LCDR Jacqueline Dew – How to get the most out of TFTC
During my 12 months in the TFTC program I have had a really positive experience with my mentor, my mentee cohort and the facilitators of the quarterly sessions. I was very particular in my requirements when I first chatted with Lauren about the kind of mentor I was hoping to be paired with – and Lauren and her team did a terrific job pairing me with Wendy Bourke from BAE Systems.
Wendy and I both technically live in Melbourne, but our work locations are 100km apart from each other. Early in the year, we decided that to get the most out of the program, we would make it a priority to meet face to face whenever possible – and I’m pleased to report that all bar one of our catch-ups have managed to be that way. I think this dedication to meeting face to face was vitally important in the success of my year in the program, and I’m grateful that Wendy and I managed to find a way to make this work for us both. There is great benefit in sitting with your mentor for 90 minutes and discussing your goals, challenges and successes…and I strongly believe that the connection and clarity you get from this style of meeting outweighs just having a conversation on the phone.
During the course of the program, there have been some significant changes in the space I manage at work and the ability to discuss these changes and challenges with someone who understands the context and can offer sage advice and alternatives on how I might navigate the change has been particularly valuable to me.
I feel I have gained a great deal from the program, both personally and professionally…specifically, I believe that my personal levels of stress have decreased as a result of participating in the program, and this benefits me both at work and at home. I believe that I manage the high tempo in my workplace better than I did at the start of the program, and have got much better at prioritising! The insights that I have had into the way I operate as a manager have been particularly beneficial, and I doubt I would have made the time to reflect on them if I hadn’t been meeting up with my mentor each month.
When I entered the program, I have to be honest; I didn’t have specific goals in mind. I knew that I was way too busy whenever I was in the office and I always felt like I was in danger of missing some details that might be important. Working with my mentor has helped me hone my skills and manage more effectively – to put this in context, I am currently the Officer in Charge of the Technical Training Faculty at HMAS Cerberus, and I have 80 staff members and more that 500 students in 8 different variations of initial entry or career training pipelines. At the completion of the program, even though I didn’t have specific career goals, I have much greater clarity on where I am heading now, and how to get there.
I was asked to talk about how to get the best out of the program, and for the new group of mentees and mentors I would say it is all about your commitment to the program. For the mentees – you are in the driving seat, and it is up to you to ensure you have regular contact with your mentor in a way that works for both of you. If you can find a way to meet face to face, in my opinion that is the gold standard you should be aiming for… if that’s not possible, find another way to have the most natural conversation using technology! I found it useful to have a couple of discussion points each time I met with my mentor, and you may wish to share them before your meeting so that your mentor has a chance to prepare and think about relevant experiences they can discuss at your meeting – they may have a few to choose from! Be flexible and keep in mind that your employers have agreed that you are participating in the program – so find some time in the working week that both you and your mentor can focus completely on your meeting.
Ensuring that I was available for the quarterly catch-ups was important – this is a great opportunity to chat with the other mentees in your area and see what is working well for them, and to see if you’re getting the most out of your mentoring relationship. It’s also a great excuse to network with other women in Defence Industry who generally think similarly to you! It’s fantastic to have a group of peers in the same industry who grapple with similar issues, and I know that a number of the women in the Melbourne group who work near each other manage to catch up for the occasional coffee or lunch.
In closing, I have had an extremely beneficial year in the TFTC mentoring program and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my mentor, my mentee peer network, our employers, the sponsors and the TFTC team who have made this all possible. Good luck to all of the new mentees – I truly hope you get as much out of the program as I did.
– From TFTC 2018 Graduation speech
By LCDR Jacqui Dew, Royal Australian Navy