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Polina Shilenina & Linh Diep: On Launching Assisterhood

The drive to ‘give back’ to the industry is something that grips all the good ones at some point in their careers. In fact, few are better than the women behind Assisterhood, a mentorship program linking underrepresented people with industry leaders who can support their success. Born out of Brisbane, the program was spearheaded by Linh Diep, B&T 30 Under 30 winner and Business Manager at Special Group. Co-organising the initiative is Polina Shilenina, an experienced Digital Project Manager with Publicis Worldwide Australia.

Ahead of Assisterhood’s exciting expansion into Victoria, Mavens corresponded with the two legends to learn more about the program and how our readers can get involved.

Thanks for talking to Mavens, Linh and Polina. To kick off, can you tell us how Assisterhood came about?

LD: Realising how rare female mentorship was in agencies, I created a mentorship program to help share the same positive experience I received at my first agency. On International Women's Day 2018, I didn't go for the usual cupcakes and guest speakers.

Instead we launched Assisterhood, connecting five of Publicis’ female leaders with ambitious young females. Five years on, the program has connected 60+ mentees with industry powerhouses across advertising, marketing, media, production, research, digital and design.

Why is mentorship so important to women’s career development?

PS: A phrase that resonated with me when I joined Assiterhood (as co-organiser) is ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. Of course that is not entirely true; we see incredible trailblazers paving their own way into c-suits, boardrooms and founder seats. However, the feeling of isolation and self-doubt that accompanies women and other marginalised groups – who do not see anyone they can relate to being present at the leadership level – is very real, and could be slowing down their professional growth.

We see the role of Assisterhood as the spotlight for senior female talent, to help the next generation coming through.

We want them to unapologetically aim for those leadership roles, battle with imposter syndrome to apply for managerial positions, or open their own businesses. We encourage this by showcasing real-life examples of women who have done it before – we call them our ‘Assisters.’

Mentorship is also incredibly powerful at easing the fear of asking for help. If you ever wanted to ask a question, but decided not to because you felt that everyone will see that you don’t know as much as you should, you know exactly what I am talking about.

Having a mentor in your corner creates a safe, non-judgemental space for experimentation, sharing experiences and finding support – which is so valuable in building up skills and confidence.

What do you think makes a great Assister?

LD: A desire to give back and be the change you want to see in the world. I know I started this program to create something I wish I had when I first started, so we want our Assisters to feel the same – the desire to give back is massive for us.

PS: Over time, we have learned that supporting the next generation can come in many flavours, and we aim to create a community our Assisters will be a part of for life. Assisterhood graduates can tap into the network even after the program is finished, and we hope that they will spearhead the movement of supporting others throughout their professional careers, and come back as mentors to give back also.

You’re about to launch the 2022 program in Queensland and Victoria. How can our audiences get involved?

PS: Applications for the 2022 program are now open for both our VIC and QLD programs. If you or someone you know would benefit from pairing up with a superstar mentor to take their career to the next level, please head to the Assisterhood website and fill out the application form. The program is completely free for mentees, and we cannot thank our mentors enough for donating their time to help the next generation of leaders build a more equitable future.

You will get 6 months of one-on-one mentoring from some of the brightest minds and biggest hearts in the industry, plus a community and a network for life.

If you’d like to become a mentor or a sponsor, please reach out to Linh and I via LinkedIn. We are looking to grow and bring as many talented and motivated people up the ladder with us, so any support is highly appreciated. Who knows, maybe the NSW chapter is not too far from becoming a reality!

Learn more about Assisterhood and apply for the 2022 program here.


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