Anthony Vassallo is the business manager at Redeemer Lutheran College in Brisbane. His mentee, Jennifer Bisley, is based in Bundaberg as regional manager, curriculum support (North Coast region) at Queensland’s Department of Education and Training. Despite being 380km apart, they have been talking together each fortnight for the past year to set goals, discuss challenges and share ideas. Vassallo says mentoring is “a valuable refresher course” and Bisley believes it’s an essential part of professional and personal growth.
Why did you join the mentor program?
Jennifer Bisley: Most leaders have mentors – some have more than one. I wanted someone totally impartial to talk to on a professional level who had nothing to gain from our conversations. When the opportunity presented itself, it was great timing because I was experiencing enormous changes at work. Anthony wasn’t playing in my sandpit, so I could say what was on my mind.
Anthony Vassallo: I worked for many years in German banks where they had traineeships, and I was a mentor then. I found it very satisfying to help people in their career. When the opportunity came up again, I decided to become involved.
What is the value of a mentoring relationship?
JB: When you commit to having a mentor, you commit time to do something for yourself. It means you can’t take that phone call or check your email during the hour that you’ve dedicated to mentoring. It’s an investment in your personal and professional growth and in your overall wellbeing.
AV: Discussions generally start with leadership and management strategy, and then evolve into personal reflection, which is important for any leader. My discussions with Jenny included the things she wanted to achieve as a person; hopefully that was rewarding for her.
What did you learn from each other?
JB: What didn’t I learn! I learned practical applications for my role. Through Anthony, I was able to look at challenges or problems through a different lens.
AV: Jenny thinks a lot about the kind of leader she wants to be and this made me think what kind of leader I am and how I can improve.
What did you get out of the program?
JB: I was able to establish clear goals and values. I also learned that I’m my harshest critic and the mentoring relationship involves a lot of self-reflection.
AV: Mentoring is like a refresher course. When you’re recommending books or papers or TED talks, you revisit them yourself and it helps to refresh your ideas.
Would you recommend the mentor program to others?
JB: Absolutely. It has been a key component of my leadership journey. Everyone should have a mentor.
AV: It’s been very good for me and I’d certainly recommend it. Like a lot of things in life, it’s good for you but you don’t often make time for it. If you’re going to do it, be strict with yourself about making the time.