Authenticity holds power

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Having a mentor can make a big difference for women looking to start or advance their digital careers. The RightBrains Digital Talent Programme aims to support women at different levels in aspects like navigating promotions, delivering on expanded responsibility, or working through particular challenges or opportunities. We checked in with mentor-mentee duos from previous years to uncover how their relationships impacted them on a personal and professional level. 

Mentor: Benji Coetzee, Chief Strategy Officer, KPN  

Mentee: Katya Olivia, Process Architect Financial Economic Crime, Rabobank 

Which qualities do you admire in each other? 

Benji: Witnessing Katya’s honesty about her ambitions, fears and her relentless drive to achieve is truly admirable. Her exceptional listening skills, coupled with an energetic enthusiasm for learning a diverse set of skills, both interpersonal and technical, showcase a rare commitment to personal and professional growth. 

Katya: Benji’s energy is so contagious that I ended our mentoring sessions feeling revitalised and empowered. As role model for (young) female professionals, I would define her as a unique example of ‘see her, to be her’ kind of leader. She represents the archetype of a modern-day female leader who is strong, capable and eloquently outspoken without forsaking her feminine side. Above all, I most admire Benji's authenticity.  

What did you learn about yourself over the course of your mentoring relationship?  

Benji: Throughout our mentoring relationship, I discovered that authenticity holds the power to forge a deeper connection. I realised that imperfections are the threads that weave the fabric of genuine connections. There's no need to strive for perfection when authenticity can unlock profound understanding and connection. 

Katya: I am nothing but grateful for the mentoring relationship I've experienced. I've reflected, and then learned. For instance, I have the tendency to sell myself short despite my qualifications or past successes that led me to a new opportunity; or the fact that I second-guess myself.  Now I trust myself to just go with my decisions -- and then learn from it.  

In which ways did you gain a fresh perspective from exploring each other’s viewpoints? 

Benji: Katya illuminated the persisting challenges for women in salary negotiations within the tech industry. Their insights highlighted the importance of learning through exposure to different dynamics. Senior leaders can significantly boost confidence by openly sharing insights into how processes work, delineating negotiable aspects, and clarifying non-negotiable elements. 

Katya: When I met Benji, I was applying for new roles and in one selection process. She is an expert negotiator and was more than willing to support me through the whole process. I've gained substantial insights into how to navigate a transition between jobs, and we came up with a plan for my first few months of onboarding. I later realised that having that kind of support makes big changes less scary, and that you can grow exponentially despite uncertainty.  

What’s your advice to those embarking on a mentoring journey? 

Benji: Embrace discomfort and insecurity, for within those moments lies the essence of growth. It's a reminder that stepping outside one's comfort zone is the catalyst for personal and professional development, and that true growth often begins where familiarity ends. 

Katya: I encourage everyone to start a mentoring journey because we all need guidance in our careers. If someone in your network has not embarked on one yet, be the friendly face that advises them to do so. Their future selves will thank you for it! Advice from a mentor might try to push your boundaries, and it’s natural to feel insecure. I say: just go for it and see what happens! You’d be surprised by the new opportunities that can arise and the confidence boost that comes with it.