Guest post by Sreedevi Rao, TechWomen Professional Mentor at LinkedIn
Breaking boundaries in the skies: this was the title of Refilwe’s first presentation at LinkedIn. Refilwe was one of the six Emerging Leaders that LinkedIn hosted through the TechWomen program this fall.
This is my second year serving as a mentor with this fantastic program. When I was paired with Refilwe earlier this fall and began learning about her background as a professional pilot and founder of GFPA Foundation, I was so impressed and even a little intimidated. I worried that I wasn’t qualified to be her mentor. But I’m happy to report that with the help of my extended network, we were able to help Refilwe achieve her goals.
Reaching new heights
One of Refilwe’s goals from her mentorship experience was to improve her presentation skills. In order to help her, we attended Toastmasters sessions and created a presentation so that she could practice what she learned. “Breaking boundaries in the skies,” was the title of her first presentation where she talked about how she is the first African woman to earn a commercial helicopter pilot license and first African woman to be dual commercial rating (fixed wing and rotor), and the challenges she faced reaching these goals. She did not just bask in the glory of being the first. Instead, she paved the way for other women by starting the Girls Fly Programme in Africa Foundation. She did such an awesome job that after her first presentation, there were requests for her to repeat it for different audiences across LinkedIn. Everyone who heard her speak was inspired by her journey.
The meaning of mentorship and exchange
During the four-week mentorship, I got to know Refilwe really well. Even with all her achievements, she is so humble and eager to learn more. On her last day at LinkedIn, Refilwe shared all her learnings and the things she’s already begun to implement at her foundation. It was a bittersweet moment. While I was very proud to see her applying learnings so quickly and looking to what’s next, I knew I’d miss her infectious energy each day at work. She is truly an inspiration and a role model; I’m lucky our professional paths have crossed.
I have been a professional mentor with TechWomen since 2018, and it’s been a very rewarding experience. Hearing the inspiring stories of the Emerging Leaders reinforces that if we have the will, we can achieve great things. I’ve also learned that a successful mentor serves as a connector for Emerging Leaders, helping them pursue their interests and achieve their goals. When Refilwe wanted to know more about building educational STEM kits for students, I was able to connect her to an Impact Coach that I met at a speed mentoring session during TechWomen’s action plan workshop at LinkedIn. It turned out to be just the connection that Refilwe needed.
If you have been contemplating being a mentor, I strongly encourage you to sign up. You will be making a global impact, and it will change your perspective. I have much more appreciation for what we have and the connections I’ve made; it is one of the most rewarding parts of my career. For that, I thank LinkedIn and TechWomen.
Sree is a Technical Program Manager at LinkedIn. She has been actively involved with TechWomen since 2018. She has co-authored a blog about LinkedIn’s partnership with TechWomen and has a personal blog about Technical Program Management.