Mentoring with Compassion and Empathy: Ashley’s Story

Ashley Lam is a mentor from iMentor NYC who joined the organization ten years ago. She is a native New Yorker who works in the banking and finance industry. In addition to being paired with two different mentees throughout her tenure, Ashley also serves on the Young Executive Board, where she participates in fundraising and ambassador activities for iMentor.

How did you first hear about iMentor? What drew you to the opportunity?

I got involved in iMentor based on a referral from a colleague and a friend. I remember talking to her about my childhood, my upbringing, and how I landed a job right out of college, and all the challenges that I had to overcome – school applications, financial aid, student loans, and applying to jobs. A lot of the steps I had to figure out myself as a first-generation American, first person to go to college in my family.

Throughout this mentorship opportunity, I really found my purpose, which is to support other students of similar backgrounds going through the same process. Not only can I support them but make the process a little easier for them as they were navigating these challenges.

You’re also a member of the Young Executive Board (YEB). What made you want to get involved with iMentor in that way?

Through my personal [and] professional life, I got to a point where I'm like, “I can grow this and do more.” By being a part of the YEB, it gives me a stronger way to connect with iMentor and further demonstrates my commitment to my network.

Tell us about your first mentee Rosemary. What was your relationship like with her?

My first mentee was Rosemary at Bronx Leadership Academy II. Our relationship was pretty special. There's always a little bit of apprehension, meeting a person that says they're a mentor coming into their school. Eventually, with the different mentor pairings and monthly visits it was clear to me that our relationship was getting better, but also because I supported her in her pursuit to not have a traditional college path.

She really wanted to pursue things like going to beauty school, or a [being] Youtuber, or modeling even. Being able to support her was key and made a world of difference in our relationship. We still keep in touch. She just told me a few months ago that she landed a feature in a fashion magazine.

Tell us about your relationship with your second mentee Noor.

Noor is an amazing individual. She's dynamic. She's got an outgoing personality. That's been a little bit different even for myself; that's not my natural tendency. It's been inspiring to learn from her.

It was a really unique relationship; the way that she was so driven from her cultural background [and] her family obligations made it relatable to [how] I grew up. I really understood there's not one path to even getting to high school. She's already lived so many lives.

Did you adjust your mentoring style to connect with Noor differently than with Rosemary?

At the end of day, it's about listening. You have to understand they have such different ways of how they got there. I am a full believer [that] you have to understand someone's story to really get [them]. There are so many things that you would never know looking at a person. That really made a big difference in the relationship.

What have you learned from being a mentor?

I've learned a lot from being a mentor. I really wish I had a mentor growing up, and I think that's one of the reasons that I've become a mentor, because I see the value in that. I've really learned compassion and empathy. These qualities you learn as a mentor translate. You need them as a mom. You need them as a people manager. I've definitely honed into those skills of having compassion and empathy for anyone, not just high school students.

What would you say to a potential first time mentor?

My advice is just do it. There's really no downside. So many people want to make an impact [and] this is their most direct way to do it. You are changing a student's life – who knows if you are inspiring them to go to college, or maybe you're inspiring the next entrepreneur.

The biggest part of mentoring, and the hardest part, is just showing up. That's more than half the battle. You don't realize your presence and your ability to dedicate an hour [or] two hours makes such a huge difference to these students.

There are many other mentoring organizations, but one of the reasons why I'm passionate about iMentor is because I truly believe that you are an amazing team. The fact that you have an infrastructure, the corporate partnerships, the programming – it makes it easy to be a mentor. I'm a people manager, I'm a mom of two, and yet I still feel very comfortable and well-equipped because of iMentor that I can be a good mentor.

We need more mentors like Ashley to help guide students through high school and into college! Become a mentor today: