From The Straits Times    |

Kanak Muchhal

In a world where talent is everywhere but opportunity isn’t, mentors can provide guidance and support, cultivate confidence, and share their knowledge to help foster growth in a positive direction. This is why Her World launched its mentorship programme this year. At its core, the inaugural programme connects mentees with influential women who are leaders in their respective fields.

The pairing process started late last year. We shortlisted eight mentors, extraordinary women who have overcome obstacles, and are keen to pay it forward by sharing their knowledge, and paired them with 11 mentees.

We speak to mentor Kanak Muchhal, senior manager, Programmes, Daughters of Tomorrow, and her mentee, Sylvia Chee, projects and communications manager for Inspiring Girls.

Sylvia Chee is the projects and communications manager for Inspiring Girls

What was your first impression of each other?

Kanak Muchhal (KM): She wasn’t able to make it to the kick-off drinks due to a work commitment, so I knew she was dedicated to her organisation/job. During our first meeting over lunch she was earnest and sincere. She said that she was a bit surprised that she had been chosen for the mentorship programme out of all the applicants, but genuinely delighted.

Sylvia Chee (SC): Kanak greeted me warmly with a bright smile –  it instantly erased any traces of nervousness I had prior to meeting her! From the moment we met, it was clear that she exuded a genuine friendliness and down-to-earth energy. In that instant, I had a strong intuition that we would become fast friends in no time. 

How have you witnessed Sylvia’s growth and progress during the mentorship? 

KM: During our first meeting, Sylvia was questioning if social services was the right fit for her. It was her first job out of university and she hadn’t had an opportunity to try anything else. She made this a focal point for the next few months and reached out to multiple industry leaders to understand their stories and motivations and see how they compared with her own. It’s delightful to hear that in a few short months she sees herself in the right job at the right time and is keen and excited to grow in her current role. 

We discussed how energy intensive it can be to take steps outside our comfort zones (networking for both of us actually!), and it’s been wonderful to hear her being more open to these new opportunities.

Sylvia, what specific goals or objectives did you set at the beginning of the mentorship, and were they achieved?

SC: My primary goal entering the mentorship was to find clarity regarding whether a career in the non-profit sector was the right path for me. I also wanted to seek advice and guidance on how I could further enhance my skills and knowledge to make a valuable contribution to my organisation.

Through the mentorship, I not only gained clarity on my career path but also learned the importance of self-reflection and continuous development. Kanak’s guidance empowered me to take ownership of my professional growth and make intentional efforts to contribute value to my organisation. 

What have you learnt from each other?

SC: During a conversation with Kanak, I expressed my challenges with delegating work due to my desire to maintain control and to avoid burdening others. To my surprise, she shared that she too experienced the same struggle. However, she offered valuable advice that has since guided me in overcoming this hurdle.

Her advice centred around valuing diversity of thought and being open to accepting different approaches and perspectives, as well as cultivating trust and empowering others to take ownership of their work. Since receiving this advice, I have gradually embraced a more open mindset when it comes to delegating work. It is an ongoing personal growth journey for me but I am proactively working on building an environment that nurtures empowerment, open communication, and a strong learning culture.

KM: Sylvia’s dedication to upskilling herself (marketing course) even though she has a very full plate with work was a timely reminder that I too need to carve out some time for that as well. 

Growth comes from embracing discomfort and being open to continuous learning, relearning and unlearning.

Sylvia Chee

What advice or insights from Kanak resonated with you the most, and how have they influenced your thinking or actions?

SC: In the world of non-profit, it is easy to get caught up in the responsibilities and demands that come with moving up the leadership ladder. While taking on more roles and responsibilities is important for personal and professional growth, it is equally crucial to consistently reflect on what truly matters and stay connected to the heart of the organisation – the beneficiaries. 

Growth comes from embracing discomfort and being open to continuous learning, relearning and unlearning. The path to self-discovery is not always easy or comfortable, but it is through these challenges that we find new depths within ourselves. By stepping out of our comfort zone, we open ourselves up to new experiences and opportunities for growth.

And lastly, embrace the power of connections, for within them lies the potential to create a world of inspiration and mutual growth. When we actively nurture and cultivate these connections, we create a network of individuals who uplift and empower each other. 

Apart from working with Kanak, how else has the Her World mentorship programme helped you?

SC: The HW mentorship programme has been a transformative experience – empowering me to explore my full potential, expand my network, gain valuable insights, and develop essential skills. I am truly grateful for the opportunities and growth that this programme has offered me!

HAIR & MAKEUP Aung Apichai / Artistry, using Shu Uemura & Kevin Murphy; Benedict Choo, using Laura Mercier