The Mentor Diaries: Tracey Spicer and Nicole Iligoueva

To celebrate the launch of the Expert Mentor Program, WLA Connect is bringing you a series of interviews with mentor/mentee pairs. These interviews aim to shine a light on the benefits of being a mentor and mentee, the qualities that mentors and mentees find useful, and what both parties most enjoy about their relationship. This interview focuses on Tracey Spicer and Nicole (Niki) Iligoueva, who were connected through the Media Diversity Australia mentoring program.

More than ever, we need to support women to step into leadership roles. The Expert Mentor Program will help you develop the skills to be an exceptional mentor and champion emerging women leaders in your industry and organisation. Find out more here.

What are some of the benefits of being a mentor?

Tracey: I'm extremely inspired by the intellect, energy and broader world view of the women I mentor. After working in difficult environments in the media for more than 30 years, I'm heartened to hear from these strong young women about their determination to speak out about discrimination. I always feel re-energised after a mentoring session. Truly, I learn as much from my mentees as they learn from me. It's a symbiotic and collaborative relationship.

When you are looking for a mentor for yourself, what qualities do you look for?

Tracey: I look for someone with solid values, who's encountered barriers or challenges in their careers. Everyone has their own ways of overcoming hurdles, so you can build a toolkit of strategies. I also look for someone with patience! Working in quick turnaround news environments for most of my life means that I like things to happen quickly. One thing I need to learn is that change takes time.

What can a mentor do to make sure that both the mentor and mentee are able to make the most of that relationship?

Tracey: Listen! It's more important to hear what your mentee is saying, rather than to talk all the time. Also, be led by your protégé. This empowers them to make their own choices.

What are some of the most important lessons/pieces of wisdom you have learned from a mentor? And what makes them so important?

Niki: I think the best nugget of wisdom I’ve received from my mentor is that we all have our moments and it’s okay to mess up sometimes. In the context of journalism, audiences want relatability and realness, so if you just be yourself, learn from your mistakes and continue to put yourself out there, good things will come your way.

Just remember to take deep breaths, try your best and ask for feedback so you can improve. This was an important piece of advice because realising that it's okay to fail or not know things actually alleviates pressure and encourages you to get out of your comfort zone and move forward.

When you get the opportunity to be a mentor to someone, what sort of mentor would you like to be? 

Niki: One that acts with empathy and genuinely wants to see their mentee grow. Trying to upskill or find work can be a lonely process, and having someone there to listen, believe in you and help you take the necessary steps to achieve your goals can make all the difference.

If I were a mentor, I’d also like to identify and keep at the forefront what the mentee would like to gain from the relationship, to ensure that it is being utilised as efficiently as possible. This could include organising regular catch ups to discuss intention, progress and what can be done better on both sides of the relationship.

What can a mentee do to make sure that both the mentor and the mentee can make the most of that relationship? 

Niki: Be real with your mentor about your struggles so that they can properly identify how they can help you, and also ensure that there is a clear line of communication and that you’re being appreciative and respectful of your mentors’ time.

About Tracey:

Tracey Spicer AM is one of the most sought-after keynote speakers and emcees in the region. In 2019 she was named the NSW Premier’s Woman of the Year, and in 2018 chosen as one of the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence, winning the Social Enterprise and Not-For-Profit category. You can connect with Tracey here.

About Niki:

Nicole (Niki) Iligoueva is a Sydney-based freelance journalist, film fanatic, foodie and fellow book nerd. She loves telling stories that matter and is currently producing for FBi Radio's flagship politics and current affairs show, Backchat. You can connect with Niki here.

About the Expert Mentor Program:

The Expert Mentor Program (EMP) has been designed to assist current and aspiring mentors to maximise their approach, in order to provide meaningful professional and personal growth to their mentees. The EMP will provide participants with a dynamic, peer learning experience which is highly collaborative and responsive. The program is delivered online over one full day. The day is broken up into three high-impact, live sessions with breaks in-between. Each session is designed to foster rich dialogue and debate between participants and facilitators. Participants will also be provided with a digital workbook to support their learning.

Have you ever been in a mentor/mentee relationship and would like to share your tips? Let us know in the comments!