“We sat down and planned both her pregnancies”: How this pharmacist owner and employee support one another through work and life
Welcome to AJP’s new series on mentor-mentee relationships. If you are interested in being featured, please email email@example.com with your story.
Sydney pharmacist proprietor Caroline Diamantis and pharmacist employee Jodie Phung, both from Balmain Community Pharmacy in Sydney, have a strong working relationship as well as friendship.
The two have worked together for over a decade now, since Jodie joined the pharmacy as a placement student in 2010. She then completed her internship there in 2011.
Here the AJP chats with them about their mentoring relationship.
1. How would you describe your mentoring relationship?
Jodie: “She’s like my mum. It’s not only [her] age, but Caroline is very caring and the way she cares for us and guides us is like my mum, seriously. My mum is actually not here, so in a sense I actually treat her like my mum.
“I guess in the relationship of a teacher and a student, anybody who studies with Caroline would say she is an excellent mentor. She has lots of experience, she has been in the retail [industry] for ages, she has lots to guide us about.
“A significant thing about Caroline is she’s very willing to change. It takes enormous energy and courage to make changes, it’s much easier to stay the same, it’s much easier to not change. That’s one of the things I actually admire the most about Caroline.”
Caroline: “It’s been, honestly, never a cross word.
“I want to have a workplace where female pharmacists in particular feel comfortable to have their families and juggle the pressure of work and home. And I try and create that by having open conversations at all times.
“A funny story that I remember is, Jodie and I sat down and planned both her pregnancies… instead of Jodie sitting to plan with her husband!
“I made business plans about who was becoming registered and I could offer them a job so Jodie would have sufficient time off, and I had to fit that in with other people’s needs on the payroll.
“I based it on the back of the friendship more than on the back of the employer.
“And I think that it actually worked really well because of Jodie’s flexibility, she took some ideas home, discussed them with her husband, but I guess at the end of the day, those open conversations lead to good communication but more importantly trust.”
2. How do you approach the relationship as a mentor/mentee and what kind of support do young pharmacists need?
Caroline: “A mentor needs to be communicating constantly, understanding and asking the right questions in a delicate and correct fashion. [For example], ‘What are your goals and ambitions?’
“I find young people don’t know. Sometimes you have to put ideas in their head and offer some options. Would you like this, would you like to learn that? Would you consider yourself to be an owner one day? Would you consider yourself to be a mentor one day?
“Jodie looks after most of the placement students that come through the business from the university and has designed a bit of a structure on what she’d like to show them when they come to us for a week.
“She’s passing on information and that puts her in a position also to guide young pharmacists and it gives her personal satisfaction. So I guess you need to take each person as who they are, you need to communicate clearly, to have an organised mind as a mentor yourself, and most importantly you need to be accessible and available to the business.
“I’m still working in my business, I don’t float back and forth. And I’m still here so that people create that relationship with me. The culture of the business is one of family.
Jodie: “The first thing is for a mentor to be able to give us guidance in an objective way but also in a trusting and friendly way. From a student point of view, taking advice from Caroline – sometimes it could be criticism or sometimes it could be a constructive conversation – the student needs to actually listen to it and not take it personally.
“So when Caroline teaches me something, I need to understand that she’s not saying that to me because she’s angry with me or because she’s just trying to pick on me or something like that. You’re required to take criticism in an effective and I think that’s one of the most important things.
“Another thing I could say is Caroline is very flexible. One of the problems with young people like us is that sometimes we can tell you that we like something, but then a month later we change our mind.
“It’s very common, so as a mentor you just have to listen and be a little bit patient with us.
“We have to find a way to work with Caroline as well. Most of us, we can suggest a way but we have to make sure that way is actually agrees with the way Caroline wants to run the business as well. Because at the end of the day, as the owner of the business, sometimes Caroline has a certain way that she would like the business to run and we would like that our idea actually meets her expectations and her ways as well.”
3. Why is mentoring important?
Caroline: “Jodie is my teacher as well. So what I learn from people like Jodie and the young students around is the way the world is today, and the pressures they have. And therefore, I learn about how I need to modify my business model and my employment model to accommodate what they need.
“I take great pleasure, personal satisfaction and pride and often I’m humbled by what some of these young pharmacists that have come through and worked with me have molded into. And I couldn’t think of anything more rewarding.
“The pressures are definitely there, time management is really important, but imparting some of your knowledge – you leave a piece of who you are blended into who they are becoming.
“I get quite emotional when I look at Jodie and others, and see how they’ve blossomed and how capable they are, and those relationships are unbelievable.
“Jodie has seen me at my best and at my worst. She has seen me crumble when things have not worked, and she has turned into my mentor and carried me, and she’s found the words…
“Mentoring is an invaluable practice and we need to make sure that as senior pharmacists, we are doing the right thing by the early career pharmacists coming through.”
Jodie: “I haven’t seen her at her worst yet [laughs]. Not looking forward to that yet.
“[Mentoring] is so essential, it’s so important that I can’t even stress it enough. We all need to learn, whether we are mentee or mentor – we all need to learn from each other and move forward.”