19 Dec Learning Leadership: A Mentor’s Reflection
“I have learned again that more often than not, people have their own answers within and just need an opportunity to reflect openly with someone else.”
Seema is a sensitive, ambitious, intelligent, and resilient young woman with a deep sense of justice and a great deal of courage to reframe adversity as growth opportunities. From Pakistan and studying in Bangladesh, Seema’s goal in life is to apply her knowledge and skills from her studies to advocate for girls and women in Pakistan so that they have access to education and also understand their rights to be independent and make their own decisions. I have been lucky enough to serve as Seema’s mentor for the last two years through Wedu’s Leadership Development program, and through this experience both she and I have benefited from learning about each other’s lives and journeys.
Over the course of our mentorship, Seema and I have chosen to extend our initial mentorship match beyond the initial 8 month cycle several times. This is testament to the strength of our relationship and how each of us continue to grow from our biweekly conversations. During these Skype calls, Seema and I alternate between catching up about her life, learning at university, and progress on short term and long term goals. It’s inspiring to have such impactful conversations about leadership using the stimulus materials and lessons provided by Wedu. In every conversation, I have learned a tremendous amount about both Seema and myself.
Through my mentor relationship with Seema, I have learned an incredible amount about strength, resilience, how different communities function, and how to be a better leader myself. This opportunity has provoked me to reflect on my own experiences and preconceptions about the world. It’s also made me a far better communicator and listener in all areas of my life.
A key takeaway I have gained is the power and joy of listening; most often in our conversations, my role with Seema is to simply listen with all of my heart and then share her own wisdom back to her along with perhaps a question or two to probe for further thinking. Through this, I have learned again that more often than not, people have their own answers within and just need an opportunity to reflect openly with someone else.
When Seema and I first met, she was already doing well in her academic studies as well as being a very active member in her university. Outside of her duties as a student, she is also still closely in touch with her family and our conversations have also often centered around her family in Pakistan. During these two years, I have seen Seema become more mindful and empowered to take control of her life and emotions, in addition to continuing to improve in her academic studies and complete several interesting projects and internships successfully. In the coming months, she will graduate from university and enter the next phase of her life, be it graduate school or employment. I feel privileged to have been a part of her journey so far and look forward to staying in touch with her even if our mentorship may come to an end in the next year.
Being a mentor has been an incredibly rewarding experience, and I encourage anybody with an open heart and open ears to join the program. All it takes is a bit of time, a willingness to learn alongside your mentor, and most importantly, the humility to listen fully and to ask powerful questions. Seema has been a great mentee, and I credit that to her openness to out mentor relationship; by being honest and vulnerable about her life, we have been able to work through different situations together. With consistent communication and empathy for one another when our schedules get busy, we have been able to both have a fruitful mentorship.
About the Author
Teresa Tung is a longtime Wedu Mentor and the Deputy Head of Secondary Curriculum at a private school in Thailand.