by Maia Bondici
I remember the first time I met Sepi. I was lucky enough to be part of the Mentoring Programme at City, University of London. The night I met her, there were so many people around us, I was on the verge of a panic attack. I didn’t really enjoy big crowds or making conversation with people I didn’t know. But when I found Sepi in that crowd, it was an instant click. It didn’t matter who was around us, because when I started to talk to her things slowed down and I realised that it was the beginning of an amazing journey.
This entire mentoring journey has been so important for me. I have come to realise what my strengths are, what I am truly capable of and how to take a step back and look at my life from different angles. Working with a woman with incredible morals, confidence, positivity and so many amazing life stories, has influenced me so much and helped me focus on the direction I want to go in my life and career. Talking about the real issues we face, learning how to manage every obstacle and even slowly learning how to get over my fear of “people and crowds”, Sepi is by far the most amazing role model I have ever had. She encourages women to fight for their goals and dreams, teaching them that they are indeed worth it and that no matter the obstacles, they can do whatever they want to accomplish.
I remember the first job interview I had a few months ago, and how nervous I was. I was encouraged to be confident and be myself and reminded of my skills, so felt more than capable of doing the job. Unfortunately, I did not get the job and felt disheartened. During our next mentoring session, Sepi and I reviewed the interview process. It was so helpful for me to understand that sometimes unsuccessful experiences are not always my fault. I used to wonder what I have to work on, whether I am doing enough, whether I should do more to please people and do what they want. Now I realise that sometimes it’s what goes on behind closed doors and things I don’t know or have control over that can affect an outcome. All I can do is do the best I can and be prepared. I’ve learned a little bit more about how the world of work operates.
As a woman, I still live in a world where hiring a man seems easier. Most people will want to put you in a box, and in my case, as a journalist, can insist you read the news that they want you to read, or have you write the story that will get the most views. I have learned to work within my values and what I stand for. I don’t need to try and be someone else just to please people around me. Being nice, polite, intelligent, having strong principles and working hard, may not be what people around you want all the time, but to me, these values are important.
Besides the professional and personal development that resulted from this mentoring relationship, by far, the most important aspect was the confidence I developed. If it hadn’t been for Sepi, I would still be struggling to accept myself . She taught me that I have the capability of much more than just following the crowd. I can help so many people by saying what I think and talking about topics I think we should talk about – not what I am told to talk about.
I also realised that young women and teenagers out there desperately need a change of course. There are so many horrible things going on in the world right now and we can’t let children grow up with the idea that things like poverty, inequality and injustice are ok. Young people do not need to accept what is happening and just move on. We need role models to motivate us to fight for our dreams and what we stand for. For me, Sepi has been the “change” that I needed, and in return I want to help others who are in my position.
Seeing a real person, with real struggles, who has managed to overcome so many issues; who has managed to grow into such a beautiful, intelligent person; someone who isn’t afraid of speaking their mind and being herself in a world that constantly tells you to be someone else: This is who Sepi is, and I hope that in 20 years, I can pass on my experience to a young person seeking answers and a path to themselves.
I had never called myself a feminist, because I thought that was a much deeper subject that I had yet to fully understand. Getting to know Sepi made me realise how important it is for young women out there to have a positive role model – someone they could ask questions of and learn from. With Sepi, I didn’t just find a role model, I have found a mentor, a friend and a bigger sister. Sepi’s incredible desire to help me become more confident, and her amazing ability to empathise with every struggle I came across, is what made this experience so incredible. Now that the Mentoring Scheme is over, I am happy to be able to call someone like her a friend, a person who will be there for me no matter where I am or what questions I have.
If you are wondering whether a mentor is something you need to progress and build your confidence, my answer is a yes! If you’re lucky, you’ll find a mentor that you click with straight away. But if not, keep looking, because they could be right around the corner.
On 1 September, 2016, Sepi was awarded Mentor of the Year (2016) by City, University of London.
* Photo credits: Sepi Roshan, Mario Kokkoris
Maia Bondici is a talented 3rd year journalism student at City, University of London, working towards a career in media.
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