CAREER-VIEW MIRROR - biographies of colleagues in the automotive and mobility industries.

Side Mirror: The Aquilae Academy Story. How guided peer mentoring enables fulfilling performance.

August 01, 2022 Episode 75
CAREER-VIEW MIRROR - biographies of colleagues in the automotive and mobility industries.
Side Mirror: The Aquilae Academy Story. How guided peer mentoring enables fulfilling performance.
Show Notes Transcript

This episode explains how with the help of an inspiring mentor, we created the Aquilae Academy and how it's possible to forge strong connection between people in a virtual environment as long as you are intentional about doing that.

I hope that it encourages you to keep going and push boundaries in your own projects and reminds you how given the opportunity and the right environment, people love to help each other. 

This episode of CAREER-VIEW MIRROR is brought to you by Aquilae. Aquilae's mission is to enable Fulfilling Performance in the auto finance and mobility industry. We use our very own Fulfilling Performance Paradigm to help you identify what steps you need to take to enable Fulfilling Performance in your business.  Contact me directly if you’d like to know more. My email is 

For details of our forthcoming guests follow us on Instagram @careerviewmirror 


Episode recorded on  27 July 2022 

Ed Eppley:

I am sitting in lovely Siesta Key Florida.

Sherene Redelinghuys:

I'm coming from Bangkok in Thailand

Daniel von Treeck:

Prague in the Czech Republic


Cairo in Egypt

Holger Drott:

Auckland, New Zealand,

Shannon Faulkner:

London, England.


