What is a mentor? Founder and Global CEO of Business Chicks, Emma Isaacs has earned her place as one of the most successful businesswomen in Australia with a combination of hard work, determination and great mentors. Now she’s a MyRoad mentor and ambassador herself. Read more from Emma to find out what mentoring really looks like, and why the benefits of mentoring might surprise you.
I don’t think anyone really knows what they’re going to do when they grow up. Maybe a lucky few, but for the rest of us, our career paths won’t be linear. After all, it’s the curveballs that make us who we are.
When I look back I can see the biggest challenges I faced in the transition from school to the workforce were knowing what I wanted to do and finding role models to show me what was possible.
When I started my entrepreneurial journey I was very young. I had my first business when I was 18, but I had no business experience. I overcame this by trying to present myself more maturely, by finding mentors who could help answer my questions, and above all, working really, really hard.
My very first strong role model was my mother, who is both exceptionally kind and patient. I inherited her kindness but unfortunately not her patience, so learning that was probably the very first piece of great advice.
People often ask me where I get my entrepreneurial spirit from. From an early age my grandfather instilled in me how important it was to be financially independent. But I wanted to learn more, particularly from other women but in my world at the time I didn’t know any women I could consider a mentor.
I deliberately set about looking for female role models in the business world and found a structured mentoring programme to participate in.
As fate would have it I was paired with a woman who couldn’t have been any more different to me, which turned out to be a blessing. I was young, eager and green and she was stern and hardy and the difference in our way of operating lifted me to new levels of leadership and resilience.
Since then I’ve had mentors through other programs, and also through my own relationships. I’ve learned something different from each of the entrepreneurs and business leaders who I’ve worked with and make a point to keep in touch with them, which ultimately was the most effective matching I could have hoped for.
Becoming a mentor for Coca-Cola and Beacon Foundation’s MyRoad was an easy decision to make. I have a relentless travel schedule and work long hours, so making time for mentees was a bit of a worry. This program is different because it’s done through video conference, so I can do it from my desk during the work day. You can sign up for just one 2 hour session or you can commit to do them on a regular basis - it’s whatever works for you.
Mentoring has been a great opportunity for me to be able to share my own career path, which is maybe not as traditional as other people’s. One of the unique aspects of this program is that it puts students in touch with mentors from all walks of life, industries, locations and backgrounds.
Surprisingly, the most rewarding part of mentoring has been the chance to step back and see how far I’ve come, and celebrate the journey. It makes me more committed to helping mentees start their own adventures.
The resilience, hard work and ambition of these young people shines through in every session. These are the youth we’re handing out the future to, and they deserve the best chances they can get.