Q&A: Ziena and Pete's mentorship journey

We chat with Leadership Network members Ziena Jalil and Pete McKenzie about their experiences taking part in the network's Mentorship Programme – meeting for the first time, sharing ideas and developing a friendship.

Zeina: " I don’t view our relationship as one where I help Pete. It’s more about an exchange of ideas..."

Mentor: Ziena Jalil

  • Leadership Network member since 2008
  • Independent director, strategic consultant, and diversity inclusion advocate, Auckland

Mentee: Pete McKenzie

  • Leadership Network member since 2019
  • Studying law (hons), political science and Mandarin at Victoria University of Wellington; tutoring public and constitutional law; freelance journalist; manages platoon of reservists in Taranaki; City Mission volunteer.

Why did you want to be part of the Mentorship Programme?

Pete: I’m incredibly curious about everyone and really keen to learn about other people doing unique and interesting things, which I felt particularly strongly when Adam let me know that I had been paired with someone who he described as “unbelievably cool”. Getting to see Ziena’s work and leadership approach up close was a great opportunity to indulge that curiosity!

 Ziena: For me, participation in this programme is about giving back, meeting and learning about new people and what inspires them, and supporting the development and career aspirations of a new group of young talent. Through this initiative, I have also seen an opportunity to further hone my mentoring skills.

Had you had much to do with each other prior to this?

Pete: No. I was flying blind, which meant that when I first read Ziena’s bio I was surprised - I hadn’t expected to be matched with someone with that particular set of skills and experience. A good surprise! It meant our mentoring relationship has gone in productive, unexpected, directions.

 Ziena: No, I didn’t know Pete, but Adam described him as an “amazing young talent” and said he thought we’d both get a lot out of the engagement with each other. Pete and I are quite similar in some ways in terms of our values and interests, and quite different in others. It makes for interesting conversations.

Pete standing in a hall with Chinese lanterns

Pete: "For me it’s about seeing values-based leadership in action and seeing how I can take that into my own life."

What was your first meeting like? 

Ziena: Our first meeting was a Zoom during lockdown. It was quite refreshing to be able to talk with someone about things other than Covid-related issues.  We focused on getting to know each other, because we hadn’t met before, and also discussing housekeeping matters such as how often we wanted to meet, and what we wanted from the mentoring relationship

Pete: I was still on standby in Linton army camp, because they thought they might call on the reserves, so it was great to step out of my day to day at that point to catch up with Ziena.

The amazing thing about this relationship has been that it hasn’t been overly structured and yet it has provided me great insights into different worlds.

Ziena, how were you able to help Pete? Pete, what did you want to get out of it? 

 Ziena: I don’t view our relationship as one where I help Pete. It’s more about an exchange of ideas, things we are working on, and issues we care about – some of which have overlaps, and others which don’t. It’s always interesting to get a different perspective on the issues we care about.

Pete: For me it’s about seeing values-based leadership in action and seeing how I can take that into my own life.

What have you gained through being a mentor/mentee?  

Ziena: I’ve met an amazing person who cares deeply about a range of issues, and actually puts the work into contributing to make a difference. It heartens me to see someone at Pete’s age, with his talent, drive and passion – it renews your faith in humanity.

Pete: I worry about burning out sometimes or overloading myself with the things that I care about and then I see Ziena, who is able to manage it all, or seems to at least! It’s reassuring and inspiring to know that that’s possible.

Do you have any advice to someone thinking about taking part in the Mentorship Programme?

Ziena: Keep an open mind about where the mentoring relationship could go rather than having predetermined notions of what it would be. I’ve found I’ve learnt more than I expected to. We often think the mentor does most of the giving – but the best mentoring relationships work both ways.

Pete: Be genuinely curious – it’s easy as a mentee to ask rote questions or limit yourself to certain areas, but you’ll gain so little if you do. View your mentor as a friend, and find out what they’re doing, how they’re coping and if there’s anything you can do to help! It’ll mean the world to them, and expose you to so much more which you can learn from.