Dr Rebecca Calder: A flexible approach to staying on track

Dr Rebecca Calder: A flexible approach to staying on track

“It was apparent to me immediately that I would learn as much from her as she would from me.”

Dr Rebecca Calder joined the Queen’s Young Leaders Mentoring Programme after a conversation with a stranger on a train. As a mentor, she found that being open, flexible and committed kept her, and her mentee, moving forward.

I was sitting on a train travelling between London and Penrith. It was the end of a long, tiring, but invigorating day, and I was deep in thought when a pleasant-looking young man took the seat across from me and opened a fascinating-looking book.

Never one to turn down the possibility of a good conversation, I started one. And what a conversation it was! Ranging from the history of liberation theology in South America, to early marriage in Africa, to Ekhart Tolle’s teachings, to the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme, which the pleasant young man was deeply involved with.

By the end of my train journey, he had secured my commitment to become involved as a Queen’s Young Leaders Programme mentor for a young woman who had been waiting, apparently, for someone just like me.

Getting connected

"I look forward to every conversation."

A few months later, once all the administrative t’s had been crossed and i’s dotted – and to be honest, there weren’t many of these – Angel and I had our first conversation. 

It was apparent to me immediately that I would learn as much from her as she would from me. We often say this, pay lip service to it, but it has been entirely true with us. I look forward to every conversation that Angel and I have together – so much so in fact that I’m often up at 6.00 am to co-ordinate my (now) West Coast Canada time with Angel’s East Africa evening.

We sometimes struggle with Skype, but we’re both so committed to moving forward that we make it work. Most of the time though, it’s pretty smooth sailing.

Mentor-mentee relationship

"Most of our work together is really organic."

Key to our successful relationship as mentor and mentee has been Angel’s energy and pace. She is definitely in the driving seat, driving fast, and has a clear vision of where she wants to go.

My role is to help her figure out the how – supporting her to develop a road-map, anticipating blockages, and thinking through alternative routes – and to link her to my wonderful network when I feel like I am not the best person to advise.

Another important aspect of our successful relationship, I feel, is that we haven’t gotten bogged down with administration – and haven’t been too strict about sticking to what we mapped out for our time as mentor and mentee.

We check in every once in a while with more structured reflection, asking questions like “Are we still on track?” “Are we making the best use of our time together?” “Do we need to set new goals?” But most of our work together is really organic. It is more like an animated coffee house discussion between two old colleagues than a now six-month-old mentor-mentee relationship.

Angel is a truly extraordinary young woman who has already done more than many of us do in a lifetime, but she has only just started. It is an honour for me to be her mentor, and her friend. I can’t wait to meet her face to face in Tanzania in 2017!

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