Dee Khanduja (Allan), a serial entrepreneur shares how mentors played a significant role in helping her gain clarity over her purpose on her business expansion. Through working with mentors, she was able to discover her gifts which helped her with her new start-up projects. Just like Dee, many of you may have an inspiring story on how you have benefited as a mentee or mentor, please share your story with the community to foster a mentoring culture and create a pay-it-forward society.
Start with the mentees – find out what they want and give it to them.
The whole idea of mentoring and coaching benefited me when I was in the corporate world. At Apple, I was the technical guy, the engineer, and I was very good at what I was doing as an individual contributor. I was then promoted to be a manager of a group. It’s totally different being a manager versus being an individual contributor. It was managing tasks versus managing context, and I did not have a clue how to go about it.
It was a promotion that felt more like a demotion, because I was absolutely clueless on dealing with people. But I decided to take on the challenge. My manager was very supportive, and got me enrolled in a mentoring program that Apple had for high potential employees. It was an excellent program, and you get assigned to a mentor, someone who is typically higher up in the organizational hierarchy. My mentor then was a vice-president at Apple, he was a very busy man and you don’t get a lot of chances to see him, only once in a while did I get to meet him. He had some good advice for me for someone who is a total novice at managing people, which I remember to this day. I also asked for a professional coach to learn more about leadership and people management. I had a leadership coach for a year and Apple paid for it.
That’s when I took on a huge interest in people and leadership, which became one of my life obsessions. I literally studied everything about leadership, both theoretical and practical. I realized how important people skills are. I learned that people aren’t meant to be managed; they can only to be led. And to be a leader, you need to have followers. It’s a mutual relationship.
A mentor whom I have tremendous respect for and I found very inspiring is Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi professor and Socialpreneur. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for founding the Grameen Bank and starting the movements in microcredit and microfinance back in the eighties. Grameen Bank lent money to the poorest of the poor, mostly women. Prior to Grameen, no institution, no bank would ever consider lending money to the poor. He lent them money and helped them build their own small businesses for sustaining their livelihood and family. He helped to get millions of people out of poverty. I find him very empowering and one of the great pioneers in the social space.
Another mentor I admire is Steve Jobs, a great tech visionary, although I never met him personally. You really cannot argue with what he has done.
Because of my personal experience in mentoring and how I benefited from being mentored and coached – actually how my life was transformed – the value and the great impact that mentoring can bring – I believe more than ever that mentoring when done right and at scale has the potential to be a great leveler and a tool for transformation for many segments of the society – for both the mentor and the mentee.
I have never worked in MNCs before but I have worked for a boss with such wisdom and experience. He took me under his mentorship as I worked with him in a start-up for 4 years. True leader that he was, he showed by example and we did most of the ground work together. He taught me how to see things differently and how to solve problems creatively. When that project ended, he took me back for his next venture for another 4 years. I always feel I haven’t done enough as his mentee but he always knows there’s something more in me. To this day, he’s a friend who never gives up on my entrepreneurial dream and still challenges the way I think. Who would have known that a stranger from the Internet could turn out to be my employer, mentor and good friend.
As Anthony Robbins, once wrote – when you fail you can look at it in 3 ways: It was the roll of the dice (bad luck), why is God punishing me or what can I learn from this. For most part of my life, I have always look at it in the first way and shrugged it off as one of those things.
I have always thought of myself as intelligent and capable (humility is probably not my strong suit as you may have noticed). If there was a problem, I would figure it out. If the situation was unclear, I will be able to clarify it.
And here is the biggest personal lesson that would like to share: Being a mentee is the easy part. Knowing that you should ask for help is the hard part.
In my own experience, realising you need to be a mentee is the hardest thing. Because it makes you need to recognise that 1. you have a problem and 2. you should ASK for help. And asking for help not from some rando in a bar, but from a person that you trust and probably respects you as well. I was always afraid that that these some people would view me as a lesser person, but actually the opposite happened. People who are great mentors know that no one succeeds all the time, and sometimes we are out of our depth.
So I would like to thank some of my mentors: Melvin, Lawrence, Meng Hin and others who have played one part or another in guiding my actions, thoughts and reactions. Life is lived forward, and understood backwards – but that is no reason for living it forwards blindly and alone.
For the mentors who will be part of our movement, being a mentor is a cause, a duty – someone has taken the step of asking for help and that takes courage. We may not always succeed, but we need to be empathetic, mindful and most of all, care for the mentee and the positive outcomes that we are driving for together.
Dato’ Yeo, Kok Hwa
My profession as a land surveyor began in late 70s, where I was assigned to work with an Australian survey consultant. My 1 st mentoring experience for 6-months working with him. Thereafter, I began my journey of professional and personal development and started mentoring the teams’ members as the Field Lead for 3 years. I moved to the offshore surveying for oil and gas industry since early 80s, where I was employed as an offshore surveyor. My employer was a Swiss, who had committed to grow the regional staff and provided work opportunity for performance and growth. My 2nd mentoring experience began and continued for more than 15 years, where I began working on “3-yearly goals” since 1981. My professional and personal development and lifelong learning continued to these days. Unfortunately, my 2nd mentor passed on at age 73, March 2017.
Benefited from the mentoring experiences by a few mentors in my life, I have begun mentoring and coaching field leaders, executives and managers in my profession as an operations surveyor, director of operations, director of commercial and senior project director for Asia region since late 80s to these days.
With 4 decades of self-development initiative, I have achieved qualifications, gained knowledge and experiences that allow me to offer professional and personal development guidance (mentoring, coaching and counselling) to others in corporation and community as an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, Transactional Analysis Practitioner, Professional Counsellor, Adult Workplace Learning Educator and Leadership Developer.