Learning as much as you teach


Societe Generale has linked up with Tower Hamlets Council, offering a team of female mentors to provide support and advice since April this year. The broad-ranging relationships have benefitted women either side of the 17 relationships that were struck up as the Covid-19 crisis started to bite.

What do you think when you conjure up the image of a mentor? Someone who is more experienced than you, understands the organisation that you work in and can advise you on techniques and contacts from within who can help you do your job better?

These are all worthy benefits but imagine performing this role for someone working in a different company and sector, perhaps a non-commercial service provider whose sole purpose is to help a local community.

Don’t worry, the task is not as divorced as you might think from your reality and the benefits that you can offer are easily delivered and graciously received. “I feel energised that I’m learning as much as I’m teaching,” said Vanessa Erb, Global Head of Receivables, GBSU, a Societe Generale volunteer on this programme created by The East London Business Alliance’s (ELBA). “Seeing the confidence grow in my partner and being able to share the advantages and tools that I have available to me is very fulfilling.”

For women

Read on and you will learn about the Emerging Women’s Leaders programme, largely a duplication of ELBA’s Leaders in Partnership programme, which already receives strong support from the bank’s volunteers, with one fairly obvious adjustment.

The bank’s Corporate Social Responsibility team timed the introduction of the course for March, to coincide with International Women’s Day, allowing the launch of 17 partnerships in April that promised at least one hour’s conversation every month.

“I have greatly appreciated the support,” said Dezlee Dennis, commissioning manager, Drug & Alcohol Action Team at Tower Hamlets Council. “Having a senior leader, who also faces the daily demands of juggling work and family, listen, empathise and make recommendations has been invaluable and empowering.”

“She has encouraged me to showcase the work conducted by myself and my team in Council communications, which I would have been resistant too previously.”

The power of an hour

The 10-month programme is designed for community mentoring from a Societe Generale volunteer with a seniority of vice president and above with the beneficiary an aspiring or current leader working for Tower Hamlets Council and a few other organisations. ELBA is the facilitator and the council the funder.

It’s so rewarding to see how dedicating just over one hour a month can have such an impact for these emerging leaders,” said Susana Santos Prieto, Managing Director, ESG Financing Ambassador for MARK Salesand another of the volunteers. “This platform allows them to create some headspace to think over important topics related to their professional projects and their careers and come up with effective strategies that in their challenging day to day routines would be difficult to implement without some sort of coaching.”

The support from SG women has included: “brilliant guidance that helped me set some clear professional goals and continue striving towards them during the challenges of Covid-19” (Harriet Findlay, Barbican); and, “no topic is too big or small to discuss and consider ranging from Black Lives Matter, and managing effective change, to strong leadership and motivating teams. All important and necessary themes to breakdown and rebuild” (Rachel Mckoy, head of Commercial and Contracts at the Council).

The shared nature of the programme has been particularly beneficial to the bank staff that are participating. “Helping to coach my mentee through both challenges and opportunities, providing a different perspective for her and just being there to listen,” said Rajdeep Mann, European Equity Onboarding Manager, GBSU. “Together, we have discussed professional growth, work ideas and also shared different resources.”

“I always look forward to our regular catch-ups and find our discussions inspiring.”

The programme runs until February 2021.  If you would like to find out about participating in the programme in the future, please contact LonCSR@socgen.com