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What a Top Fidelity Exec Learned from Mentoring a Polish Emigre

March 31, 2017, 1:41 PM UTC

Mentors are supposed to motivate and embolden their mentees, but sometimes in a mentoring relationship the teacher becomes the student.

That’s exactly what happened when Fidelity’s Kathleen Murphy spent three weeks with Aleksandra Gren, now a country manager for Fiserv International, as part of the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership.

“I am so much more inspired by her than she could possibly be of me,” Murphy told Fortune.

In its 12th year, the mentoring program matches business leaders from countries ranging from Argentina to Zimbabwe with some of the top female executives in the U.S.

The source of Murphy’s admiration in part stems from Gren’s background: She escaped from behind Poland’s Iron Curtain with her mom and brother, leaving behind her father who refused to go. She fled to Greece and eventually ended up in Canada. Today she’s back in Poland.

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“She goes on to blaze trails in a very fearless way,” said Murphy, a longtime mentor in the Fortune/U.S. State Department partnership. “She has this spirit in her because of what she went through that motivates other people.”

During the time she spent with Murphy at Fidelity, Gren said she learned “how to have that winning strategy—how never to settle for less than No. 1 in the winning position.” She added, “I took that back to my work and company and my team, and it has really changed my perspective and has given me the power and strength to think about scaling up my career.” Murphy said that she’s since watched Gren give back to other women all across Europe.

After the program ended, Murphy took her team to Poland for an innovation tour with Gren. The two stay in regular contact. When Fortune sat down with Murphy, she said that she’d offered Gren some career advice just the week before.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we highlight more of the program’s past and present mentors and mentees.