Why mentors matter

Everyone needs mentors, whether they are connected to work or are a trusted confidant. These people can help you navigate the complexities of both work and life by being an active sounding board and advisor. Interestingly, the majority of leaders have mentors who advise and guide them on their next steps.

Companies are now introducing formal and informal mentoring programs, which have shown to be very fruitful and rewarding.

I sat down recently with Anna Fiofilova, Senior Software Engineer at REA to discuss the mentor program at REA and being a mentor.

Are you a mentor at REA?

There are two formal mentor programs at REA, these include:

  • Women in IT Mentor Program – currently 30% of women in REA take part in this program. It is not a compulsory program. It covers work, career and personal paths depending on the needs of the mentee.
  • The Graduate Program – each graduate is assigned a mentor, as part of the program

Anna is currently mentoring a graduate who is on the Graduate Program. They meet on a regular basis, both informal and formal. This involves catch ups, attending meetings, gathering and providing feedback, and understanding the type of work her mentee performs.

What makes a great mentor?

At first Anna thought the role of a mentor was one of friendship, however she realized it was much more than that.

It is a relationship that is built on respect, honesty and constructive feedback which is presented in the right way. It also involves:

  • Developing a strong relationship whereby the mentee can freely confide and not worry about confidences being broken.
  • Being trustworthy and providing honest feedback. Anna ensures it is not one sided, she is proactive and actively delivers on her promises.
  • Encouraging the development of communication skills. Anna provides opportunities for the mentee to effectively articulate concepts, ideas and present to superiors and colleagues. Anna encourages the mentee to present in meetings, meet-ups, brown bag sessions and contributing to professional blogs.
  • Actively listening and responding
  • Not playing a parental role
  • Not being over protective
  • Working with the mentee to ensure they are in a safe environment, where they are able to explore and develop their individual communication skills
  • The mentor having experience and being respected in their field
  • Selecting a person that you aspire to work with or work within their area.  
  • Focusing on the needs of the mentee and not on their gender. If the relationship is not working, it is imperative to ask for help, and know when someone needs to step in. The mentor role is a team effort.
  • Encouraging the mentee to say no and not to accept every work opportunity. Otherwise, it may become too over whelming
  • Being mindful that each mentee has their own path and to provide support. This may result in adjusting your style
  • A great mentor rejoices in their mentee’s success

Why do you enjoy being a mentor?

Anna finds being a mentor very rewarding because it has enabled her to;

  • Meet a variety of people within REA who she wouldn’t normally interact with. This has provided her with the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the business and what is happening in each of the teams.
  • Gain a different perspective and outlook.  It keeps her up to date, with what the graduates are doing. She has found they tend to  ask questions which she hasn’t thought of and this helps extend her learning and understanding

What are your top tips?

  • Feedback, feedback, feedback!
  • Most mentors will make mistakes, this opportunity allows both parties to grow together
  • Set goals on the first meeting, with the expectation that these may change. Then prioritize and develop plans for these goals on a regular basis
  • Participate in professional “Guilds”
  • Present regularly at meetups , brown-bags and hackathons
  • Become a mentor. In some ways it can be hard to get authority within the organization if you are female. However, this can be overcome with participating, getting involved and willing to put the time into it
  • Understand what the person’s experience is and what they want you to provide. Get a good understanding for who the person is.

Are you interested in mentoring or finding a mentor to help support your career? Girls in tech can help. Keep up with latest updates and mentorship program announcements.

 

Written by Susie Siggins

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