The Experience of a Mentee: Leesa Bauer

May 2021

Leesa Bauer is a highly experienced and well-respected professional in business and operations management. She has worked for Westpac for more than 20 years, transitioning from one management role to another across the dynamic institution. Seeking to diversify her corporate profession, grow her directorship career and evolve as a leader, Leesa joined the My Mentor program and was paired with notable mentor, Maree Taylor.
Can you share a little about your career history?
I’ve been in the banking and finance arena for more than 20 years, but originally was a high school teacher. I loved teaching, but I wanted something else so I entered the corporate world. During my time with Westpac, I’ve worked in many different areas and departments. That’s one of the advantages of a huge organisation like Westpac — there’s a lot of opportunity to move! I was given a lot of responsibility quite early in my career and being able to manage that with a young family was a challenge. I worked very hard to learn quickly on my feet, but I realise now, that I’m not super human. Would I be able to do it again? I’m not sure. I think I would do it differently. My career has taught me that resilience and adaptability are my key strengths.
What are your reasons for seeking out a mentor?
I had wanted to diversify my career path for some time and had the opportunity to join DCH Animal Adoptions when we fostered a cat for my daughter in 2015. The organisation was going through a lot of flux and came to a stalemate when the Board couldn’t agree so the entire board was stood down. They were looking for new members and I was in the right place at the right time. I was their Treasurer, but also their Accountant, but quickly realised that I didn’t know very much so sought the support of WOB and AICD.
I wanted the support of a mentor to get an x-ray vision into myself… a sensibility into what I wasn’t seeing. I like to think I know myself fairly well — I know I’m sometimes too critical — but I wanted someone to make sure I was awake to my unconscious and conscious behaviours. I think there is always room for growth and it is important to try different things. Mentoring is one way, and you can have many mentors, formally or informally. They will challenge you to see the unknowns. It’s great for brain placidity; it keeps you nimble and open-minded.
How did you become involved with the WOB My Mentor program?
On my journey to growing myself as a company director, I looked at AICD, but I had actually been interested in WOB for quite some time before. I liked the different energy that came with WOB — the interpersonal connections really spoke to me so I chose the My Mentor program.
How did you find the mentor/mentee relationship with Maree Taylor?
Maree made it really easy. I was lucky to get her, which I think is a testament to WOB’s ability to match suitable mentors with mentees. We originally met face-to-face over a coffee prior to COVID to see if it was a partnership that would work for both of us. We had time to think about it and were both happy to progress. Maree is very grounded, has a wealth of experience in mentoring, coaching, human resources and time in the corporate world. Her insights were invaluable. She is not afraid to say what she needs to say about you, but at the same time, it doesn’t sound judgmental. It’s constructive advice.
What was the key focus of your sessions together?
I was a little lost when I first met Maree. I wanted to see where I could direct my corporate career to help my career as a director. I’d been stagnating in my career and saw them as quite separate. She suggested integrating them so they could leverage off each other, which helped me to see my next steps so differently.
When I finished my work with Maree, Westpac went through a huge transformation and as part of that, my role became redundant in July last year. I’ve since been given secondments that have been extended. It’s been a real turning point for me. I had started on that journey to growing my career for the benefit of directorship, but then my entire department was dismantled. I was at a point where I could have chosen to stay or to reinvent myself and go external. Part of my work with Maree has really assisted with the confidence to do just that — to choose a new career path.
What did you learn as a result of undertaking the mentor program?
I learnt to back myself, which I think is relevant to a lot of women. That was the loud and clear message from Maree. Go for something that is big, hairy and scary because you more than likely can. Dare to dare! I’m daring to find a business/operations management role that works well with being a director. I’m currently half way through my AICD certification and doing the juggling act of looking for new work, studying and finding a director role. My goal is to have all three in place by the end of 2021.
Do you have any advice for people considering a mentoring relationship?
We hesitate and procrastinate so much — I certainly do. It becomes a habit and we often medicate ourselves with these distractions. Sometimes you have to just do it and you will find it’s actually not too bad. I’ve leant that fear and excitement are the exact same experience in your body, but if you frame it as excitement in your mind, it can really work for you. Make mentorship work for you. You won’t regret it.

Find out more about WOB's Mentoring program here