career growth

Business Mentor: Two HR leaders weigh in on building that relationship

4000 2667 Brenda Akinyi

Cellulant’s Rose Gichure and WWF’s Victor Komu share how to build a fruitful relationship with your business mentor.

Through mentorship, we have the opportunity to learn from another person’s journey. A great relationship between a business mentor and mentee could be the difference between you learning the lessons “the hard way” or sidestepping mistakes in your professional journey.

Having busy professionals lend their time and energy to us means that we must be intentional about how we cultivate and manage such relationships. We spoke to two HR leaders in Kenya about what it means to have a business mentor and how to go about ensuring that we get the most value from our interactions with our mentors.

business mentorFirst, we spoke to Rose Gichure, Group Talent Manager and HRBP at Cellulant in Nairobi. Rose has been at Cellulant for about 1.5 years and previously, she was a Recruitment Specialist at Rose Avenue Consulting Group.

Why is it valuable to have a business mentor?

Having a mentor is like having a sounding board to bounce off ideas, an accountability partner to create boundaries and keep you on your toes, a parent to discipline you if needed, a friend to offer encouragement and a cheerleader to keep you going,  all bundled into one.

They are rooting for you, calling you out on your bulls****, and believe in you even when you are about to give up. A mentor will always be brutally honest with you and tell you exactly how it is rather than downplay any weaknesses they see in you.

You can tap into their wealth of knowledge, networks, as this shortens your learning curve. A mentor does not tell you what to do; they point you in the right direction; while asking you the right questions that enable you to put together a masterpiece. They have experiences you can learn from.

Having a mentor is not a sign of weakness; it shows you are smart enough and driven enough to succeed.

How can you be a great mentee?

Being a great mentee is hard. The journey is hard, but the fruits of success are fulfilling. You have to be disciplined, take criticism and accept your faults, be willing to be stretched and grow. My advice is to adopt a Growth Mindset and a Beginners Mindset.

Beginner’s mindset means taking on the curiosity of a child and wanting to learn new things, accepting that you do not know it all. A growth mindset means accepting to learn new ways of doing things vs always having a fixed mindset about how things should happen.

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Next, we got valuable insights on being a business mentor from Victor Komu, HR and Administration Manager at WWF Kenya. Victor has been with WWF for over six years and was previously a Human Resource Partner at English Press Limited.

What are the key things I need to keep in mind while developing a relationship with my business mentor?

Developing and maintaining a relationship with your mentor involves understanding and building on several things:

  • Which roles would you want your mentor to play? – A guide, role model, professional friend, thinking partner, challenger or performance coach.
  • What your first conversations are about – These should revolve around getting to know each other, building trust and agreeing on how to work together.
  • Begin to define your goals: – What does success look like for you? In addition to this;
  • Understand the setting in your relationship – Make sure you and your mentor agree on the expectations and establish a level of confidentiality.

What does a business mentor expect of their mentee?

As a mentee, trying to get the most value out of your  relationship is on you; hence, it is important to know what is expected of a mentee:

  • Initiate and drive the relationship – Be clear on the assistance you need. Find the right people in your circle, whom you believe would provide the necessary guidance. In addition to this, always follow through on commitments.
  • Allocate time and energy – Communicate more and schedule time to catch up on your progress regularly. Most business mentors, while willing to help are always busy; hence, you must value their time.
  • Take an active role in your learning – Challenge yourself. While every person’s success story is in many aspects different, a recurring theme in all of them is the dedication, time and focus required to ensure that you master your craft.
  • Openness and honesty – A mentor-mentee relationship creates a ‘safe space’ that gives room for vulnerability. Feel free to open up to your mentor on what challenges you are facing as this will help you identify any areas of improvement. Remember asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It takes courage to accept that you need a hand to help you reach greater heights.

Thank you so much to Rose and Victor for sharing these valuable insights and tips on business mentors! We agree with Rose that “All in all, the world is a better place when we learn from the ones who have gone before us and then pay it forward by mentoring others when the time comes.”

Now, we’d love to hear from you too! Have you had the privilege of being mentored or mentoring someone? Let us know some of the things that helped you build and maintain a relationship with them. Read more on how to pick your perfect mentor.

