The Magic of Mentoring: How to #PayItForward

Our next guest in the podcast took part in a leadership mentoring programme for underrepresented women in the PR industry that she says ‘changed her life’. Shalini Gupta decided to pay it forward and has since been mentoring underrepresented PR graduates. She is passionate about helping develop the next generation of communicators and young leaders in the industry to help them fulfil their true potential.

Shalini has worked with the Taylor Bennett Foundation and more recently, signed up as a mentor with Migrant Leaders, a charity that works with disadvantaged young people to equip them with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to take on leadership roles.

In this episode Shalini is joined by one of her first mentees, burgeoning #CommsHero Ilyana Rajwani, an internal comms intern in the financial sector, to discuss all things mentoring: learnings; the importance of having diverse role models and how by bridging the gap early in the lives of underrepresented young professionals, it can really help them spread their wings and take flight.

Shalini Gupta

Internal Communications Manager, Employee Experience

Ilyana Rajwani

Corporate Affairs Intern


Mentoring is one of the most underrated keys to nourishing one’s growth. For any young professional trying to enter the industry, a mentor can help open a number of doors they may not have known existed which can be even more crucial to people from underrepresented backgrounds.

Key topics

Shalini and Ilyana met through the Taylor Bennett Foundation, a charity that exists to help Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic graduates into the PR and communications industry. Shalini says: “BT had this opportunity working along with the Taylor Bennett Foundation to mentor young grads and I signed up through that program.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Shalini, having joined A Leader Like Me, a mentoring programme devised by Advita Patel and Priya Bates says: “I enrolled myself in a mentoring program for women of colour, and that had a life changing impact on me; the doors that I didn’t know existed had been opened for me.

“I was able to very quickly step outside of my comfort zone and be visible in the industry.

From a personal development perspective, I think it was that aspect of the belief and the confidence and the potential of putting myself out there that I realised.

“As an underrepresented person in the industry, we have the potential to change lives and move the dial on, making it more inclusive ourselves, to be the change that you want to see. That’s one of the reasons I was really keen on the Taylor Bennett Foundation opportunity.

“For ethnic diversity in the pipeline, I think you know when both people have a similar sort of experience and barriers, you know you receive absolutely practical advice on how to overcome them.”

Ilyana adds that the two were matched based on their interests in and out of PR; on the relationship, she says: “[it was] a perfect match and this has been an incredible experience so far.”

Ilyana found it particularly helpful having someone who understood the specific challenges she may face. She says it makes all the difference “having a safe space to talk to someone who does look like me that I know may have experienced inequalities in life that I too have experienced. I actually did my dissertation on diversity in PR so it almost shocked me into how little we have improved as an industry.

“Doing that and then looking for job straight afterwards, I was a bit anxious about whether the statistics that I’ve researched would be reflected in the office that I would be working in so it was great to know that the Taylor Bennett Foundation and Shalini were there and that there are people that look like me that are doing well in this career.”

Though Covid has thwarted any face to face meetings, Shalini and Ilyana have been able to develop a mentor-mentee relationship online and plan to meet later this year for the first time irl. Ilyana has seen the relationship pay dividends. Of the experience, she says: “I’m so much more open minded now. I feel like I was very tunnel visioned.

“As soon as I graduated and before meeting Shalini, I thought I wanted to go down the consumer PR route even though I hadn’t experienced consumer PR that much at that point in time. Shalini kept telling me to stay open minded and apply for roles; even if you don’t meet every single bullet point in a job description, that’s OK, you’re not meant to, it’s just there as a basis.”

This is great advice, and we’ve seen this discussion rumble on Twitter, with stats that suggest underrepresented groups are more likely to refrain from applying for a job if they feel they cannot fully meet the job spec.

Ilyana adds: “Shalini really encouraged me to apply for roles outside of my comfort zone and that’s how I’ve got the internship I have today.”

One of the reasons their mentoring relationship has worked so well is that Ilyana is so engaged. Shalini says: “It really helped because she’s really, really hungry to learn more and network out there.

“I think it’s that relationship that we had that helped overcome those initial sort of thoughts in my head about the perceived challenges.

“A mentor walks along with you to show you what you can do. It’s allowing you to see the hope inside yourself rather than just walking ahead of you to show you. It’s somebody holding your hand.

“Because I’ve experienced that, I knew what it should look like for Ilyana.”

Ilyana adds that joining the industry can be daunting, but you don’t have to feel like you’re going it alone. She says: “The Internet is your best friend here. Do lots of research. There’s so many resources out there to help you.

There’s charities like the Taylor Bennett Foundation, mentoring programmes which are great because it’s more personal and you feel like you’re not entering the world of PR alone, you feel like you can enter it with someone who’s had so much experience.”

Any final words from Shalini and Ilyana?

Says Ilyana of #CommsHero: “It’s great for networking just to meet new people in the industry.

Don’t be scared to approach people is my advice, even if you are younger, don’t use that as a reason to not approach someone. Think of the communications industry as broad and it’s so flexible you can try such a variety of different roles.

Shalini adds: “I think #CommsHero is an absolutely amazing community that you’ve set up and hats off to you. It has introduced me to so many Comms Heroes, people in the industry that I wouldn’t have known otherwise and it has opened doors for me that I didn’t know existed.”

The show notes are the creation of friend of #CommsHero Teela Clayton.

This episode is sponsored by Blink. The world’s first enterprise app designed exclusively for frontline workers.