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Mentor: Vilma Faoro. Mentee: Melissa Latham.

Mentor: Vilma Faoro

Current job title: consultant at Woodside Energy Pty

Q: Why did you decide to become a mentor?

Last year was my first time as a mentor. I wanted to connect with other HR professionals in a real and meaningful way, and also to hopefully use my experience and background as a way to help others succeed.

Q: What have your learnt from Melissa?

I’ve learnt that every company and HR role is different. Very often the industry and the maturity of the business defines how effectively an HR function will operate, and also how the business perceives it.

Melissa’s company was at the start of this journey, with the focus on determining what was most critical and what would add the most value. It’s then about creating a solid foundation and deciding on an implementation and integration strategy that will make sense to the business, ensuring the right level of engagement. It was also great to see the passion and enthusiasm that Melissa brought to the table.

Q: What do you hope Melissa has taken away from the mentoring experience?

I hope that I was able to help Melissa understand the importance of focusing on the business needs and supporting these outcomes first. HR is an enabler to the business; it shouldn’t exist on its own.

The more you understand the business’s priorities, goals and issues, the better you will be positioned to create a long-term and sustainable partnership with the business and the more successful the HR function will be.

In small business, the business needs to see HR as a partner that will improve its day-to- day outcomes, not something that’s going to make life harder.

Q: What are your recommendations for mentees to get the most out of the experience? 

Learning is a two-way street. You get out of it what you are prepared to put in. With such diversity in today’s workplaces, a lot can be learnt by all parties that participate in cross-generational work partnerships, if you are open to it.

Faoro was general manager of operations at The Anywhere Group of Companies during the mentoring.

Mentee: Melissa Latham

Current job title: HR coordinator at GCO Electrical

Q: What did you gain from the mentoring experience?

Given we are both women working in a very male-dominated industry [construction], we were able to openly discuss issues we faced. We covered a lot of different facets of HR, namely how to tackle HR relations across various project sites, and sometimes across very remote distances, as both of our companies have projects throughout regional WA.

Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve taken away from the experience?

That you can never have too much knowledge. Knowledge is power and, especially in this line of work, we need to stay on top of industry changes, which are forever evolving.

Q: Tell us about your first session with Vilma. 

I was taken aback by how much motivation and outlook came from that first session. I’m in regional WA and Vilma was in Perth, so it was via phone. I was set a few small goals and tasks to bring to our first face-to-face meeting, which occurred two months later. But we first spent a good hour discussing career progression and development, and current issues arising from the remote locations of our project sites.

Q: How often did you meet after that?

Because of the geographical distance, our relationship was on an ‘as-needed’ basis. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to have any more face-to-face sessions after the first one, but we communicated regularly by email.

Q: What would your dream job be?

Ideally I’d like to be working in employment and business law.

Q: What advice would you give a mentee about to take part in the program?

It’s a great opportunity to gain expert advice in areas where you may not feel 100 per cent confident. Just to have a sounding board and to obtain some fresh ideas made the experience worthwhile for me. I’m looking at doing it again in the future.

The next intake of the AHRI mentoring program will commence in March 2015 and will run for 12 months. Applications close 1 March 2015. Find out more.

This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the February 2015 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘Mentor. Mentee’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here. 

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