Monday, 5 May 2014

Find a mentor, expand your potential!

I have always believed in the importance of mentors. We all want to get somewhere, wherever your dreams may take you. But to get there, it’s good to have someone to look up to, to consult with, to bounce ideas off and to set you straight when you lose track. You may use different names to refer to a mentor, but the fact is we all need one; be it in your profession, business, career, life or to cross-cut all these areas.

I have found it essential and humbling to have a mentor. I have two mentors and recently I was fortunate to get a workplace/ career mentor. I have found that mentorship requires humility, transparency, the desire to learn, and willingness to accept advice, no matter how uncomfortable. A mentor can guide you, take you under his/ her wing, teach you new skills and keep you accountable to your plans and goals.

Let me tell you a little about the chance event that led me to get a superb life mentor. One day I was on twitter, and I follow Heshan de Silva, @HeshdeSilva (entrepreneur, business magnate, philanthropist, young Kenyan billionaire.. I could really go on) and a post he tweeted caught my eye. He runs a venture capital firm called DSGVencap and the company was undertaking a mentorship program giving a chance to ten individuals to be mentored by Heshan. The catch was you had to send en email and justify why you should be among the ten selected in ONE sentence. So I gave it a shot and here is an excerpt of the email I sent:

“Good evening,
I believe that if you are not failing at something every week, then you are not taking enough risks; if you want to succeed, you must put yourself out there and try- this is me putting myself out there, beating the odds and taking a risk.
Warm regards,
Lydia Chege
Your future mentee (with utmost humility and unwavering optimism)”

(LOL, don’t raise your eyebrows at me. I gave it a shot right?)
And you know what? I later got an email saying I had been accepted into the program. A chance to be mentored by such a young approachable billionaire. I was elated! The program involved:
- 24/7 email access directly with him, where you could ask him for advice
- 2 skype calls a month
- At least 1 face-to-face meeting a month

In retrospect I have learnt A LOT from him, he has helped me to broaden my perspective on how I look at things, challenged me to push myself and really be the best I can be, and recently inspired some cool ideas I am planning to actualize. FYI one of our meetings was had over sheesha on one Saturday mid-morning! And that’s the beauty, mentoring doesn’t have to be so formal, stuffy and utterly uncomfortable. The point is to learn, it doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing.

Here are some key pointers which have helped me:
1. Develop a relationship of trust
2. Establish short and long term mutually understood goals
3. Let it be mentee-driven
4. Be honest and transparent
5. Enjoy the process
6. A focus on approaches, not tactics (you get more value out of a mentoring relationship if you pull advice from your mentor on how to think about a given topic (an approach), rather than focusing only on tactical ideas related to the topic)

I might be failing on some of these for instance lack of consistency in meeting my mentors and implementing what we discuss, but I’ll keep working at it constantly.

So challenge yourself to find a mentor, it simply has to be someone you look up to and who has either attained the heights you want to, or will push you to scale those heights. Give it a try!

Chasing perfection,


  1. Well, I did not LOL....that's precisely what I do all the time :D Life is too short not have unwavering optimism as you put it :D

    This is by far your best post :)

  2. Such a relevant and well-written article :) As my relationship with my mentor grows, I've come to realise that she's better suited to mentor me on my overall career goals and passion rather than my current short and medium term goals. Makes sense that you have more than one mentor - I'd never really thought about it so thanks :)

    I think it's also important for mentees to remember that mentorship is a reciprocal relationship. Plus one of my favourite quotes from Sheryl Sandberg:

    Studies show that mentors select protégés based on performance and potential. Intuitively, people invest in those who stand out for their talent or who can really benefit from help. Mentors continue to invest when mentees use their time well and are truly open to feedback. It may turn into a friendship, but the foundation is a professional relationship. Given this, I believe we have sent the wrong message to young women. We need to stop telling them, “Get a mentor and you will excel.” Instead, we need to tell them, “Excel and you will get a mentor.”

  3. Yet another beautiful piece of advice. I agree with you, guidance definitely assists one in achieving goals and ultimately the vision is realized. Keep up sharing articles with us.


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