As we continue our profile series for Women’s History Month, we must say the pairing of Cohort 1 participant Basirat Razaq-Shuaib (Nigeria/UK) and her mentor Dr. Hannia Bridg (Colombia/Germany) has been a next-level meeting of brilliant minds.
From encouraging mothers to be at their best, to examining best practices in supporting neurodivergent children, to cheering each other on with gusto, Basirat and Hannia are a tour de force. They have left an indelible impression on IMPERIA, and we look forward to collaborating with them for decades to come.
Where are you from, and what are you currently working on?
I am from Nigeria and also hold British citizenship. Currently, I am working on completing my doctoral programme focused on disability and education at the University of Cambridge. I am also building a platform called The Blooming Mum to help ambitious mums overcome self-doubt, fear, guilt, resentment, lack of fulfillment, and a lost sense of self associated with motherhood that stops them from fulfilling their dreams and nurturing their children to thrive joyfully.
I am originally from Colombia and now hold German citizenship. With a PhD in plant biotechnology and experience working in biotechnology and genetics laboratories, I currently work as a life science strategy consultant. In my role, I provide strategic guidance to companies and organizations in the life sciences industry.
One of the things I enjoy most is helping companies develop effective product development strategies, identifying opportunities for market access and growth, and assisting customers with successfully commercializing their products and services overseas. To stay up-to-date with the latest trends and innovations in the field, I make sure to keep myself updated. This way, I can help my clients stay ahead of the curve and achieve their goals of growth, profitability, and innovation.
I am also proud to be a Berlin Brain City ambassador, where I have the opportunity to showcase my expertise and contribute to the promotion of science and technology in one of the most innovative cities in the world.
My diverse background and experiences, along with my passion for helping companies and people succeed, make me a valuable asset to support the IMPERIA initiative. I believe that mentoring can help transform lives and create positive change, and I’m committed to using my skills and knowledge to make a difference.
What’s the most significant thing you learned from your IMPERIA mentor or mentee?
The most significant thing I have learnt from my IMPERIA mentor, Dr. Hannia Bridg, is the importance of fostering genuine relationships that are mutually beneficial. These are relationships that are built on honesty and communication, where both parties feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. I have come to appreciate the benefits of such a relationship as it has allowed our work together to extend beyond the IMPERIA program. We have collaborated on other projects, and our relationship has grown to include a more personal level of nurturing.
Through her own life and work, Dr. Bridg has taught me the value of resilience. She has shown me that setbacks are inevitable, but they do not define one’s future. Instead, they should be viewed as opportunities to grow and learn. Her unwavering support and encouragement have been invaluable to me, and I am forever grateful for her presence in my life.
As an Imperia mentor, I have learned that being open and receptive to new ideas and perspectives is essential in building strong relationships based on trust, respect, and understanding. I believe that effective mentoring goes beyond giving advice and opinions; it is about fostering a supportive relationship focused on the mentee’s wellbeing and supporting their personal and professional growth. My experience mentoring Basirat, a Nigerian PhD candidate at Cambridge University, reinforced my commitment to helping others realize their potential and the powerful role mentoring can play in shaping lives and bringing about positive change.
Through my experience, I learned that effective mentoring involves a two-way exchange of knowledge and experience. While providing guidance to Basirat, I also learned about the unique challenges faced by neurodivergent children in Nigeria and the importance of culturally responsive interventions. This exchange of perspectives fostered a more meaningful mentor/mentee relationship and highlighted the value of diverse perspectives in shaping our understanding of the world. I strongly believe that mentoring can transform lives and create positive change on a bilateral level, and conscious communication is vital in making a difference in people’s lives.
What has become possible in your work or life as a result of your connection?
While I consider myself audacious, my connection has enabled me to push new boundaries towards becoming a better version of myself knowing that I have people who are guiding me, working with me, watching out for me, and rooting for me.
