potentially difficult situations, offering my network of suppliers for conference organising or to produce marketing materials, adding to her skills.
The final part of the relationship, where we are heading now, at least for the structured part (of the mentoring program), is about executing goals, empowering her to go off and choose her own path now that she has become a more holistic person, more understanding, confident and focused.
Najah’s the 13th person I’ve mentored in as many years (in an official capacity), with only one that didn’t go so well – mainly because she didn’t have an agenda. I always say before the first meeting, “Come to me with your objectives and what you want to achieve.” If someone’s fuddling around, I can’t really help them because they’re not helping themselves.
I’m not a run-of-the-mill mentor, I don’t tell them to follow a certain career path. In fact, I’ve never planned my career or been to an interview in my life. I like to help a person as a whole; help them understand how to manage their time, their relationships and their work.
It’s so rewarding to know I’ve possibly made a difference to someone’s life. Jobs will come and go, but I believe it’s the personal development that’s really important.
I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile when people act on what we talk about. It’s nice to have someone who’s almost like a daughter, actually say, “That’s amazing, thank you! I can see where that realisation is going to take me.”
I’ve asked Najah to come and mentor my 16-year-old! I think she’s wonderful and she has a great future. Wait and see!