Welcome to Career-view Mirror, the automotive podcast that goes behind the scenes with key players in the industry, looking back over their careers so far, sharing insights to help you with your own journey. I'm your host, Andy Follows Hello, listeners, and welcome to episode 75 of Career-view Mirror. Last week, I mentioned that I'd recently spent a week in Valencia with my wife Julia. And during that time, I'd had the pleasure of running three of our Aquilae Academy sessions for different teams around the world. Some of you asked me what was that all about? And I thought I'd share the Aquilae Academy story as it may be encouraging for you if you're working on a project of your own. It's also a good example of how you can build connection between people in a virtual environment if, like I said last week, you're really intentional about doing that. On the 26th of March 2020, I had one of my regular calls with one of my mentors who happens to be in Australia. We were discussing the rapidly developing Coronavirus crisis and its impact on business and leaders. He said why don't you bring together a group of leaders and create a space for them to share their experiences and help each other to handle this latest crisis that they're facing? And I said, do you mean like a panel of experts like they tend to do at conferences. And he said no, not a one off event, the egos will get in the way. And it will be a very superficial exchange. It needs to be a regular gathering of the same people so that they can get to know each other and genuinely help each other. Okay, I said I like I like the idea. I'll give it some thought. And on our next call, he brought it up again. What do you think of the idea? How are you getting on with it? He said, I said I love the idea. But I'm really struggling to know where to start. I've been through my contacts. And I don't have enough people of a similar level of seniority to form a peer group who I think I could ask I've got some, but they're in competing businesses, and would find it difficult to share experiences. Okay, he said Leave it with me. And I'm not kidding about 48 hours later, he came back to me and said, right, I've got 10 People all keen to get involved. So we had another call. And we discussed the personalities, there was a good mix of male and female, they were all in different businesses, and with no conflicts of interests that we could see. And the kicker was that they all worked together at the same automotive manufacturer in previous years. And we thought this will be helpful as we were going to have to set this up virtually. So with the significant help of my mentor, the Aquilae Academy concept, and the sub brand was born. And we held our first session at the beginning of June 2020, just over two months after that initial conversation. And during those two months the Academy concept, it gradually took shape, we decided that a cohort of participants in the Academy would be called a team. And similar to long distance runners who train together before going off to race in their individual events, our academy team members would come together in a safe but constructively challenging space. They'd learn as a team, they'd share experiences and wisdom with each other. And then they'd go back to their individual roles as better leaders. We identified core aspects that would underpin the academy and give it a structure. And conveniently these components all began with a C, this wasn't contrived or forced. They just did. We had connection, content, coaching, and commitment. We built connection between team members, we introduced new content in the form of ideas, techniques and models. We coached them to connect the theory with practice, and we held them accountable to follow up on their commitments to themselves and the team between sessions. We say we hold our teammates feet to the fire of their best intentions. If you've listened to other episodes of Career-view Mirror you'll have heard that expression and our advertisement for the Academy before. The experience of putting that first team together was very positive we realised we'd created an effective environment for what you might call facilitated or guided peer mentoring to take place. The fact that due to COVID, all the meetings were virtual was not a barrier to the process. At this time, I was conscious that our successful first Academy team had all known each other before joining the academy, and I was aware that their existing relationships and levels of trust might well have been making a significant contribution to the success of that pilot group. So with that in mind, I contacted Annie Wechter, a former colleague from Tesla, and shared the idea to set up a similar team of ex Tesla employees. Annie was very enthusiastic about the idea and she'd been looking for something similar for herself. So we put our heads together, we drew up a list of ex Tesla peers who were in non competing organisations, and we invited them to join an academy team. And we started that second team in November 2020. And again, the format worked, virtual wasn't an issue, and team members shared openly and helped each other. The next step was to see whether we could make it work with people who didn't know each other already. Ideally, I wanted teams of eight, to provide enough different perspectives. But to give each person enough air time, within the regular two hour monthly slot, I drew up a list of potential team members from my own network, and I started asking them, and I actually ended up with 12 people. So opted for two teams of six. And this time, whilst I knew them all, they didn't know each other. So this was going to be a real test, we were going to bring together a group of people virtually, at a time, when most of us were starting to get a bit tired of conducting our lives on Zoom or teams. And we were going to ask them to leave their or remove their professional mask, leave their suit of armour at the virtual door, and be vulnerable in front of strangers in a virtual environment. And we found that if you're highly intentional about creating that connection, it can most definitely be done in a way we all found a bit breathtaking in terms of the results that we got. Within a short space of time, our team members who were spread across the UK, Germany and Egypt had formed very close bonds, and were sharing information about themselves that they may never have felt able to share in a professional environment before. And the fact that they did that deepened the connection between them very rapidly, and made their desire to help each other and their ability to help each other very powerful. Indeed. So to give you some balance, one of the teams didn't go quite so well. Three of the six team members were experiencing personal and or professional challenges during the pandemic that made it difficult for them to commit. And that certainly had an impact on the experience for the remaining three members of the team. I guess you can't win them all. But since that exploratory pilot phase, we've set up multiple Academy teams, some are made up of people from separate organisations and backgrounds who initially don't know each other. Some are made up of existing teams who work together for the same organisation. But all of them regardless are experiencing connection. They're being introduced to new content, they're giving and receiving coaching. And they're enjoying making commitments to their teammates, to take the actions that they decide are the most helpful steps that they want to take next. I'm very grateful for my mentor for coming up with the idea and for the first cohort of team members, which he brought to the table and helping me to develop the concept to where it is now. The Academy sessions are some of the most fulfilling hours of my week and seeing the connections develop between team members, and the value of the help they provide each other. I know that the Aquilae Academy is key to our mission of enabling fulfilling performance. I wanted to share this story with you because it's an example of something positive that's come out of the pandemic. Commercially 2020 was a horrible year for our business. And yet we took the opportunity to push on and we developed new products, which we were eventually able to commercialise, this podcast came out of conversations that started during that time as well. And that's also been hugely rewarding. I hope that breaking it down like this helps to show how new products or initiatives start out with an idea and without knowing exactly where you're going to end up you keep tweaking it and pushing the boundaries of what you think is possible. And I hope that you can take some encouragement from seeing how that played out for us. We also proved to ourselves that you can make very deep trusting interpersonal connection, over a couple of two hour zoom calls, if you're highly intentional about it and create the right environment and use the right tools. And above all, we learned how again, in the right environment, people love to help each other. I hope this has been interesting and helpful. And I'll play myself out with a few comments from members of one of our teams of CEOs and senior leaders. Thanks for listening.

