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Having known the value of mentorship throughout her career, be it during her time working at places like Microsoft and Viacom, or even when she established her own early-stage equity funding platform VentureSouq, Sonia Weymuller today doesn’t hesitate in paying it forward- she’s a proactive mentor to not just entrepreneurs, but also to non-entrepreneurs and students as well. “This entails a wide spectrum of types of guidance,” she says. “From honest pitch and investor feedback as well as access to industry experience and relevant contacts, to openly sharing success and war stories or contributing to leadership and confidence building. Some would say I am quite candid as a mentor. This is true; I don’t sugarcoat things. As an effective mentor, you need to be honest and pragmatic, but also inquisitive and empathetic.”
Weymuller recently signed on to be a mentor for the second edition of the e7 Daughters of the Emirates project, and her enthusiasm for the year-long program that sees young UAE-based women coming together to better their community can be easily seen. “Mentoring is an incredibly enriching experience,” Weymuller explains. “I was once asked at a conference what quality I owed my success to. While other panelists mentioned determination, grit and competitiveness, my answer was simple: altruism. Listening and guiding someone through his or her journey also makes you humbly reflect on, and sometimes redefine, your own. The ability to be present, to challenge, encourage, motivate and support is vital especially in a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem such as ours.”
Weymuller’s approach to mentorship notwithstanding, many professional women in the MENA region often say that they simply don’t have the time to spare for mentoring someone else. But Weymuller says doing so doesn’t need to follow a rigid system. “My approach to mentorship has been an informal one,” she says. “I operate with an open-door policy, and don’t hold ‘office hours,’ per se. If a mentee has a question, they email me; if it warrants a longer conversation or brainstorm, I will make time to meet in person or schedule a Skype session if they are abroad. The type of mentorship relationship you establish will also depend on the type of mentor you represent for that person– are you an industry, leadership or connector type mentor, or all of these combined? The amount of time you choose to devote to mentoring is entirely up to you. However, mentoring is a commitment; it may not be for everyone. Don’t do it half-heartedly. If you do decide to do it though, enjoy the journey: it’s a priceless experience!”