Mentorship is sometimes seen as a simple and personal gesture, but also has a powerful butterfly effect in shaping and influencing the lives of both the mentor and mentee.
As women facing different demands both personally and professionally, it’s important that we build each other up, support each other’s career development, and make time to share our knowledge and skills.
Casherine Goh and Keerthana Janmugam were one of the mentor-mentee pairs in the fourth run of YWLC’s Pay It Forward Mentorship Programme. In this exclusive interview, they share their experiences, the challenges of maximising their interactions with one another amid the circuit breaker period, and what they have learnt from each other through the programme.
Casherine (L) and Keerthana (R)
With the mentorship programme taking place over the course of Covid-19 and the circuit breaker period, how did you maximise your time with your mentor/mentee (e.g. through virtual sessions or check-ins)?
Keerthana: We kept in constant communication via WhatsApp and if necessary, would arrange for zoom call. Casherine would constantly drop me a text to check up on me, sending me tips and advice whenever I needed them. She would even go out of her way to make sure that I was well prepared for my job interviews. I even gained a very big job opportunity because of her.
Casherine: At the start of our mentorship journey, Keerthana and I set very distinct short-term and long-term goals for career advancement, getting her first job, and building a personal brand. These then helped us to align our conversations and ensured that we made the best out of the experience. We stayed in touch all the time through calls via zoom or mobile, or through text.
I'm very heartened that in such a short period of time, we successfully achieved all the goals we set out to achieve.
Keerthana, on her experience as a mentee
What does mentorship mean to you, personally and professionally?
Personally, mentorship is learning from each other and bringing out the best from each other. Through this experience, I learnt from Casherine that mentorship is a two-way street; just like any other relationship, it takes effort from both parties to make it work.
With Casherine, I could be myself, without feeling embarrassed about my weaknesses as she always offered me a different perspective.
Professionally, I feel that a mentor helped me reach my potential by giving me advice or sharing life lessons that would aid me in my professional journey.
What is one significant thing that you have learnt from your mentor?
Everyone needs a Casherine in their life to motivate them and push them forward when things don’t seem to fall right. She played a very big role in helping me transition from university to the working world. I am very grateful for her unconditional advice throughout the mentorship run without any judgements.
If you could sum up your experience as a mentee for PIF 2020 in a hashtag, what would it be and why?
#LifelongFriendship. Even after PIF 2020 ended, Casherine would still check on me to see how I’m doing. She continues to send me opportunities that she believes would be useful for my personal growth. Aside from gaining a mentor, I have also gained a big sister and a lifelong friend.
Casherine, on her experience as a mentor
What were some of the challenges that you faced and how did the two of you work out the best way forward to ensure you kept in touch and engaged with each other?
The lack of in-person interaction during the circuit breaker period was definitely my biggest concern at the start. I was worried it would affect our communication and relationship.
Thankfully, Keerthana and I had great chemistry and she was very proactive in reaching out whenever she needed help. I can vividly recall that just a couple of days after we first connected with one another over text, she reached out via Zoom to ask for advice on how to prepare for an upcoming interview.
We used Zoom for face-to-face interactions; WhatsApp as our primary mode of communication (for casual conversations and discussions); and email for more formal correspondence (for example, aligning our mentorship goals with one another, giving feedback on her resume etc.) After the circuit breaker period, we finally had the chance to catch up with each other in person over brunch!
I believe what made us overcome the challenge of being physically apart was that we were communicating with each other regularly, checking in, and clarifying our views and opinions with one another. This way, it kept us on the same page constantly.
What does mentorship mean to you, personally and professionally?
I strongly believe that mentorship is a two-way street and the strength of the relationship is built on a foundation of trust and respect.
Personally, I felt a deep sense of fulfilment from paying it forward and helping to champion Keerthana’s success and milestones. To have a positive influence and impact on someone’s growth and development was the most rewarding experience. In fact, it has inspired me so much that I have recently assumed a leadership role with another non-profit organisation to focus on developing structured mentorship programs over the next year.
Professionally, mentorship has given me an opportunity to expand my knowledge (i.e. gain insights into Keerthana’s specialisation in data analytics and technology), and develop my leadership and communication skills. These skills are exceptionally useful at work when I am coaching junior members of the team.
How would you describe your mentorship style?
Looking back, I adopted various mentorship styles over the six months. Most of the time, I was an optimist who wanted to bring out the best in Keerthana by reminding her of her strengths and developing them.
When there was a pressing deadline to the issue we wanted to address, I switched to being more assertive to ensure that outcomes were achieved.
Being a strong believer that everyone is unique, I also made a conscious effort to guide Keerthana in finding her own identity.
What is one significant thing that you have learnt from your mentee?
I am inspired by Keerthana's positivity and inquisitive nature. She is very mature in the way she has dealt with setbacks and always kept a level-headed perspective. In addition, she is always hungry to improve by being open to learning new stuff, receiving feedback and working on them. This served as a reminder to myself to also do the same - to stay positive and curious, both professionally and personally.
If you could sum up your experience as a mentor for PIF 2020 in a hashtag, what would it be and why?
#Fulfilling. Be a mentor. You will gain as much as you give.
The 5th cycle of the Pay It Forward Mentorship Programme is organised by members of YWLC’s Community Engagement subcommittee in conjunction with partners ITE Central and International Women’s Fund (IWF) Singapore.
Applications for the Pay It Forward Mentorship Programme 2021 closed on 7 March 2021. Look out for more information for the next run on our social media channels next year.
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Organising Committee: Community Engagement
Interviewer: Nisha Rajoo