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Mentoring Insights: Caroline Pepper and Leanne Griffiths

August 24, 2023

Exhibitions News has teamed up with Women in Exhibition’s UK Chapter to publish Mentoring Insights: a series of Q&As between senior mentors and female mentees as the pairs share aspirations for their mentorship. 

In the fourth Q&A of the series, Caroline Pepper (pictured right), owner of Your Expo Support, a company providing freelance operational support for exhibition and conference organisers, and mentee Leanne Griffiths (right), director, new business development at GES EMEA, give an insight into their mentoring relationship, and what they are both gaining from working together.

 

Mentor, Caroline Pepper, owner of Your Expo Support, a company providing freelance operational support for exhibition and conference organisers.

 

Why did you want to become a mentor?

It felt right to be able to give something back.  I work with lots of small organisers and startup companies, many of which have young employees, and I tend to find that I’m put into the position of mentoring due to my many years of experience in the industry.  I enjoy learning about other people’s career plans or aspirations, and being able to offer guidance or suggestions that I wish I had been given over the years.

Describe where you were in your career at the same stage as your mentee is now. What opportunities laid ahead and what challenges did you face?

We have, of course, changed hugely in technological terms over the last 25 years, which has made most things more efficient, but also brought a large learning curve for events.  I have mostly been fortunate to have supportive management throughout my career which has helped me to develop, however I have also had to push to progress into roles that have been previously male dominated.  I was often the only woman in the room in senior meetings, which always disappointed me.  I’m very pleased to see things are changing, and in many cases, men are pushing for these changes as much as women are.

What do you think the biggest challenge is for someone at your mentee’s stage of career to overcome? And what are the top skills needed to overcome this?

The younger generations are much more aware of themselves in terms of what they want and where they want to go.  This is helpful and provides a starting point.  It appears the most useful part of mentoring is listening and providing feedback, and perhaps connecting them with contacts through networking opportunities.  Confidence can be a big challenge and can be the key aspect holding us back from achieving what we want to achieve.  Just having a conversation about the person and their career can help, as there aren’t necessarily people around us who can provide independent advice on where and how to progress.  As we are both in the events industry, we understand some of the mutual frustrations, which has helped in building our mentor/mentee relationship.

What do you hope your mentee will gain from mentoring?

I hope that Leanne will gain confidence in herself and her ability.  This role lends itself to discussing goals and aspirations which we might feel are beyond us. A mentor can reflect those thoughts, and not only identify how they are already demonstrating their abilities, but also suggest new ways of approaching something which may have been a challenge until now. I think it’s useful to encourage your mentee to think about what they want, what help they want, and what do they need to achieve their next step or goal.  Often just identifying this can help them have clearer focus to develop a plan.

What are you yourself learning or gaining from being a mentor?

It’s always nice to hear that something you’ve said has been useful or made sense. I believe we can always learn from others, and wisdom isn’t just one sided.  Working with another person on their development often makes us question our own decisions or views, and hopefully we learn from that and make changes as appropriate.  It’s also nice to meet someone new and to expand industry contacts.

Tell us about your own mentors; have you been mentored and how did it help you?

I’ve never had official mentors, but I’ve looked at those around me that I admire and have tried to learn from their management styles.  I’ve worked hard and pushed myself to succeed, and I know that along the way I’ve had help with that from colleagues and employers, which I’ve appreciated.  I’ve tried to replicate that with supporting those who will be taking the lead in the future.  Mentoring should absolutely be a 360° approach, making the experience rewarding for both parties.

 

Mentee – Leanne Griffiths, director, new business development, GES EMEA

 

Why did you seek a mentor?

I sought a mentor to develop my skills as a manager, to ultimately help me progress in my current role. Whilst I have been at GES for 10 years, I am relatively new to managing people, therefore lacking a degree of confidence in management situations, I felt I needed an independent opinion to give me a well-rounded view of how to lead a team, and to hear and learn from someone’s experiences.

How many mentoring sessions have you now had with your mentor?

I have had 2 sessions so far with Caroline!

What has surprised you about your mentoring journey so far?

How quickly you can feel at ease talking to someone you have just met about things you maybe haven’t even spoken to your own colleagues, or even family/friends, about!

Describe where you are in your career and how you got to where you are now.

I began at GES 10 years ago, in May 2013 as a Commercial Assistant, joining the industry having left university where I studied Accountancy and Finance, and worked in my mums pub. I really wanted the role as it fulfilled my love of planning events, but also my love for numbers (Maths was always my best subject at school!), and I was lucky that they took a chance on the girl with no experience! I went from supporting the Sales Team in the UK with administrative functions, to looking after my own clients and quoting, progressing through roles as the opportunities arose, going from Assistant to Executive to Business Development Manager, and then after the pandemic I was promoted to Associate Director, and then in June 2023, Director of New Business Development. I strive to continue with career progression, and I am constantly looking at what I need to do to achieve the next step.

Why did you choose this industry?

I was always running events at my mum’s pub, from charity fundraisers to social evenings. I loved what came with the planning and preparation, and the buzz of seeing the event live.  I began looking for roles where I could fulfil that need alongside using my academic knowledge from my business-related studies, and that’s when I found the exhibition and events industry existed and found my first role at GES. It was pure chance really; I think I applied for the job an hour before applications closed!

What opportunities lie ahead and what challenges did you face?

I think there is a lot of opportunity for me to keep progressing in my career within the industry given the experience I have gained, and ultimately its entirely down to me how far I want to progress, and how much I want to keep pushing. My biggest challenge is my confidence, I may seem confident in talking about a subject I know a lot about, and I think improving that is only going to happen by putting myself in situations outside of my comfort zone, something Caroline is helping me see!

What do you think the biggest challenge is for someone at your stage of career to overcome? 

At this stage in my career, I think the biggest challenge to overcome is pushing into the next steps of leadership. Whilst I think there has been huge progression for women in this industry, especially now we have the support of initiatives like Women in Exhibitions empowering women to push further in their careers, I do still feel like there is a lot more that can be done.  I am glad that GES have become a corporate member of Women in Exhibiitions, as it shows the intent of the business in doing what they can to also support the cause.

What do you hope you will gain from mentoring?

I’m hoping (and already gaining) insight into someone else’s experience in the industry, and as a leader, Caroline is someone I can bounce questions off and learn from. For me, it’s all about building my confidence as a manager, and I’m already beginning to see the green shoots of the work I am putting in.

Please can you tell us about your career goals?

I have a passion for Business.  For my A-levels I only studied business related subjects, from Economics to Business and Accountancy, it’s always been something I’ve been passionate about.  My ultimate career goal is to keep pushing up the ladder, taking steps towards higher management, and to begin working with my own teams, working on a wider business strategy, and ultimately to become a decision maker in a business. I know some people get to a point in the career and think “I’m done, this is where I want to be ultimately”, I just know I’m not anywhere near done yet!

Applications for the mentoring programme, from both potential mentees and mentors, are open to all Women in Exhibitions’ UK Chapter members.

Find out more about membership at https://www.womeninexhibitions.co.uk/become-a-member/ and apply now to be a mentor/mentee at www.womeninexhibitions.co.uk/mentoring.

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