#TwitterChat: Be your own captain & steer your ship – experts to young leaders

Building leaders for tomorrow should be the function of every organisation, and what better way to do it than mentorship? Adgully’s latest Twitter Chat turned the focus on mentoring young women leaders as part of our special initiative – Women Disruptors.

Joining us in the session were leaders in the communications and public relations industry:

  • Madhurima Bhatia, Head of Media Relations & Content Lead, Ipsos India (@madhurima_ipsos)
  • Neeti Nayak, Director of Communications, Publicis Communications (@neetigrity)
  • Pragati Chavan, Director - Corporate Communications, DDB Mudra Group (@pragschavan)
  • Ridhi Chowfla, Independent Communications Consultant (@ridhichowfla)
  • Rohini Saldanha, Director - Corporate Communications, Wunderman Thompson South Asia (@rohinisaldanha)

At the very outset, our esteemed panellists agreed that they would not consider just anyone for mentorship, but look for key attributes. During the discussion, Resilience, Passion and Integrity stood out as the three most important qualities in a mentee. Excerpts from the Twitter conversations:

Don’t have a mentor? Step up

Ridhi Chowfla: “During my 19 years of experience, I hardly got any mentor guiding me in my career path. I think that is why I chose to mentor some young professionals in their career through my experience and knowledge. There is also a lack of commitment by both mentor and mentee! One has to be personally invested for the benefit of self-growth and growth of an organisation.”

Madhurima Bhatia: “Communications is a staff function - cost to company - lean team - it has been funny, in the last almost 20 years, I have worked singularly - as a junior and senior. You mentor your own self or the CXOs on image management.

In communications, you have to step up. Nobody teaches you. You have to learn it. It is a very responsible job, because you have to manage the image of CXOs in the company.

The first lesson in the rulebook for PR professionals – don’t be a wallflower. While glamour is a part of you, knowledge and depth are the most important traits for success.”

Rohini Saldanha: “Some people wait for mentors to come along and blame people and circumstances for things not turning out the way they envisioned. The rest of us get on with it choosing to empower and upskill ourselves. Ploughing ahead is what I believe! Be your own captain and steer your ship.”

C-Suite needs more women leaders

Neeti Nayak: “From a business or industry perspective, it is imperative to start mentorship early on. If you want to be a future-ready organisation, identify your key young talent, train them, give them the best tools and learning required and do everything you can to make them succeed.”

Madhurima Bhatia: “When I was a part of the global team in communications, we were mentored by the global head on how to market a global brand and then external trainers took us through the drill. It is etched in my memory of how useful it was.”

Ridhi Chowfla: “Though the world is coming around with gender diversity, we still don’t see too many women leaders at the top. This surely indicates lack of company's vision.

Women tend to view work more holistically as a component of their overall life plan. They are innovative, creative and manage to have the best work-life integration, which, in turn, helps the overall growth of organisations.”

Pragati Chavan: “Enough research backs the fact that increasing representation and empowering women helps business results. Not only that, but also the fact that we are in an era where companies are fighting for good talent; a diverse workforce attracts top talent.”

Rohini Saldanha: “Women make the best leaders - they can manage high stress levels, multi-task and can be held accountable while delivering best results. It’s time we start valuing and respecting them more! Sensitisation towards workplace behaviour should be a good starting point!”

Setbacks in career development

Pragati Chavan: “Unfortunately, as women we are our worst critics. So, I feel we need to be kind to ourselves and speak up fearlessly.”

Madhurima Bhatia: “Work-life balance is important, especially when women embrace motherhood. Sexual harassment - women should know how to carry themselves. And all this should not come in the way of their ambitions and work.”

Neeti Nayak: “One of the biggest issues the young face is ‘hierarchical structures’. They tend to suppress their opinions, leading to a closed and unhealthy environment. A lot of companies are doing away with hierarchies and you can see a stark difference in the quality of work and work-life.”

Rohini Saldanha: “Young people are fragile, impressionable and can get derailed by setbacks, becoming fearful and discouraged. I call it the 3F syndrome - failure, feedback and fear, in exactly that order as each is linked with the other. Failure is usually met with harsh criticism, thus instilling fear.”

Balancing a professional career while being a mentor

Ridhi Chowfla: “I think mentorship is not about time commitment. Mentorship is an on-going process for both the mentor and mentee. The informal discussions, the inclusion sessions to talk about their feelings, aspirations, and growth have to be a constant.”

Neeti Nayak: “(How do I make time to be a mentor?) The same way I make time to eat, sleep, work, and spend time with my family and my pets. You have to find the time. If you manage your time well, and stick to your commitments, there is nothing that is time consuming.”

Discovering your own potential

Pragati Chavan: “Women detest talking about their success. It doesn’t come naturally. Helping these smart women own their greatness is the best thing a mentor can do. Natalie Portman’s cape with missing women directors’ names is one of the many instances which keep reminding me that the best way to do that is for women to ask as well. Be vocal about your needs, speak without fear and most importantly involve men into that conversation.”

Madhurima Bhatia: “Mentorship provides them the options within the framework that they can leverage to offset hurdles. As a mentee, I trained with a PR company and my boss sent me to Goa alone to handle the 'Directors Special' press conference with backend support. It was a great learning curve.”

Ridhi Chowfla: “My personal experiences have been my mentor. I have learnt from them and I have been guided by them. In PR, bookish knowledge has never worked. It’s the on-ground crises and successes that count.

I started my career with Perfect Relations. From faxing press releases during those days, we have come a long way. But each day made me learn something and add value to my professional journey.”


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