A TechCommNZ mentoring success story
Did you know that TechCommNZ can link members with mentors? Here’s information about our mentoring scheme, and a success story from two of our members, Manjari Kulkarni and Emily Cotlier, about their mentoring experience.
About mentoring with TechCommNZ
What is the TechCommNZ mentoring scheme? It gives TechCommNZ members, at early or pivotal stages of their careers, opportunities to discuss their work with an experienced technical communicator. The goal is for members to benefit from guidance around their writing and their careers in technical communication.
To get started, a TechCommNZ member reaches out to the TechCommNZ Business Manager from our mentoring request page. We then connect members with mentors. We do our best to connect members with mentors they can meet face to face, though sometimes the best match may be remote.
As an example of what mentoring with TechCommNZ can be, Manjari and Emily share their story of a three-year mentoring relationship.
How did your mentoring relationship begin?
Manjari Kulkarni: I worked as a Technical Writer back in India and was looking for similar roles here in New Zealand. I found it pretty challenging to venture out by myself as I was not aware of the work culture here. That is when a friend referred to me to join TechCommNZ.
I joined TechCommNZ as an independent member and was intrigued by the mentorship they offer. I soon filled in the application and was matched with a mentor, Emily. I was excited to meet Emily as I had already met her briefly at a TechComm event. I knew I had so much to learn from her. My new professional life had just begun, and I had complete faith in Emily that she would sail me through the turbulent waters successfully.
Emily Cotlier: I got an email from the TechCommNZ board, asking if I would mentor somebody in Wellington. I’m a former board member for TechCommNZ. Mentoring seemed like a good way for me to work with TechComm as a volunteer with a reasonable time commitment. Also, Manjari’s story was interesting, and I remembered meeting her at an event. I agreed, and Manjari and I set up a time to meet.
What did you do together to get started?
Manjari Kulkarni: Before we met, we exchanged a few emails. At that point of time, I was looking for work. We started with building my CV and portfolio. After we finished working on my CV, we decided to meet and go from there. When we met for the first time, I had received a fixed term job offer. I shared this news with Emily and we both were equally excited by the news. Once I started working, Emily guided me, reviewed my work, provided timely suggestions and feedback on how to improve my writing. I started to regain my confidence and felt empowered.
Emily Cotlier: We discussed Manjari’s challenges and goals. I admired Manjari’s ambition – she definitely wanted to move forward with responsibility and working on quality projects. It became apparent that a change in role was the best way for her to do this. We worked together on updating Manjari’s CV. We also put together a portfolio of her past writing.
Manjari has an international background, so we also talked about how New Zealanders like to work and what skills they are looking for. International technical writers are often highly specialised. But New Zealand roles are often for flexible generalists and ‘sole writers’. A sole writer role can include writing for multiple audiences, coding, project managing, and managing freelancers or contractors. Sure enough, Manjari’s next role, with Sysdoc, included several of these responsibilities.
How did your mentoring relationship change over time?
Manjari Kulkarni: Our relationship was informal and more of a friend/colleague. I would meet with Emily and share situations that challenged me both personally and professionally. Emily would always answer tactfully to my situation which was very reassuring.
During the first lockdown, when I was finding it tough to get into my next role, Emily helped me plan my next career move. We worked on the different options where I could apply my technical writing skills. My next experience at the Ministry of Health provided a very good boost to my career.
Soon after, my husband and I decide to move to Perth for warmer weather and be close to our family. I was excited about the move, and Emily gave me insights on the life and work culture in Australia. With her help and guidance, I started applying for roles and soon was offered a contract role at one of the consultancy firms.
Emily Cotlier: We definitely relaxed and got less formal. The first COVID lockdown hit in 2020 right after Manjari wrapped up a contract. There was lots of WhatsApp messaging between us, both as we coped with lockdown and later that year when Manjari was able to get out there to find her next contract. We also discussed the return on investment of various freelancing options.
At one point I was confirming that the way a group was treating her candidacy was unusual – definitely a sanity check. The position she did get was fantastic, challenging work with the Ministry of Health that took her writing to the next level.
What happened next felt like a mentoring peak. Manjari and her husband had decided to move to Perth, Australia to be closer to their family. She applied for, and received, a technical writing job in Perth, Australia. She got the job from the combined strength of her CV, writing samples, and online interview.
What did you gain from mentoring?
Manjari Kulkarni: Mentoring was an exceptional experience which I would cherish for the rest of my life. Besides the confidence, and the good writing and editing skills I gained from Emily, I found a very good friend and confidant. Mentoring has helped migrants like me, understand the work culture, taught me how to deal with difficult people and situations, and how to respond rather than react to each persona differently.
There are other invaluable things mentoring programme has given me which I cannot put into words; I can only feel it. Indeed, a very nice feeling.
Soon after I moved to Perth, and we’ve been in touch via WhatsApp. I started our relationship as a mentor-mentee, and now we’ve become very good friends. I know for sure that I will always have Emily by my side whenever I need her.
Emily Cotlier: Mentoring is very fulfilling. Recognizing the challenges someone is dealing with, and being able to help them, is really empowering! It was interesting to hear about others’ projects and workplace dynamics. Finally, mentoring gave my own management skills a boost.
Manjari moved to Perth in early August 2021 and started working right away. I was thrilled but also sad, because she changed countries! I started out with a mentee and now I have a friend in Perth.