The wind to spread their wings

Small talk
Joanna Iwanowska-Nielsen of Cemat and Marta Zawadzka of Yareal Polska tell us about their work mentoring orphaned Ukrainian youngsters to perhaps embark on a career in real estate

You are mentors in the pilot Pathway to Success programme organised by US-based organisation Kidsave. What does this involve?

Joanna Iwanowska-Nielsen, a member of the board of Cemat and accredited as a mentor by the European Mentoring Coaching Council at the level of practitioner: Kidsave is an American-Ukrainian organisation that helps orphaned children in Ukraine and, more importantly, its work with them does not end when they reach the age of 18. The organisation helps those on the threshold of adulthood in many ways. We were impressed by this programme and had reached the stage in our careers where we wanted to give something back. We are both mentors and as such we share our business and life experience.

What’s it like working with youngsters?

Marta Zawadzka, the leasing and asset management director of Yareal Polska and a certified EMCC mentor in the process of accreditation: We have a group of seven young people with whom we meet online every three weeks. It’s not easy because they are all scattered and everyone logs on from different places. Building relations and concentrating were the most important issues in the first meetings.

JI-N: The participants of the programme are young people around the age of twenty. They study, work and have different activities and various problems. What they have in common is that they are becoming independent and maturing. It is very moving.

What languages do you use?

JI-N: The lessons and presentations are in English. We also have a group leader who helps us with translations. I speak Russian, so it’s a little easier for me but more challenging for Marta. I can see that our pupils understand a lot of English and can say much more than they think they can, but they need a little time.

Are you planning anything after this? What will happen to the group after the end of the mentoring programme?

JI-N: This is a pilot programme. We have scheduled six months of meetings. After this we will see if they decide to continue with one-on-one meetings.

MZ: Our intention is to finish eight to ten group mentoring sessions and then we will move on to individual sessions with individual members of the group. We spent the early stages breaking the ice, but now we are building up relationships.

What do you share with them?

JI-N: Mentoring isn’t advice but support and accompanying them in their development. I’ve heard it said, although I don’t agree with this way of putting it, that mentoring is blowing wind under someone’s wings. During our first session, we had to explain to them that we would not be giving them any answers for how to make a career in real estate. At the moment, we are creating a basis and only during individual sessions will we be able to formulate goals, explore issues, satiate appetites and discover the talents of each individual person.

MZ: We want our mentees to become more aware of themselves, to recognise their strengths and weaknesses and build up their own sense of worth.

You’re both very different personalities. Is this helpful for you when you work together or does it make it more difficult?

MZ: Joanna and I have become friends even though we are very different and this is what gives us greater value as mentors. I’m very matter-of-fact and direct, I think in a business-like manner. Joanna has a holistic, mature approach and a broader perspective.

JI-N: I’d say that these are not opposite qualities but that they complement each other.

MZ: We have two different types of energy that interact with different types of people and meet different needs.

You work as volunteers. Do you find this work very satisfying?

JI-N: Enormously. Is there a word that means bigger than enormously? (laughter) This work completes us. We both have active careers. Marta has more than twenty years’ experience and I’ve worked in real estate for thirty years. Marta has been employed by mainstream companies while I’ve been at slightly smaller firms. Our work sums up a certain aspect of our professional careers – leading teams, communicating with them, and passing on knowledge by understanding different types of people and the ways they communicate.

Did someone put the wind under your wings? Did you meet someone along the way who showed you your potential?

MZ: I’ve met a few such people in each stage of my personal and professional life. At work I’ve had some intelligent and supportive bosses, while in my personal life Joanna is such a person. Thanks to her, I’m developing as a mentor and for that I’m very thankful.

JI-N: It’s my pleasure (laughs). In my private life, I have received invaluable support from my family at home. My parents are unusually strong people. They passed on strong genes but I never had a mentor. My style and my position were things that I’ve created myself. Nobody prepared me or accompanied me on the road to growing up, developing or getting to know myself in the world of business. And I’ve gone from failure to success many times. That’s why I’m a firm believer in mentoring – in giving what I never received. I love making others stronger, being with them as they begin to... start liking themselves very much.

Interview: Anna Zamyłka