Genuinely caring to help brighten lives

Brightening a life and experiencing the positive impact it has on someone else are some of the highlights of Shadé Zahrai’s mentoring career.

Zahrai scooped Money Management and Super Review’s Mentor of the Year award at the Women in Financial Services Awards this year and said mentoring had to come from the right place to genuinely add value and help others in a way that they needed.

The Bank of Melbourne’s strategy manager said she started mentoring after a pivotal moment in her career. A lack of confidence after moving from law to banking had Zahrai seek out a mentor by accident who told her to focus on what she could do instead of her weaknesses. 

“This was an absolute turning point for me. It helped me align my career with my strengths and to find ways to contribute by using them,” she said. 

“And this is what I now share with the women I mentor and coach. Instead of focussing on weaknesses that de-energise you, identify your authentic talents that energise you and that you can develop into strengths.”

Zahrai believes that women don’t have to have decades of experience to be helpful, they just have to care. 

“I’m not there to just dish out advice – I’m there to support and guide. It’s about being willing to challenge somebody in a gentle and loving way,” she said.
Zahrai noted that women tended to focus on what they lacked and became consumed with that mindset.

“The reality is that we are in a male-dominated industry thanks to legacy issues and old school ways of thinking. If you allow that mindset to take over then you’re playing into the victim mentality,” she said.

The judges said that Zahrai was a fantastic role model for women who put herself out there for others.

Some of Zahrai’s achievements include a pro bono education series workshop for women, a pro bono four-month program for emerging women at her workplace, and a structured mentoring program for six individuals each quarter in the industry. 

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