The Power of Mentoring

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A woman lying on her back beside a brick wall. She has one hand on the brickwork and her feet resting on the edge of two steps of an open metal staircase above her.

How Mentorship has shaped my future

Life has changed incredibly over the past 5 years in ways that I couldn’t have imagined possible. Not just for me but for my family too. A change that’s for the better, and I believe it was a change that first began with being mentored.

Why Did I need a Mentor?

At the time I didn’t know that I needed a mentor and I had no idea what it could do for me. A trusted friend recommended a trial scheme that she’d signed up to. This particular mentoring programme had been put together specifically to help women progress in tech. As a female founder of a tech startup, it seemed the perfect fit. This was a pilot programme run by the formidable Rav Bumbra and Structur3dpeople.

I was mentally exhausted.

I was running a home business with my husband and it was pretty tough. It wasn't something I'd ever aspired to do. The work was tedious and unrelated to any of my previous experience. The hours were long, the business was showing early signs of failure and the financial pressures were enormous. I was looking for ways out and my hopes were pinned on the tech startup which was taking up every moment of my spare time.

I was tormented with guilt.

I wasn't able to give myself one hundred percent to anything, my time was constantly being pulled from mum to wife, to director, to founder... and I didn't feel that I was particularly good at any of those things.

I was fully aware of my confidence issues.

I was attempting to break into the tech startup scene in my mid-40s, with no formal tech training, no degree and a conviction that I wouldn't be taken seriously. When I worked as a graphic designer in my early 20s, I used to look around and wonder what happened to the older designers. Where did they go? I now was that out-of-practice older designer, acutely conscious of my age and being labelled just a housewife.

The Mentee

I joined a group of eight mentees on a Women in Leadership mentoring programme. I walked into that first session a bag of nerves not knowing what to expect. We were quite a diverse bunch from a range of different ages, cultures and backgrounds but all connected through our work in tech and scheduled to meet together with our mentor four times over the coming year.

We were set a task to think about our 5-year future state ready to discuss at the next meeting. I remember coming away that night feeling uplifted and excited about future possibilities. My thoughts were racing towards what that state might be.

My Future State

I was recently clearing out some old paperwork and I found my hand-scribbled future state -

Life is much happier. I get up because I want to and look forward to each day. I’m not firefighting anymore and get to do what I enjoy. My husband will have the freedom to follow his pursuits too and choose a career path he can enjoy. I can relax because I don’t have the constant financial worries, our future is now more secure. I have timeout to paint, or knit, and just ‘be’. I’m still busy with work, but when I have downtime, it really does mean disconnecting and switching off. I can spend quality time with my two boys and grandson where I can give them my undivided attention. If my health takes a downturn I can afford to give myself the time I need to recouperate and build strength back up. If my back does deteriorate, a contingency plan will be in place at home and at work so that I can still continue to do the things I enjoy.

I remember it took all my strength to keep my composure and read that out to the rest of the group.

My Realised State

Looking back 5 years on, the transformation is incredible. We wound up the company. I am much happier and I've grown to love Mondays working in tech as a software developer. My stresses have gone. Whilst I'm still rubbish at switching off and managing my time I've taken up gardening and occasionally find time to pick up my sketchbook. My husband did indeed retrain and is now enjoying a new career as a mortgage broker. It comes as no surprise that my health has improved significantly now that the financial pressures and stresses are gone.

I still don't fully understand how writing down that first intention worked but it did. Through the support of the mentoring programme, I actually achieved that future state in about 3 years. And rolling forward 5 years to now, we've just recently been able to finally close the lid on the pandora's box that the home business had become.

That experience was life-changing and once that programme came to an end, I continued to look for mentors whether it was through work contacts or my peers. I will openly ask a friend or colleague to mentor me. They don't always have the time, but I'm grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way.

The Mentor

A while back I decided it was time to pay it forward and pass on the advice and support that I've been so generously given by others. I've found opportunities to mentor both internally at work and externally. I've enjoyed many a conversation with anyone who's reached out to me through various social media platforms and networking groups.

A two-way relationship

Sometimes you need someone who can help you grow and show you what you can be. Someone who can help you find your own path through sharing their own experiences, their failures and their learnings. Someone who can help you make the seemingly impossible possible.

I've come to realise that mentoring is a two way relationship, that you too can also continue on that growth journey as a mentor. If you can be that 'someone', watching your mentee transform is uplifting. Their enthusiasm and energy are contagious. It's motivational.

It's why I've volunteered to mentor as a Guide to the D-V-8 community for people looking to break into tech. I didn't think there was any way out of a hopeless situation. Mentoring showed me there's always a way out, sometimes you just need a helping hand to show you how. That's the power of mentoring.