Why Finding a Mentor Should Be Your Life Goal
Recently I delivered a session on identifying the right mentors for your startup during the IIT Mumbai E-Summit. It gave me an opportunity to address over 20,000 students. Talking to students who were just finishing their engineering and those who were right now beginning the journey made me realize how lightly we take the early designing of our careers and how badly we fail at finding mentors early on to help us take right decisions.
I also manage the largest Mentor Connect Program at 10000 Startups wherein we have connected at least 1000 startups to their first mentors, to help them validate their idea very early on and put in place a Go-to-market strategy and aim for finding the product-market fit. All I can say is having a mentor can be a difference between success and failure for a startup.
Nothing of significance was ever achieved by acting alone. Look below the surface and you will find that all seemingly solo acts are really team efforts and are achieved by others teaching us along the way.
5 Ws of Mentors (Presentation at the end)
1. Why do we need a Mentor?
If you don’t have time to read biographies, google for ‘Steve Jobs mentors’ or ‘Bill Gates Mentors’ or for any famous personality who is your role model and you will see how many people have helped these people reach their full potential, helped them avoid expensive mistakes and helped them learn insights into their career paths more quickly.
Better than thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great mentor, who will help you garner otherwise inaccessible knowledge about your industry or specialty, and endure setbacks without losing focus or confidence.
2. Who is a Mentor?
There is a lot to learn from every single person around you but a mentor should be somebody who is successful at what you want to become, someone who is more experienced and have already gone through the path you aspire to take. If you are planning a trip to Uganda, you surely want to talk to someone who has being there and done that and who is willing to share their knowledge to help you have a great trip.
You can have as many mentors you want for the different aspect of your business and life, but there will be one lasting relationship if you are lucky which will last for your lifetime and is much more enriching and edifying experience.
3. Where to Find them?
In this highly connected world, it is very easy to search for people working on amazing stuff as many people are sharing about their work on social media/blogs/podcast and what not. Start following them by reading their books, blogs, newsletters, tweets and connect with them. Be vocal about your appreciation for them on the same mediums they are using.
“When People Are Like Each Other, They Tend to Like Each Other”
4. What is a mentor & Mentee Relationship?
- Mentor will not validate your product but can guide you through specific challenges in your business. They will teach you how to catch fish instead of putting one in your basket.
- Mentors will not do the work for you, they will be only the sounding boards to bounce your ideas with.
- The relationship grows with time, and organically. Try to keep it as informal as possible, don’t give the person, Mentor designation right away.
- Be creative in approaching a mentor, for god sake don’t send emails to strangers.
- BE a sponge, absorb all the knowledge and wisdom from all the people you meet.
- Try to mentor those who are less experienced than you. You will notice that helping others is a way of helping oneself. Karma will always help
If you light a lamp for someone, you also brighten your own path.
5. When to approach whom?
Just as we grow from childhood to adolescent we need a different kind of people around us to help us grow, search for the appropriate person for the current stage you are in. For instance, if you are struggling with SEO, chase the best in the industry out there for 10 mins of their time to discuss your problems. Meet them over a tea/coffee/snacks or lunch /dinner meeting so that you pay them in a small way possible for their time.
You may have as many mentors advisors you can but also keep looking for that one person who will be like your second mother who will be always your emotional and moral support and is there for you whenever you want them.
Don't be afraid to reach out. The only sure shot way to fail is to not reach out at all. Sometimes it can be intimidating to approach someone whom you respect, that you've never even talked to, but it's important to understand that everyone's been there at some point, and the worst thing he or she can say is no. What you begin to realize is that many more people than you would expect are willing to help or get involved, and even if they aren't you build a bridge through that connection that can help in the future.
Sangeeta Devni is an entrepreneur, creative thinker, and team leader with a passion for bettering people’s lives, especially women. Since 1988, NASSCOM has been a non-profit trade association representing the Indian IT and business process outsourcing industry. Being one of the early members of NASSCOM's ambitious 10,000 Start-ups Initiative, she worked towards the launch, shaping, and execution of India’s biggest startup program, including creating platforms to evangelize tech entrepreneurship, building capabilities of tech entrepreneurs, driving investments in start-ups and assisting startups with business connects. She drives two key programs – one to impact and nurture startups by building the massive Mentor Program Pan India, and the other to bring more women into tech roles and evangelizing for women entrepreneurship. She is responsible for skill building; shortlisting startups and helping them validate their ideas and build products through events, partnerships, and other strategic activities. She constructed the entire Mentors program which now has 200 Mentors throughout India supporting startups at each step, from defining and detailing their concept into a business plan, to implementing their idea and refining the product by leveraging NASSCOM’s vast infrastructure, user base, and experience. In the Girls in Tech program, she managed the strategic roll out of a special program--10000 Startups--to encourage girls to pursue technology careers through effective mentorship with industry leaders and women entrepreneurs.