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How Jo Juan-Gardiner Learned to Slow Down & Listen by Being a Raise Mentor

As a Research Business Partner working on some of Australia’s most popular sports & entertainment brands, Jo Juan-Gardiner has a pretty busy schedule.

On any given day she might be diving into the latest consumer insights with her leader Simon Stevens, Director of Research, for Foxtel Group’s Chief Strategy Officer Hilary Perchard, or supporting Kayo Sports’ Executive Director Cate Hefele or Marketing Director Kim McConnie with brand health or customer experience tracking.

It’s this high-performance culture that attracted Jo to the Foxtel Group 5 years ago, where she’s since enjoyed working on some of the company’s biggest sporting projects including Kayo Sports' value propositions and feeding consumer insights into the recent AFL/Cricket rights negotiations.

But like many busy professionals, Jo had a desire to balance her fast-paced analytical role with something that used a different skill set, which was equally as challenging and rewarding.

As a mother to a young son, Jo was drawn to the Raise Mentoring Program, through which Foxtel Group team members meet with students from Epping Boys High School for a few hours each week during the school term.

“I thought that would be really interesting,” Jo says of her first year volunteering as a Raise Mentor. “It wasn’t actually the word ‘mentor’ that attracted me, it was the word ‘youth’” she continues.

Participating in the Raise Mentoring program gave Jo a first-hand look into some of the challenges that young men are dealing with today, many of which she says are relatively new, due to technology and social media.

For example, one of Jo’s first mentees really wanted help getting comfortable looking adults in the eyes, particularly females. Although this might seem like an easy task for most adults, Jo’s mentee simply hadn’t had the opportunity to practice and as such it was the source of some minor anxiety.

Having Jo as a mentor helped him improve eye contact with adults and also boosted his overall confidence.

“You’re mentoring kids that are 11 or 12. It’s a tough time for boys. You’re no longer a little child, but you’re also not yet an adult. But people expect you to be,” she says.

Although Jo admits she didn’t know what to expect when she first began as a mentor, she credits Raise Mentoring’s excellent resources for her smooth start. Along with training materials, Raise provides templates for structured activities that help to build connections and trust between mentors and mentees. Alternatively, mentors can structure sessions around a simple chat.

Once she was comfortable with the resources, Jo’s preferred way of connecting with her mentees was just by having a simple conversation. It was this experience each week which made her acutely aware of the two-way learning experience embedded in the Raise Mentoring program. Week by week, in addition to learning about youth culture and understanding the challenges facing young people today, Jo got better at slowing down and listening.

“You know, it’s something we’re not very good at as adults. We’re so busy, we want to work so quickly, sometimes we don’t slow down and actually listen to each other”, she says.

Throughout her time as a mentor, lending an ear to a young person in need is what Jo found herself doing most frequently. “They don’t want to talk about their problems, they just want to chat and learn how to be an adult without any pressures,” she says.

Jo has found the experience so rewarding that 2024 will be her third year participating in the program. “It does feel good to be able to give back, but to be honest, you’re not just giving back, you’re also learning a lot,” she says.

Thanks, Jo, for sharing your Raise Mentoring story with us. If you would like to learn more about becoming a Raise Mentor please sign up here before December.

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