CAREERS: Me and my mentor

Some of the people you meet when you start out in PR will be the ones you rely on for the rest of your career. Caroline Dickinson finds out why everyone needs a mentor.

Adrian Brady & David Godfrey
Adrian Brady & David Godfrey

Nick Porter & Nik Done
Nick Porter (far left), director of PR at Iris PR, and her mentor Nik Done (left), co-founder of Unity, have supported each other since their first days in PR. Though they both now run their own agencies, they still turn to one another for inspiration.

Nick Porter Nik and I met at university about 14 years ago. She lived in the room above me in halls and I knew her through a friend with whom she studied art history. I didn't really like her to begin with. She flooded her room and then set fire to it. She'll hate me for saying this but she also wore army fatigues...

Nick Porter and Nik DoneNik Done Yes, well, moving swiftly on, I graduated a year before Nick and got a job at Ketchum as an assistant in the business division. Nick likes to talk, so I suggested she went into PR too. When a pos­ition came up in the tech division I put her name forward...

NP ...and for the past 12 years it's been the case that one will move and the other will follow.

ND When Nick left Ketchum to work for Larkspur, a year later she helped me get a job there too. We both moved to Band & Brown, and from there both left to start
up our own agencies in 2005.

NP Our relationship has always been fluid. There is no sense of competition as we know the stress of starting up on our own. I am on maternity leave at the moment but I still get calls from her on the way to work to brainstorm ideas.

ND Well, she has time on her hands and is much more creative than me anyway. By the time I get to work we've bounced ideas off each other and have a different angle. Nick is always able to provide an alternative viewpoint and I do the same for her.

I rem­ember once going round to her house at 6pm to help her generate ideas for a pitch the following day. I left at 5am, but she ended up winning the client.

NP Or we'll discuss things in bars or while shopping. We use each other for case studies and she was inspiration for an article I wrote called Gadget Girl, as she always has some new-fangled technol­ogy in her handbag.

ND It boils down to the fact that Nick is really, really wise. She gives great professional and
people management advice, pin-points problems and helps find a simple solution.

NP Nik is incredibly career min­ded and as a result has blazed through. However, she is still
approachable and a good friend. Even though we are now bosses of our own agencies, she is still my mentor.

Fiona Chow & Mark Morley
Fiona Chow, senior consultant at 3 Monkeys Communications, and her mentor Mark Morley, head of corporate communications at the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority - the Qatari equivalent of the FSA - have always given each other a sense of perspective in their careers.

Fiona ChowFiona Chow I've known Mark since I studied politics and parliamentary studies at the University of Leeds. We met eight years ago when I was 21 and in the third year of my course. I was doing internships with the US Senate, Martin Bell MP and Susan Kramer's London mayoral campaign for the Lib Dems.

Mark had been seconded from Cowley Street to the Kramer campaign, having been headhunted from the Scottish Conservatives. We bonded over sarcasm, cigarettes and his natty collection of waistcoats.

Mark Morley Fiona was a terrific sounding board for me when I was facing some serious professional challenges as director of communications at the Catholic Church in 2002 and 2003. She may not have been someone who necessarily understood the culture in which I was working, but she was someone who understood communications issues and, crucially, my
style and approach.

FC Mark and I have always kept in touch and he remains to this day one of my best and most trusted advisers. He began by looking over my CV as a graduate when he was part of the broadcast division at Weber Shandwick and forwarding it to every contact he had.

Mark MorleyIt's fair to say I've run every major career decision I've ever made past Mark before deciding to go for it. Like any good mentor, Mark can be relied on for sage and constructive advice, well intentioned criticism and a kick ass reference.

MM I think that one of the most important features of mentoring relationships is that they have be two-way. Few mentors will have the answers to every question and it is often about sharing experience and perspective.

I may have more of the former than Fiona, but the latter is a measure of more than simple time served. Fiona's sometimes lancing insights have often provided a useful check on my occasionally over-sensitive approach to things.

It is about feeling safe, and able to ask for advice or make suggestions knowing that this person is not competing with you, has your interests at heart and understands the challenges you face.

FC Even though he's now based in Qatar, we remain in regular contact. Advice is only a phone call or email away. I wouldn't be where I am today without Mark.

Adrian Brady & David Godfrey
Adrian Brady, chief executive of PR agency Eulogy, and his mentor David Godfrey, partner in private equity firm CNG Partners, know how useful having a sounding board is inside and outside the industry.

Adrian Brady I first moved to London in 1992 and got a job as account executive at Conduit Communications, a database marketing agency. David was the marketing director.

David Godfrey The company was only small, with about ten people. Adrian and I became good friends, but I think we would have done even if we had not worked with each other. Adrian left to go into PR and eventually started Eulogy.

Adrian BradyAround the same time I moved to the US with Conduit, taking the business first to Boston and then to New York.

AB Even though he moved to the US, we kept in contact. David was actually Eulogy's first client. I provided the PR services for him in the UK while he was in the US.

DG Then, when I sold the business in 1999 and returned to London to start another company, I began to help Adrian grow Eulogy. I've continued to do so now for the past six years. I suppose you could call me a non-executive as well as Adrian's sounding board.

AB He had such a key role when Eulogy started - he effectively bought into the business, putting his own reputation on the line by representing and supporting Eulogy.

David is not a quarter-by-quarter man. He would push me to grow and expand into other sectors and, as his skills lie in finance, his help was key when we were trying to break into the insurance sector.

We would meet up for a pint here and there, and discuss everything from a personal view on the company's direction, to the bigger picture of new areas in which to recruit, to add­ress the skills of individual employees.

David is a very straight talker, but always has patience. I think our rel­ationship has worked well because we have slightly different characters but we find the middle ground easily and always have a good laugh. Humour is very imp­ortant in business.
 
DG Too true. Adrian is very gregarious and networks extremely well. I take my hat off to him. He's also very good at taking ideas from people and adapting them. I push him where appropriate and provide an objective view.

You don't always see the wood for the trees, and I will say ‘this is that and that is this'. If anything, I hope he has learned to take a conscious step back and take a measured, objective
approach.

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