Mentoring program a breath of fresh air for Williamson alumnus Thane Joske

23 August 2012 By Freya Cole

Thane Joske and Kate Simpson
Thane Joske and Kate Simpson

Williamson Community Leadership alumnus  Thane Joske had no idea that being a mentor in the Skills Bank Program would bring a fresh perspective to her professional life.

It is the third year that Leadership Victoria has partnered with Vic Sport in our Skills Bank mentoring program.

Since 2010, ten of our alumni have each acted as a mentor to emerging leaders within Vic Sport and many great friendships still remain.

LV’s Skills Bank program paired with a mentoring initiative with Vic Sport allowed Ms Joske to combine two of her passions – sport and leadership. “My major motivation to participate after Williamson was to give back and be an active member of the LV community,” Ms Joske said.

“The experience has been wonderfully grounding for me, and it is refreshing to observe and participate in a young leader’s journey – particularly someone like Kate who has such energy, enthusiasm and passion.”

As a former world-class rower and elite athlete Ms Joske combined her love for sport with her background in corporate communications and experience in not-for-profit organisations, to mentor Kate Simpson, who worked in middle management with Surf Life Saving Victoria (SLSV).

Over the past few months of the mentoring process, Kate has grown out of her middle management role in to the senior position of General Manager in Community Education Services.

“To observe Kate over the past few months transitioning from a middle management role to a senior role has been motivating,” Ms Joske said.

Kate Simpson said the Skills Bank and Vic Sport program couldn’t have came at a better time for her in the scheme of her professional career prospects.

“I was starting a new role the department had been restructured in a way that replaced the general manager position,” Ms Simpson said.

“I was never daunted about my new role at SLSV I was very ready to move up and take on the role.”

However, without guidance from a higher authority in the department Ms Simpson was left without a go-to person.

“There was no general manager and therefore no leader or mentor for me to approach in the workplace. There was a gap and I think this program filled that gap perfectly,” she said.

“It was just a bonus that Thane became my mentor and that we had so much in common outside of the program. Our worlds collided in several different ways which was lovely.”

The flexibility and freedom of the Skills Bank mentoring program allowed both Thane and Kate to make their own rules.

Not only did they meet regularly to discuss leadership challenges confronted by Kate, the pair bonded over their love for Anglesea beach and surf rowing.

“We are great mates and this relationship will move from the formal mentoring in to the informal,” Ms Joske said.

“We have so many connections and I think Kate is a really important and special person  who I am happy to have in my life.”

According to Ms Joske, the essence of her role was to be an active listener and to question and challenge Kate in the issues that she was confronted with at work.

“I think that when you’re getting to know somebody and talking through their leadership challenges you get a fresh perspective and start considering things differently,” she said.

“I have a very good understanding about how not-for-profit organisations work and how the system is not usually as clean cut as a corporate environment,”

“There are elements of my experiences that we have been able to draw on for mutual benefit,” Ms Joske said.

Leadership Victoria’s Skills Bank mentoring program has assisted Kate in her leadership position as well as instigating a life-long friendship.

Both Thane and Kate said they have learnt from one another and have been able to equally get as much out of the experience.

“Kate has brought so much enthusiasm and is so passionate about everything she does so it’s hard not to get swept up in it,” Ms Joske said.

“It’s nice to reflect after our meetings and think, ‘Gee perhaps Kate’s way of approaching her role is a way I can approach something I am currently working on.’”

Ms Joske said it is vitally important that young people have a mentor who they can confidentially discuss workplace matters without fear of interrupting the harmony of the workplace.

“There are things you can happily take to a CEO and then there are things which you would prefer not to,” Ms Joske said.

Although the formal part of the mentoring program is over, both Kate and Thane know that their friendship will not end here.

“From here it will be less formal, a dinner with a glass of wine and it will be half advice and half general chat between two friends,” Ms Simpson said.

“The benefit of having a mentor and having someone for you in whatever capacity is a really good helping hand in every circumstance,” she said.

Thane Joske encouraged everyone involved in Williamson  to get involved in the mentoring program to give back to the community.

“It sounds cliché, but you get what you give. For a few hours a month, it is a really small contribution when you consider the impact you have on a young leader’s journey,” she said.

“I thoroughly recommend the program to LV alumni.  It’s a fantastic program and I think it is really important that people get involved.”