08 May 2017
Compared to typical business mentoring expectations around ‘introducing students to the world of work’, the young women who senior Macquarie London employee Pilar Gonzalez is mentoring have enjoyed a slightly different experience.
“She doesn’t really judge us – she’s fun-spirited and like a second mum or an aunt you can talk to as she’s very open,” says Cashanna, a student at Highbury Grove School in Islington, near Macquarie’s London office.
Her fellow student Georgia agrees. “She’s got loads of wisdom and experience – and she’s got kids which helps us.”
Recognising the importance of role models from an early age, Gonzalez describes herself as a motivator for the students she has been meeting with as part of Macquarie’s high school Mentoring Works programme. The initiative sees 14-15 year-olds paired with Macquarie staff mentors to help raise students’ aspirations and build confidence, as well as introduce them to a business environment.
“I show them I understand them and that if they work hard they can achieve the things they want to do, the same as me,” Gonzalez says.
“I put the emphasis on their achievement – their satisfaction, their success and their confidence.”
Gonzalez says that while she expected the programme to be impactful, she has been surprised at how well the girls have adapted to it over the last nine months and the positive changes she has witnessed in their approach to work and their behaviour since then.
She has concentrated on reinforcing the value of process and structure with the girls, talking about what they should prioritise to succeed in their daily life. This includes non-academic tools like exercising, visualisation and mindfulness, as well as sitting closer to the front of the classroom to show teachers they are engaged in lessons.
Cashanna and Georgia have picked up on this, saying that while they thought the programme was going to be more around business skills, the focus on more holistic development has been very beneficial.
“We have a structure – first we talk about what we’re proud of in the previous week, what we have achieved and what’s coming up like tests etc. Then we then look at our goals in the short term, over the next few weeks, because that will help us get to our long term goals which are about getting good grades and good jobs,” Cashanna says.
“It’s helped me in so many ways, like motivating us for school, being more organised and focused. I moved up a set in maths because Pilar motivated me to work hard. Having someone there who is looking for results, and keeping track of me and cares is really great.”
Gonzalez has mentored colleagues at work but this was the first time she had volunteered with Macquarie’s community mentoring programme although she has been keen to do so for a few years. Admitting that it does require some time to prepare for each session, as her ‘homework’ means she keeps a log of what she has discussed with the girls and sets targets for the following session, Gonzalez says she has enjoyed it.
“I can see how they’ve transformed - and consider them flourishing,” she says.
Image caption: Pilar Gonzalez with her mentees Georgia and Cashanna, part of Macquarie’s Mentoring Works programme at Highbury Grove School.