For instance, the idea of pursuing a postgraduate study in disability and education transformed from a mere thought into an actionable plan during the IMPERIA program. However, after the program ended formally, my mentor continued to work with me to ensure that I put in a well-written application. Beyond this, she has continued to support me through my PhD program and in many other ways, ensuring I didn’t quit when the journey got really tough.
In addition, as the founder of the IMPERIA program, Jennifer has been a constant source of support to me, ensuring that I prioritize my well-being as a leader. Her exemplary service to women is a great inspiration to me and has motivated me to serve my own community with even greater passion and dedication. It has been an honour to be a part of the IMPERIA program and a privilege to be mentored by Dr. Bridg.
As a result of my connection with Basirat, I have been able to gain valuable insights into the unique challenges faced by neurodivergent children in Nigeria, and the importance of culturally responsive interventions. This has allowed me to expand my understanding of the global healthcare landscape and gain a deeper appreciation for the importance of diversity and inclusion in our work.
Furthermore, working with Basirat has been a constant source of inspiration and motivation for me. Witnessing her determination and drive to promote integrated knowledge to support children with neurodevelopmental disorders in a Nigerian context has reinforced my own commitment to making a positive impact in the world.
In addition, our connection has highlighted the power of positive relationships and the importance of seeking out individuals like Basirat, who are dedicated to making a difference. By working together and fostering a spirit of empathy and compassion, we can all contribute to creating a better future for ourselves and for those around us.
The connection with Basirat has been truly transformative and has allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. I feel grateful for the opportunity to have connected with such an exceptional and inspiring person and look forward to continuing our work together to create positive change in the world.
What advice would you give to a woman founder who wants to build a strong relationship with a mentor (what are your best practices)?
Here are my top 5 tips for building a strong mentoring relationship:
- Set clear expectations for the relationship to avoid unmet needs and endless tales of disappointment. Remember, mentorship is a two-way street.
- Respect each other’s time and boundaries and don’t take each other’s access for granted.
- Be genuine in your dealings. Worry less about the power dynamics and learn to say what you mean. Honesty matters.
- Remember that not all feedback will be pleasant, but trust the heart behind it. Your mentor can provide you with guidance, but ultimately taking action is all down to you.
- Enjoy the journey.
- Establish clear expectations: From the outset, it’s important to establish clear expectations for the mentor-mentee relationship. This includes outlining the goals and objectives of the mentoring relationship, as well as setting clear boundaries and timelines.
- Build a strong relationship based on trust and mutual respect. Take time to get to know your mentee on a personal level, and be open to sharing your own experiences and insights.
- Listen actively: Active listening is key to effective mentoring. Listen attentively to your mentee’s concerns and challenges, and ask thoughtful questions to help them reflect and gain new insights.
- Provide guidance and feedback: As a mentor, your role is to provide guidance and feedback to help your mentee achieve their goals. Be honest and constructive in your feedback, and offer actionable advice and suggestions for improvement.
- Foster accountability: Encourage your mentee to take ownership of their own growth and development. Set regular check-ins and milestones to help them stay on track, and hold them accountable for following through on their commitments.
What’s your most daring vision for where you want to be 5 years from now?
In five years’ time, I see myself as a respected world leader, using my influence to shape policies and practices that will improve the well-being of mothers and ensure equal and meaningful participation of children with disabilities in education.
My passion lies in promoting causes that aim to achieve social and economic equity, and I am determined to make a positive impact on society. Through my leadership, I envision millions of women and children thriving and becoming empowered to make a difference in their own communities.
My most daring vision for where I want to be in five years is to have made significant progress towards creating a more inclusive society where everyone has equal opportunities to thrive. Specifically, I hope to have played a role in promoting education and research in developing countries, and establishing inclusive policies and practices to support marginalized individuals, particularly those with disabilities.
I envision building a network of multidisciplinary groups that work together to challenge negative stereotypes and highlight the potential of all individuals, regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances.
Ultimately, I hope I can contribute to creating a more equitable world where everyone can reach their full potential.
Wednesday Wisdom takes a deeper dive into the core concepts of IMPERIA’s work, helping to strengthen you from the inside out as you scale your vision.