Marisa Kaplan began her career at Allan Gray in 2007. She then had a stint as a Consultant at Bain & Company in 2012 but returned to Allan Gray in 2014 to her current role as Analyst. She has proudly mentored eight of the Foundation’s Candidate Fellows over the years. This year, she’s mentoring Lauren Hess, an Honours student at Stellenbosch, and Luthando Lulu Mzilikazi who is completing her Finance Honours degree at UCT.
Given her current mentees, it would be convenient to assume that Marisa’s passion is in mentoring young women, but she believes that anyone can be a mentor and be mentored since “we learn different things from different people”. She fondly remembers how her, now 95 years-old, grandfather, who holds two Masters degrees, enrolled for the same courses are her when she was completing her undergraduate degree so that the two of them could compare notes and discuss lectures at home.
Marisa borrowed a page from her grandfather’s book in more ways than one. She loves learning, reading and challenging herself. From Luthando she’s seen how indispensable confidence and a bubbly personality can be for the career and personal opportunities that one is presented with. Marisa admires the ease with which Luthando engages with others and how she makes an outstanding impression on everyone she meets. Her chances of meeting Marisa, however, were initially very slim and Marisa, apparently, didn’t make much of an impression on Luthando.
Marisa believes in letting her mentees guide the relationship while she avails herself to assist as requested. Luthando’s demanding schedule, however, made it difficult to have the first meeting and even at that first meeting, she was uncertain about her compatibility with Marisa. This is because Luthando expected to be paired with an industry mentor in her preferred career, Investment Banking and not a Management Consultant. Luthando wanted guidance from someone with first-hand experience in Investment Banking in order to help her evaluate her chosen path. Luthando was pleasantly surprised when Marisa helped her to reframe her career choices and she soon realised just how little she knew about Investment Banking! Luthando now has offers for jobs that she didn’t even know existed and that she would not have considered applying for were it not for Marisa’s advice.
Respect, honesty and punctuality remain non-negotiable for Marisa and Luthando. The latter regrets not having made contact with Marisa sooner and she hopes that Marisa will remain her mentor beyond 2015. Marisa always encourages her mentees to seek out other mentors so that they have varied insights but she remains keen to support Luthando in the next phase of her life.
Luthando realises that careers are not, or should not, necessarily be the sole basis for pairing mentors with mentees as she and Marisa also share a common love of tennis. Marisa uses the analogy that both on and off the court she endeavours to play against people who are better than her as that’s the best way to learn. Luthando has heeded the advice and surrounds herself with people who are smarter than her, personally and professionally. With a mentor list that also includes Wendy Appelbaum, Wande Madikane (her internal mentor at the Foundation) and Trevor Manuel, it’s easy to see why Luthando is serving nothing but aces!