Athamaica and Ulf

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One of the most important elements in any mentoring relationship is commitment. Athamaica and Ulf know this very well.

Athamaica joined KVINFO’s Mentor Network in November 2007 after moving to Denmark from Venezuela with her boyfriend. Athamaica knew she needed to start learning Danish immediately. Her teachers at the language school advised her that if she really wanted to be fluent she would have to interact with Danes as much as possible, and eventually get a job.

Athamaica spent much of her first winter in Denmark trying to cope with the cold, but making new friends and finding work seemed difficult. She thought that by being part of a network her chances would improve.

At her interview for KVINFO’s Mentor Network, she described her ideal mentor as someone who would be comfortable with both the professional and the social aspects of the mentoring relationship. She was hoping for a doctor or someone working in medicine, someone who would also be willing to share views on Danish culture and values.

Athamaica was matched with Ulf, who is one of the few men who joined the Mentor Network. Ulf had over a decade of experience in the pharmaceutical industry and had worked broadly with medicinal drug development projects. He heard about the Mentor Network on Danish national radio and this inspired him to visit KVINFO’s homepage and find out more about it. Ulf had a large professional network and thought that he would be able to help someone with an interest in the pharmaceutical industry.

Athamaica and Ulf saw each other for the first time at Nørreport, one of the busiest train stations in central Copenhagen. Athamaica remembers that she was feeling uneasy. It was a cold January day and she was unemployed. On top of that, she thought that neither her Danish nor her English were good enough, so she had brought her boyfriend along to help translate.

To her surprise, the meeting went well and once it was over she had the impression that Ulf was a committed person, someone who took mentoring seriously. Ulf’s wife was also a doctor from abroad, so he was familiar with the complexity of Athamaica’s search for a job in Denmark’s medical field.

“We talked mostly about her background when we met for the first time,” Ulf remembers. “Athamaica seemed very well educated, ambitious and had a very positive outlook.”

Their first step was to list their expectations and outline a simple plan of how to work together. For example, to help Athamiaca’s Danish and to be able to talk about what was happening in society, they agreed she would read one relevant newspaper article every week and they would discuss it over a cup of coffee.

It was their way of dealing with language and cultural barriers. Athamaica’s Danish language skills have greatly improved, so much so that she now has no trouble dealing with her new job as a medical doctor at a large hospital.

Athamaica and Ulf still see each other approximately twice a month, and they have expanded the social aspect of their relationship into a shared social network.

“Ulf told me once that the weather in Denmark may be too cold, but the quality of life is one of the best,” Athamaica says. “I will always remember that.”

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