Mentoring Strikes a Chord with Busy Professional



When Janna Cowley (pictured left), the Claims Services Delivery Lead at IAG New Zealand, read an article about First Foundation on the insurance company’s intranet, something struck a chord with her.

“There was an article on our intranet about students doing work experience with NZI and mentors sharing their experiences. I liked the idea of being a contact person for a student who wasn’t familiar with tertiary education and the challenges involved,” Janna says.

Having growing up in a farming community in the Waikato, life changed for Janna after she went on a student exchange for a year. She decided to study business in Auckland and she has lived in the City of Sails on and off for years now.

Mentors at First Foundation are highly valued as they play an integral part in the organisation. They are matched with a Mentee either in the Foundation Steps or Scholarship programmes and provide a sounding board for the students as they transition from high school to university and then to the workplace.

Scholarship students are mentored throughout their four-year programme and a life-long bond is often formed between a Mentor and Mentee.

Janna signed up to become a Mentor in late 2016 and was matched with Class of 2016 Scholarship recipient Jalesa Nomani (pictured right). Jalesa is now a second year student at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). She has been paired with Scholarship Partner Fletcher Building, who will provide Jalesa with work experience as part of their involvement in First Foundation’s programme.

While Janna says she did not have many concerns ahead of meeting Jalesa, she did want to ensure her mentee felt comfortable with her.

“Initially, it was important to find common ground and create a rapport that allowed my student to approach me with questions. While we are quite different, we get along really well and enjoy our catch-ups - I try to think of different things to do and places to meet.”

For the busy professional, finding the time to coordinate a catch-up is the most challenging part of being a Mentor due to her work commitments; however, seeing Jalesa excel in her first year and grow in confidence is wonderful and rewarding, Janna says. “It’s awesome. We really enjoyed attending the First Foundation Awards and Completion Ceremony at SKYCITY Theatre together – it was lovely for her to see the new students and hear success stories from the graduates.”

After her first year or so of being a Mentor, Janna has recommended mentoring to several friends and colleagues who she believes have a lot to offer and would be great role models for First Foundation scholars. She encourages anyone who is interested in mentoring to give it a go.

First Foundation is currently recruiting 150 Mentors across the Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch regions, to help achieve its mission “to assist academically talented New Zealand students worthy of support to achieve their potential through tertiary education, and to prepare them to positively influence and benefit their communities".

Please visit for more information on how to become a First Foundation mentor.

"I liked the idea of being a contact person for a student who wasn’t familiar with tertiary education and the challenges involved."