Take Two

How to do mentoring by long distance

Anthony Vassallo and Jennifer Bisley don’t let being in different cities slow down their mentoring schedule.

By Susan Muldowney

Anthony Vassallo FAIM is the business manager at Redeemer Lutheran College in Brisbane. His mentee, Jennifer Bisley AIMM, is based in Bundaberg as regional manager, curriculum support (North Coast region) at Queensland’s Department of Education and Training. Despite being 360km apart, they have talked 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 AIM’s mentoring program, Member Exchange?

Jennifer Bisley: I wanted someone to talk to on a professional level who was totally impartial. It was great timing because I was experiencing enormous changes at work. Anthony wasn’t playing in my sandpit, so I could speak openly and confidentially with him.

Anthony Vassallo: I worked for many years in German banks where they had apprentices, and I was a mentor then. I found it very satisfying to help people develop their careers. When this AIM opportunity came up, I decided to become involved.

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 helped me to reflect on the type of leader I am and how I can improve.

“When you commit to having a mentor, you commit time to do something for yourself. It’s an investment in your personal and professional growth and in your overall wellbeing.”

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.

Would you recommend the mentor program?

JB: Absolutely. It has been a key component of my leadership journey. Everyone should have a mentor.

AV: Definitely. We don’t always make time for the important things in life. If you’re going to do it, be strict with yourself about making the time.

What did you get out of the program?

JB: I established clear goals and values, and I learned I’m my harshest critic – the mentoring relationship involves a lot of self-reflection.

AV: Mentoring is like a refresher course. When you’re recommending books, articles, TED talks, etc, you revisit them yourself and refresh your own thinking. You also get to meet wonderful people.

Interested in joining AIM Member Exchange as a mentor or mentee? Register at aim.com.au/mentoring.

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