By Tatiana Carter
Experienced journalist and communications specialist Karen Milliner was slightly sceptical when filling out her mentoring application form.
As a first-time mentor, she was curious to see if the science-based algorithm, developed by Brancher, would accurately match her with a mentee.
That question was answered when she was first introduced to Laura Jiew who has a marketing and STEM background.
Women in Media runs a popular, innovative program that provides one-on-one mentoring for women across the country.
Using the Brancher’s platform, 65 pairs participated in the 2020 mentoring program and all who completed our survey were satisfied with their match.
‘Super keen to connect’
From their first meeting, Milliner was confident she could act as a sounding board for Jiew who signed up for the program to strengthen her communication skills.
“I think it [Brancher] did a really great job of pairing us, not just in terms of what I brought to the table as a mentor, but what she was looking for as a mentee,” Milliner said.
Milliner remembers how “beautifully” their personalities matched from the start.
Jiew, who has a background in information security and cybersecurity, was most interesting in learning more about journalism and communications from Milliner.
“I was super keen to connect with professional journalists and communicators,” Jiew said.
I put an application in and threw myself into the ring, so to speak, and was really fortunate to be connected with Karen who’s got about 40 plus years of experience.
“It was exactly what I was looking for.”
While Jiew benefited from mentoring, Milliner also gained from the experience.
“Being able to support, encourage, empower, and nurture Laura into believing in herself has been rewarding to me,” Milliner said.
“Those were my goals with this program that I feel I’ve fulfilled – it’s been rewarding to me from that point of view.”
Under Milliner’s mentorship, Jiew was encouraged to feel confident in her skills and abilities.
“I’ve really benefited from my relationship with Karen and how she’s encouraged me to put myself out there a little more,” Jiew said.
In January, she volunteered to serve on the leadership board of the Australian Women in Security Network.
As part of the national leadership team, she has been helping with social media and marketing strategies for the year.
Now, she is looking to take on a mentorship role of her own and Milliner remains a support.
“I think it’s been great to see her thrive in her volunteer leadership role,” Milliner said.
“I hope I was able to instil confidence in her to take on this additional role.”
When asked if they would recommend this program to others, it was a resounding yes from Milliner and Jiew,
“I’ve actually started verbally recommending the program even when I’m at the café chatting to our local barista!” Jiew said.
‘Nothing’s make or break’
The connection between mentee Anna Levy and mentor Sara Tiefenbrun was undeniably strong.
Experienced television documentary maker and copywriting business owner, Tiefenbrun fondly recalls having the opportunity to mentor someone at an earlier stage in their career.
“It took me back to what it’s like to be in those really pressurised environments,” Tiefenbrun said.
I suppose it reminded me that you shouldn’t fool yourself into thinking that just because someone is younger, their life is free and easy.
“Anna is super bright and she’s probably more committed than I think I was at her stage. She’s really hard working.”
As the mentoring relationship developed, the pair recognised similarities in their personalities, values, approaches to work, and challenges.
Levy said they were “quite similar in many ways”.
“We both are sensitive and value meaningful and wholistic jobs that allow us to balance work and the rest of our lives,” Levy said.
“We’ve found we’ve also faced similar challenges, especially when it comes to putting too much pressure on ourselves.”
To help tackle these challenges. Tiefenbrun encouraged her mentee to focus on the bigger picture and shared for philosophy that “nothing’s make or break”.
“I’ve got so much faith in her,” Tiefenbrun said.
“I think we all struggle with this in our lives but it’s important to take pressure out of individual moments and have a deeper sense of self-belief.
“There’s no doubt that her overall trajectory is going to be good … I would bet a lot of money on Anna!”
Levy recognised the invaluable encouragement provided by her mentor.
“She’s been kind, patient and generous with her time and expertise, often helping me disengage with that anxious voice in my head and see the bigger picture,” Levy said.
In the end the match had helped both women. For Levy, it was a push into a new career opportunity. For Tiefenbrun, it was a reminder of how far she has come.