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Why I’m a mentor: I always wanted to teach

Ian Mathieson FAIM, Managing Director at Mathieson Management, mentored Dr Sashi Sivathasan FAIM, the Deputy Director at the Faculty of Engineering, Science, Architecture and Industry at TAFE Queensland in AIM’s mentoring program. The pair discuss the benefits of their mentor-mentee relationship.

Tell us a little bit about your job and background…

Sashi Sivathasan: I completed my PhD studies in engineering/science at Oxford University in 2008. I was a college lecturer at Oxford and later a lecturer and a senior lecturer at universities in Malaysia and Australia where I also took department and program head roles. I completed my MBA in 2012, and in 2013 I became director of the School of Engineering and Architecture at Southbank Institute of Technology in Brisbane. Since January, I’ve been deputy director of the Faculty of Engineering, Science, Architecture and Industry at TAFE Queensland.

Ian Mathieson: I spent 10 years working as an economist in the Prime Minister’s department before buying my dad’s rural supply business and running that for 10 years – I broke up the business into a number of mum’s and dad’s businesses and kept the steel fabricating business which employed about 80 people. Then, in 1986, I went into consulting. I’ve been involved in fixing about five or six businesses.

Why are you a mentor-mentee?

SS: I wanted guidance on areas to develop and also because just talking to people shows you different opportunities and ways of thinking. They might have ideas you’ve never even considered.

IM: I wanted to be a teacher when I was a kid but my dad wouldn’t let me. Most of the management work I do involves mentoring. Sometimes I’m commissioned specifically for it and other times it’s inherent in the process.

Sharing your weaknesses and the challenges you face can be really daunting. But the only way to succeed is to be really open and honest.

How did you get together?

SS: When I was notified Ian would be my mentor I emailed him to arrange to meet up for coffee. It was a bit like a blind date. You read the profile but you don’t know what to expect. I liked his experience in management positions and that he had his own consultancy. So that really attracted me. I’d never thought of consultancy as a career.

We discussed our careers and our expectations of the mentoring relationship.

IM: I got a letter that said: ‘What about Sashi?’

I wouldn’t have said ‘no’. It wasn’t a dance in that respect. We met and talked about his history, education and employment and the ground rules around monthly meetings and other exchanges by email and phone, commitment to the process and confidentiality.

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