In this opinion piece the founder and MD of ntegrity agency, Richenda Vermeulen talks about why mentoring isn’t a new idea by any means, but it’s an important and fulfilling one.
Last Friday at the Women in Media awards night, over 600 of the industry’s bravest women came together to celebrate. I was a finalist in the Mentor category, and although I’ve won other WIM awards in previous years, this nomination is the one I am most proud of. Even without a win, I felt like a winner, as I get to see the results of mentoring in my team every day.
One thing I found interesting was that there was an incessant amount of discussion about formal mentoring programs, as if it were a new thing, and the need to find sponsors to fuel these programs. It was based on young women finding older, professional and successful women to help them.
But this felt off-kilter to me, because no matter your age, skills or status – you have an opportunity to make an impact in someone else’s life.
Two years ago, I encouraged my mentee Sally to speak in front of 100 high school girls on why they should work in Digital. She felt inadequate. Here she was, fresh out of uni and had only been working for ntegrity for one year. But as she spoke about her journey, why she chose a start-up instead of an opportunity given to her by IBM, Sally gave these young girls hope. They asked a million questions because they could see themselves in Sally, she was so much more relatable than I could have ever been!
You don’t need to have all the answers, but you do need a genuine desire to listen. Often, what people need isn’t actually your advice, instead they need you to ask them the right questions to help them unlock the answers they have been looking for. That’s why mentorship isn’t always top down.
It can also come back to you in incredible ways. Last year I spent six months mentoring Kevin Mok, an intern turned Digital Strategist at ntegrity. When I went on maternity leave, he (alongside our 70 per cent Millennial team!) was instrumental in growing the agency 100%, with our industry recognising his growth in B&T’s 30u30.
Sometimes how to be a mentor will be obvious, other times it won’t. The most important thing is to remember that you are a mentor. You have experience, you’ve made mistakes, you’ve got insight that others need that.
And maybe, like me, you’ll find that mentorship makes you feel like a winner.
Vermeulen was a B&T Women In Media finalist in the mentor category, and a Women In Media award winner (2015, strategy and 2014, digital). Her mentees include Kevin Mok (2016, 30 under 30- Digital winner), Hannah Duke (2016, Women In Media “Rising Star” finalist) and Emily Malone (2016, Australia’s Biggest Social Media Geek).