Nina Englert:

For me, these these rounds have been extremely special, and have meant quite a bit, that it also came to a point with our WhatsApp group that we ended up sharing things that had absolutely nothing to do with career situations, but showed very well that this group had come together.

Jonny Combe:

I think, when we did that exercise, like I think we all got to know each other to a level of depth, which probably none of us had expected. I know I often think about some of the things we discussed over the course of those weeks. And some of the things that we heard there like I, I still think about a lot of them today, you know, which which shows obviously the impact. And Andy, that was you, your idea, you know, your thing you you'd brought us together, it wouldn't have happened, were it not for you.

Osman Abdelmoneim:

I guess one of the key areas is that not only did we all come from different places, but some of us didn't know each other. And even if we did, we still came from very different worlds or very different places. And somehow, this was never just about business. This was always a way of completely different people coming together, and somehow getting out of it things that are relevant for our kind of work lives. But at the same time, always making sure that there was a personal element. And I never felt so much of the emotional humane side in discussing something that could be work related, as I was shown in this group, and through this group, and I guess, because of the safe seat, plus over time, you get to know each other better, the level of openness that I that I, and I'm sure everybody in the group felt to be able to just kind of have these these these open conversations, these diverse conversations, you know, I never would have expected some of the questions I was getting. And that's all we can hope for. Because no one's in each other's lives in terms of work. So you just and through that, be able to come out and at least have food for thought for yourself as to how you want to deal with something. So that was really different. And I didn't think that was possible. On zoom. Some people I knew some people I didn't know and yet still gelling together. So Well, I think

Jonny Combe:

one of the things thinking about the round tables is like you have a very natural and innate ability to kind of ask probing questions, but in a really non judgmental way. So I think one of the things that I've really learned from you is that, I guess you really live out that kind of seek first to understand type principle. One of my limitations is that I'll often jump to what I think is a conclusion. But as you're very kind of open minded, keen to see things from lots of different perspectives. And really, I think this was brought out in the round table stuff that we've done. I think we've all really valued that. And we've got a lot of value from your probing questions. And the fact that the way you asked them, meant that we all felt really quite comfortable to kind of open up,


we discussed some really serious issues, you know, affecting our lives. You know, me personally, I had a very tough year. And we discussed these things and you always managed to always to lighten it up in a way we also had fun, you know, that's Connect for energy, the energy came out of it as well, because we laughed, and that made it very special to me. And the trust and openness. I have been, you know, in your career, you've been on many management courses, leadership exchanges. I've never been so open as I've been with this group here. And that's really thank you to you, Andy.


For me then its only the close thing that really, really appreciated the time with you, Andy, you made a difference in our life, and we can't thank enough for that.


You've been listening to Episode 75 of Career-view Mirror with me, Andy Follows. In this episode, I shared the story of the Aquilae Academy to celebrate the value of having great mentors to encourage you to push on with your own projects. And of course to make you curious about joining an academy team yourself. We publish these episodes to celebrate my guests careers, listen to their stories and learn from their experiences. This episode of Career-view Mirror is brought to you by Aquilae. Aquilae's mission is to enable fulfilling performance in the auto finance and mobility industry. We use our very own fulfilling performance paradigm. To help you identify what steps you need to take to enable fulfilling performance in your business. Contact me directly. If you'd like to know more, my email is And remember, folks, if you know people who would benefit from hearing these stories, please show them how to find us. Thanks for listening.


No matter how hard you try, no matter how hard working you are, you're never going to be able to do it on your own. It's just not possible.

Paul Harris:

You know, at the end of the day, you're steering your own destiny. So if it's not happening for you, and you're seeing what you want out there, then go out there and connect.

Sherene Redelinghuys:

Don't rely on others. You you have to do it yourself. You have to take control.

Rupert Pontin:

If you've got an idea if you've got a thought about something that might be successful, if you've got a passion to do something yourself but you just haven't quite got there, do it.

Tom Stepanchak:

Take a risk. Take a chance stick your neck out what's the worst that can happen? You fall down okay, you pick yourself up and try again.