Sahera Sumar on how she makes mentoring work both ways

Sahera Sumar on how she makes mentoring work both ways

Take away the expectations and grow something beautiful organically

BY Business Chicks, 8 min READ

Brought to you by our friends at TAFE NSW.

Sahera Sumar is one of the featured entrepreneurs in the TAFE NSW Women in Business Program and after working in over 25 countries, she’s got a few incredible stories to share. One of the core parts of the TAFE NSW program is mentoring and finding your tribe, so we asked Sahera for a few of her tips on building a network who supports and challenges you.

Can you tell us what you’re working on now – ARETE: Full Potential?

Arete: means to live your true potential. I am very excited to launch my online “emPower” coaching circles, for women in business (or on a career path) to accelerate them to positions of leadership and influence. This is open to anyone who wants to work in a small team of women and to fast-track their journey towards their Vision. We work on gaining clarity of purpose, passion and vision, shaping the path to get their and leveraging your strengths, reframing negative self-talk, all the while having a power house of shared wisdom from of women all on a similar journey.

You’ve worked across a variety of industries and roles. Can you tell us a few highlights from your career?

I have had some wonderful experiences working in over 25 countries, with high potentials and leaders from all walks of life. Those that really rock my boat are the programs I have run in the developing world, for example, a World Bank project “Leaders of Change Program” for Government and senior Public servants in Tanzania that went over five years. Also, a women’s empowerment program for female entrepreneurs in Kenya and a capacity building program I ran in remote Kyrgyz Republic in the Pamir Mountains.

How important has mentoring been for you from the mentee and mentor perspective?

Mentoring has been an important element on my journey from both mentee and mentoring perspectives. I have had many informal and diverse role models/mentors over the years, which has been extremely useful to enable me to see what is possible and achievable. I firmly believe that having numerous and varied mentors over your life enables you to draw on their strengths, wisdom and capabilities to develop different aspects of your own capabilities and business. For example, I draw inspiration from one mentor on building brand and influence, whilst another mentor supports me on business development and sometimes is just a sounding board for my many and various ideas.

Mentorship is an age-old concept where more experienced women have supported and enabled younger less experienced ones, sharing their wisdom and enabling them to flourish. I am also a mentor to a few women and I find it just as insightful and energising. I love to share my experiences and see what they can take from it, whilst validating my own achievements and successes through their shared experiences.

If someone is looking for a mentor, how do you suggest they find one (or, ask someone already in their life to help them out)?

If you are looking for a mentor, perhaps first look at your broader network of people who have the skills, attitude, mindset or successes you wish to develop. Initially, its best to start informally meeting up, getting to know each other, building synergy and mutual respect then discussing your challenges and ascertaining the level of time and commitment your potential mentor has to share with you.

Often when you formally ask someone to be your mentor, the implication and responsibility can be daunting for both parties. Informal relationships can be built and developed more easily without expectations and in a space of ease and comfort. You know you have a mentor when the person opens and shares their experience, listens to your challenges and is interested enough to offer genuine solutions and ideas for you to consider. It has to be a mutually beneficial relationship.

What are your best suggestions to maintaining a meaningful and mutually beneficial mentoring relationship?

I have always found that if both the mentor and mentee benefit from the relationship, then the relationship will be easy to maintain and will grow organically and naturally. There should be no power play or expectations but instead deep and meaningful dialogue, engagement and support. You should not feel compelled to implement your mentor’s ideas but should evaluate them for yourself and challenge them where you need to. The purpose of the mentor is to enable and empower you to shape your own journey based on the learnt experience of the other. The journey may be similar, but most often the context is unique to you and therefore you should make your own decisions.

We know you’ve worked with TAFE NSW through their Women in Business Program. What spurred you to join?

I loved the idea that we can inspire and enable more women to take the plunge of going out on their own. Since starting my own business, I have grown so much in learning about myself, expanding my skills and capabilities and self-belief. Also navigating complexities and uncertainty, makes one more resilient and creative. I have been able to take my business in many different directions.

With the Women in Business Program, it is great to have an online platform that you can access anytime and learn from others in business. It is so accessible and easy to navigate, with very useful and relevant content.

What are some changes you’ve been able to implement in your business because of the program?

One of my challenges has been the social media marketing for my business. Through this program I have gained so much clarity and understanding of how best to set this up and manage it on a daily basis. When you are a start up there are many aspects of your business you may not have experienced but knowing that there is a constant resource and its updated regularly, is a great comfort and source of support.

Hear more from Sahera, and other Australian female entrepreneurs in Women in Business. A NSW Government and TAFE NSW fully subsidised* program for women who are looking to establish a micro business, a small business, or who are already operating a business. It’s online and totally flexible, so whether you’re self-isolating or balancing other commitments, you can make it work for you. Learn more and register today. (*eligibility criteria apply) 


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