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4 Tips for Being a Lifelong Learner

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In order to become a sought-after professional in today’s job market, it’s more important than ever to be adaptable and a lifelong learner willing to gain insights and expertise throughout a career. Companies are increasingly looking for individuals with a broad set of skills who are comfortable moving across functions and teams.

How can you gain diverse skill sets and continue to develop yourself professionally, both on-the-job and in your personal life? We asked Wambui Kuria, formerly a Talent & Development Officer at Momentum Credit, a microfinance company providing structured working capital solutions to individuals, and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and now a Management Consultant at KPMG. Wambui has had quite a diverse career that has included financial auditing, entrepreneurship, recruiting and software. She describes her current role at Momentum Credit as “fifty percent human resources and fifty percent business development.”

Here are four tips from Wambui on how you can be a lifelong learner and become a more versatile employee:

1. Be comfortable outside your comfort zone to grow in your career

While she began her career as a financial auditor, Wambui quickly realized that she preferred interacting with people day-to-day in her work life. However, it was challenging to shift careers in a job market where you typically get a job based on what you studied for. In order to make a career shift, she first started scouting for jobs in sales where she could highlight transferable skills, eventually landing a role as a salesperson at a training company. “This anchored my passion for training, particularly when I would see the feedback from our clients saying how much the training changed their mindset.”

Her curiosity once again led her to move into a new role, this time in recruiting. There she found herself in meetings with software developers. She credits this experience with learning how to communicate with the tech team, in order to work effectively with the department to meet her timelines. Wambui used these experiences to push herself out of her comfort zone in order to chart a path of personal growth. “I often dare myself in different ways and praise myself when I learn something new.”

2. A lifelong learner loves and embraces technology

You don’t need to be an engineer or an IT professional to use technology to your advantage. Combining a desire to learn new things with technology can have added benefits. “I like to learn new things and I love technology. I’ve really enjoyed learning new software, creating beautiful designs on online tools such as Canva, and learning as much as I can on Google.” Being comfortable in Google Drive has paid dividends for Wambui, particularly when working with outside clients. “If you’re working across companies, everything is often shared online on Drive. This really makes it easier to work with my suppliers. I might have big files and need a lot of people to view them, so online tools are crucial.”

Being current with technology as a lifelong learner can be vital for just about any role within a company. “We all require these skills; When I started working I realized everyone needs to understand IT, as well as know how to operate smartphones. See, you might be a great lawyer, but if you don’t know how to sign contracts online, that’s dangerous to your business.”


lifelong learner

The team at Momentum learning from each other.

3. Share what you’ve learned at work!

Your learning can be significantly enhanced by collaborating with your peers in the office. If done effectively it can even positively affect the culture in your workplace. Encouraging others to share their knowledge can make room for a more interactive environment where everyone is utilizing their colleagues to actively share their learning across departments and functions. Treat this like a form of on-the-job training that everyone can participate in.

Consider starting a book club or a small library in your office to create a culture of reading for professional development. While at Momentum, Wambui implemented a system to reward high-performing team members by giving them books to read. “We reward people monthly depending on their performance, and one of the ways we’re trying to do that is by reducing on other incentives and give them books to read instead.” Putting growth and development first can pay huge dividends for everyone to meet their professional potential.

4. Build your online learning presence

According to Wambui, using your online presence to show your propensity for learning can improve your professional brand. “My LinkedIn has articles, things I’ve read, and it really shows that I am more than my educational background. I would say that’s a major thing that’s worked for me.” This shows employers and your network that you are passionate about your interest areas and serious about continuing to develop yourself as a lifelong learner.

If you’re like Wambui and YouTube is your “school of life”, consider posting videos to your social media channels to spark a discussion amongst your friends. A good habit to get into is to comment on articles and other resources that thought leaders in your field post to their pages. This can increase your visibility to ensure that high-level professionals know you are actively engaging in your professional development.

Becoming a lifelong learner requires commitment, energy, and curiosity. It takes a willingness to take ownership and expose yourself to new situations and environments. The above tips are just a few of many ways you can apply yourself to professionally grow and show your professional value is more than what’s on your CV.

Thanks so much to Wambui for sharing her wisdom with us! We’re proud to partner with Momentum Credit and help them build happy high-performing teams. Interested to work with MCL? they’re currently hiring for an Operations ManagerCustomer Relationship Officer, and Telesales Agents!

Related: Moving laterally to move upwards

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