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Mentoring: Leigh and Natasha

When Natasha signed up for the AWA Mentoring Program, she expected an opportunity to grow professionally, but ended up finding a lot more. Leigh has helped Natasha focus on what he’s found to be the key ingredients required to build a happy and meaningful career and, in turn, Natasha’s enthusiasm has found Leigh reflecting on his own career and exploring the insights he has to offer.

When Natasha signed up for the AWA Mentoring Program, she expected an opportunity to grow professionally, but ended up finding a lot more. Leigh has helped Natasha focus on what he’s found to be the key ingredients required to build a happy and meaningful career and, in turn, Natasha’s enthusiasm has found Leigh reflecting on his own career and exploring the insights he has to offer. Mentor: Leigh Smith

Area Lead – Waterways Asset Management, Melbourne Water

I’m at the point in my career where I want to broaden my industry involvement and exposure. I’ve got a good network, and I’ve benefited from the advice of a number of people across the industry throughout 

my career and I wanted to share my experience. I was approached by a colleague who was involved with AWA and she said, “I think you’d be really great. You’d make a really good mentor, you should check out the mentoring program from AWA.” That’s what got me in the door.

With Natasha being quite early in her career, it’s fair to say she has a broad interest. We have informal catch ups. We chat about what we’re both interested in, and what’s brought us to where we are today from a career and life point of view.

We have a lot in common in terms of the experience that I’ve had through my career and the career aspirations that Natasha has. We’ve been quite well matched; there’s a lot of alignment between what I feel I can share and what Natasha has come to the program needing.

At the moment, Natasha’s trying to find her feet; does she want to specialise and be a technical expert, or does she want a bit of diversity, or does she ultimately want to move into leadership? Natasha is interested in a lot of things. At the moment, our conversations explore the whole spectrum, which is really good.

Natasha is very personable and she’s very knowledgeable. We are currently working on helping her back herself more and build that self-confidence. She applied to be on the AWA Victorian committee and got accepted, which is tremendous. I could tell she had that real confidence boost because she contacted me right away and was very enthusiastic about it.

Natasha has been a great mentee because she’s engaged and she really wants to get the most out of the program. It’s not a token gesture on her part, she’s come wanting to share who she is, which makes it a lot easier to help her get what she wants out of it. I think she’s got a lot of potential and will be a great asset to the industry.

From the mentor’s perspective, being matched with someone whose development needs and early career aspirations are aligned with my capabilities and experiences was a really enriching experience. As a mentor you feel that you have something valuable to offer, that’s a really key part of it, and the AWA does really well in getting the match right.

Working closely with a mentee from across the industry greatly benefits me as a mentor because they continually bring you an interesting perspective and challenging discussion – it keeps you fresh. It’s reminded me of what it was like when I started off in my career. It’s an opportunity to reflect, look back on your career and then share that with someone. The selling point is that it’s not a one-way thing. As a mentor, you get a lot
out of it as well. You get that feel-good factor from helping someone, but they also challenge you as well – the best way to learn is indeed to teach.

When Natasha signed up for the AWA Mentoring Program, she expected an opportunity to grow professionally, but ended up finding a lot more. Leigh has helped Natasha focus on what he’s found to be the key ingredients required to build a happy and meaningful career and, in turn, Natasha’s enthusiasm has found Leigh reflecting on his own career and exploring the insights he has to offer.

MenteeNatasha Sertori

Project Officer, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

Before moving to my current role with DELWP, I was at Gippsland Water in the environmental science team. I  was working in environmental science, both in environmental governance and later in the wastewater team. My current work at DELWP is in the Water and Catchments Group, in the Water Resource Assessment and Planning branch.

I joined the AWA at the start of this year and went to a couple of events. I’d noticed people mentioning mentoring programs here and there, and then the AWA Mentoring Program popped up and I thought it seemed like a really good fit for me.

Leigh and I have a pretty informal mentoring relationship. Through early conversations, we found that we have common professional interests and goals, as well as similar career paths. Once we established that, it became really easy to talk about setting future goals.

Leigh has helped me with identifying my priorities and clear steps, as well as focusing on being a bit more strategic regarding career moves – working out if something is actually right for me instead of just taking the next thing that comes along. We started our mentoring partnership six months into my new role. The work that I do now changes quite a bit. It’s quite a busy project. It’s been really good to tell Leigh what’s going on with me and get advice then and there. Leigh really understands the challenges involved in career transition and having a mentor that can give me advice that’s directly relevant to my situation is really helpful.

We did a few career planning exercises. We talked about considering not just the specific role you want, but also the kind of work you want and how you want work to be a part of your life. And a lot of that was relating back to my personal needs and goals. Leigh helped me work out how to balance all of these priorities more effectively.

Just because a job title sounds good, doesn’t mean it aligns with what you want to contribute and what you need from a role. This has spilled over into my personal goals as well: to reflect on why we’re doing what we do and what keeps us motivated to keep going.

I’ve learned so much from pairing up with someone who is not from my organisation. It’s been good to learn from another perspective. Overall, it’s been about having good connections with people, creating new connections, both with Leigh and then through getting more involved with the AWA network in general, it’s been such a supportive environment.

I would definitely recommend the Mentoring Program, but it is one of those things: if you want to get a lot out of it, the opportunity is there and you really can, but you’ve got to put the effort in.

To get involved in the Australian Water Association's mentoring program, contact your local branch.