Before meeting my mentor, Jane Lodge, I was really impressed with what I read about her achievements and the various accolades she had collected. She is currently a non-executive director on 4 boards and previous Senior Audit partner at Deloitte, this alone explains why I was feeling pretty nervous (and excited) when I met her for our first meeting in Costa in the Guild.
We began the session with a bit of small talk about how she travelled in and how our respective days had been. Jane immediately made me feel at ease as she has such a calm and relaxed demeanour.
During the meeting that lasted about an hour and half we discussed her experiences at Deloitte, how she first got onto a board and what exactly a board of directors does.
Jane is not only a great communicator but she also listened with great intent when I spoke about my course, interests and professional goals.One thing I noticed about Jane whilst she explained her life choices was that she is a determined person, who thrives on looking for and seizing opportunities in life. For example, she has plans to be a chair of a board in the next few years and it taking proactive steps to achieve them. I think this is a very admirable trait and one that I also hope to mirror in my professional career.
In addition, Jane explained that when she first joined the professional services industry she was keen to get the qualification and not really sure what sector she wanted to specialise in (like me!). Her advice for me was to follow my interests and what I am good at as this can never fail. She explained how she had no previous interest in the manufacturing industry but that she grew to like the sector as factories fascinated her and she liked the fact that they had a tangible product. The sector also made sense as Jane has always been based in the Midlands, where many of the biggest and best manufacturers are.
We also spoke about the skills she thought her 25 years in professional services gave her that make it an attractive sector for graduates.
- Ability to quickly understand a business
- Project management
- Problem-solving and thinking laterally
I was initially afraid it would be difficult for Jane and I to have much in common, but soon realised this was not true. For instance, we both have an interest in travel and I explained my plans on travelling after I graduate to which she responded with some key pointers on things to consider such as budget, how long I want to go for, the weather and of course being well-organised!
Towards the end of the session, Jane quizzed me on why I joined the scheme and what I hoped to get out of it. She was keen to express that the discussion in the sessions are totally up to me and that we can chat on the phone or via email.
My dissertation is on gender inequality on boards in the UK so having Jane, who has first-hand experience of being a non-executive director is fantastic. So far we have been discussing interesting reports and news articles on the topic, back and forth via email.
Overall, I really enjoyed the meeting and learnt a lot from Jane. I was definitely more nervous than I needed to be but I am sure I will be fine the next time I meet her. I am really looking forward to what the rest of the scheme will bring. Next time we meet will be in the New Year and we plan to discuss building my professional network.
Mary Agbesanwa – ALMP Mentee 2015-16