Wednesday, May 7, 2014

May 7: I once had a mentor who...

I think having a good mentor is a thing of luck. I was never looking for a mentor and initially didn't even know that I had one.

My mentors are women who have taught me good things, they have helped me navigate through stuff that life throws at me. I have had three mentors, all women.  It took about 6 months for me to realise the first time around. 

For the second, I was 22. I was working in finance and it was a man's world. A really really manny mans world. Most of the females were secretaries and admin staff. The women were in charge of cleaning the kitchens, organising the events and opening the mail. 

My team was managed by a woman. I will call her Vodka Queenpants, because that is her name. Ms Queenpants was a thirty something, smart, hilarious, courageous woman. She stood up for herself, for her team, for me, when I couldn't do it for myself. But she also pushed me to prove my value to the team. I was sent to Sydney to work on projects when I knew the team there doubted my skills (which meant I doubted my skills too). Ms Queenpants gave me work to do that I didn't always want to do. She made me speak in a lecture theatre to 200 men, all stockbrokers, mainly old. I probably lost five kilos from shaking with anxiety.

It wasn't just limited to work though. I was at a stage of confusion about what I wanted from a relationship, there were lot's of opportunities to meet men. I didn't always make the wisest choice. I got burnt, I did some burning. When I went out with Vodka Queenpants one night we played a little game. It was kind of a drinking game. 

For the first hour we were out, we sat at the bar and talked to all the men that came up to us and we told the truth. If they asked what we did, we told them how we worked in derivative markets at the Australian Stock Exchange, we helped develop new trading products, we ran trading groups and clubs, we knew the stock market. Guess what happened. Lot's of men walked away. Ok, pretty much all of them did. A few stayed for a drink.

The next hour, we had consumed a few extra drinks, and when we were approached at the bar, we told people we worked at the ice cream factory. She dipped the ice cream into the chocolate, then passed it to me and I dipped it in the nuts before adding it to the conveyer belt. We loved our jobs, we got great perks with free ice cream and we were having a night out in the big city. We giggled, we were so 'fun'.


The men it seemed thought this was a great job for us. It's all guesses why this happened. Ice cream is more fun, more people understand ice cream, ice cream is not intimidating, ice cream factory girls probably don't earn much and can benefit from a man buying them a drink. But the lesson is there too. Not all men want to hang out with an intelligent woman. Not all men can handle talking about things they don't understand. Not all men are worth going out with, no matter how nice their biceps look or how many pina coladas they buy you. 

Vodka Queenpants taught me that crazy ideas are ok, that last minute suggestions that come to you are fine, you just need to spend all night on it and be ready before the meeting. She taught me to make sure your name is on things you do. It is NOT ok, to just shrug it off when someone else submits your work as their own to the big boss. Have the guts to call the big boss and tell them that the work is yours. Have the guts to mention to your colleague that they seem to have added their name to your work. Be tough, be considerate. Be best friends with those women that do everything in the office because it is those women that hold most of the power and they are the women to have on your team. She taught me the power there is to promote people below you in the corporate food chain. Be that person that helps another woman get a better job. Be the person who notices and compliments the great work of other people. Be the positive comments. Be the change. 

Vodka Queenpants taught me it was ok to be the red high heels among the thick blue ties. 

And she didn't even know she was doing it. 


  1. I love Vodka Queenpants! I am so glad you had someone like this in your early career in such a male dominated environment. I work in IT and it is such a boys club! It is really getting old.

  2. I so relate to this coming from a very male dominated industry. I didn't have a mentor when I worked here and just ploughed through on my own and stuck up for myself (which wasn't well received sometimes). It was when I had my own business that I found my amazing mentor and I hope that one day I can be a mentor to someone else and return the favour.

  3. Such a great read, she sounds awesome. My first newsroom was quite a sexist place to work with an old-school editor ruling the roost. I learned a lot there. I also put lots of noses out of joint by speaking up. I agree some men are threatened by smart woman. Love me a bit of shares/trade talk, but then again I have a thirst for learning more and knowing what's happening in the world!

  4. Wow, a wonderful read Clairey, so many lessons you have learnt. I have worked in a few boys club, sometimes it was fine other times it was a living hell. I think all girls should get assertiveness training at school in preparation for the real world. xx

  5. I'm always on the look-out for someone who inspires me to do better. Whether it's that all-together mum at playgroup (not the bossy one, the one who actually looks like she's loving it), or the presenter of my latest TedTalk video, I take great inspiration watching others. I even read Britney Spears biography because I just admire how she just gets back up again with a smile, no matter how bad a mess she's in. I don't suppose too many sane adults can lay claim to inspiration from BS! But then, my sanity *is* always a question mark! Enjoyed reading this post :)

  6. Sounds like she was a great role model and teacher for you Clairey! Makes such a difference starting out!

  7. Men just can't stand having their power taken away. They are so threatened. x

  8. What a woman! You were lucky to strike a powerful woman who didn't see you as competition.

    And I just realised the guy in the picture was not actually wearing a disguise. Ha!

  9. What a fantastic experience for you so lucky to come across someone you were able to get so much from

  10. Coolest name ever. I can't say I've ever had a mentor. Perhaps I have, but I've had my head too far up my arse to notice or appreciate them.

  11. Do you think a mentor is always older than you? I've never been in the dynamic where the mentor is younger? Thoughts?


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