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From mentee to mentor: a unique perspective on Fast Forward 15

Lucy Anstie, head of client engagement at London Business Forum, is a mentor on this year’s Fast Forward 15. But it’s just a few short years since Anstie herself was signing up to take part on the mentoring programme, created by Fay Sharpe to give back to the industry, to inspire and empower women in business. We caught up with her to hear about her unique journey from mentee to mentor…

I heard about the Fast Forward 15 programme through an events industry email, totally by chance.
After seeing it, I looked it up and couldn’t believe the calibre of the mentors. I knew I had to apply!

At the time, I was two years into my career at London Business Forum, a fast-paced, innovative company who organise events with world-class speakers.
I had progressed from events assistant to events manager, but my role was about to change again as my director  started her maternity leave. New responsibilities were exciting, but also extremely daunting. I found that I was moving too fast and trying to do too much. I was also probably quite close to burnout, but this was hard to see when I was so busy.

I needed an external perspective on my challenges.
I needed the freedom to discuss all of my thoughts and concerns. I also needed to start putting time aside for me. The FF15 scheme was the external out-reach I needed. It offered me the chance to refocus, find my feet and gain advice from an industry expert.

My time as a mentee taught me to worry less, say yes and just do it.
My mentor was Jackie Boughton, head of business events at the Barbican; she is one of the most level-headed and calm people I know. During my time on the programme, Jackie invited me to some amazing networking events. At first I found it quite intimidating, but I always said ‘yes’ and learnt to go with it. I was introduced to some fantastic people in the industry. In events, this is undeniably valuable. Having a good network can help you resolve a multitude of challenges.

FF15 mentees

FF15 mentees.

I came to realise how important it is to regularly step outside of your comfort zone and broaden your perspective. During the programme, the mentees have education days which involve presentations and pitches. By putting yourself in these situations, you quickly grow.

Being a FF15 mentee is special.
By working with a mentor, I was able to gain perspective on what I am good at and what I enjoy. When I applied for the programme, I had a lot of opportunities ahead of me, but I needed direction. The FF15 programme helped me to realise what I am most passionate about, it reminded me that I am in control of my career and what I want to do.

It can sometimes feel like we have little power or control over our jobs and the moment we start to feel lost or unsure, we look for a new one. But what FF15 taught me about my career, is that there are opportunities right in front of you; we have the power and the control not just to take them, but to make them.

After graduating and experiencing the benefits of the programme for myself, I was determined not to lose touch and wondered if there was some way that I could give back.

Inspired by my fellow graduates and with the help of my mentor, I suggested to Fay that we build a formal alumni network to showcase the springboard effect of FF15 and create a legacy of ambitious event professionals who will continue to drive women in business forward. Together, we formally created the group and initiated our new monthly newsletter which we hope will also be supported with a calendar of alumni events in the future.

As a network, we’re winning awards, achieving doctorates, running Apprentice programmes…and we celebrate this together. It’s critical to keep inspiring others with the amazing contributions of past and future mentees and mentors in our industry.

When Fay later asked whether I would like to be a mentor for the 2019/20 programme, I felt honoured and privileged. This is the ultimate opportunity to give back.
At the beginning of the year, we had an introductory event where we met all of the mentors on the programme. I was so excited, but when you’re in a room with the CEO of IMEX Group, GM of The Grand Brighton and Account Director of BCD, it is a little daunting.

Mentees from Fast Forward 15 (FF15) raised more than £10,000 at the Fast Forward Fiesta.

Mentees from Fast Forward 15 (FF15) raised more than £10,000 at the Fast Forward Fiesta.

However, my experience of being a mentee is proving to be very valuable. While new mentors familiarise themselves with the timelines, journals and the 12-month plan for the programme, I already know the process. I was also asked to explain to the group the viewpoint of a mentee. In that sense, my perspective is unique and being so closely connected to the programme will hopefully be of great benefit.

I hope my mentee comes away with a renewed sense of drive and ambition.
My mentee already has these things, but as with all mentees who apply for the programme, there is something holding them back. I want to unlock what that thing is and provide the path for them to be amazingly successful.

If you’re thinking of applying for FF15, I’d say ‘worry less, say yes and just do it’.
You might be thinking ‘I won’t be good enough’ or ‘I don’t know a thing about goal-setting’. If you’re ambitious and you like a challenge, if you want to go places and meet people and if you’re passionate about events, this a life-changing programme.

What I would say is that this programme isn’t easy. You’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone in more ways than one. And if you really jump in, you’ll see that this won’t just impact your professional life… you’ll take a completely different mind-set to everything you do.