Becoming a mentor helped me learn about myself
Initially, I found out about Tech Manchester’s mentoring scheme from a former boss. As a Tech Manchester mentor himself, he said I should look at it as a way of building out my network in the North West.
This was a welcome suggestion as having previously been in a global role I felt disconnected to my local business community.
So, rather selfishly on reflection, the process of becoming a mentor started out more about ‘me’ than what I could give to others – though becoming a part of the Tech Manchester community has definitely shifted this perspective.
In the beginning, I didn’t think that I had enough experience or knowledge to be an effective mentor. I had made too many mistakes in my career, was too opinionated as to what was ‘right’ and, to be honest, had only ever worked in larger corporate roles. What did I know about setting up or running a company, raising finance or creating a franchise network?
Out of a desire to build these skills and find out what was going on in the Manchester tech sector, I duly signed up to the Tech Manchester Mentoring Scheme in June 2018.
The on-boarding process was great and meeting the other potential mentors through a series of induction workshops really helped. I realised how different everyone’s backgrounds are and how each of us bring a different perspective.
Sessions on IP rights and applying for funding gave me a basic understanding and eventually the ‘lights turned on’ in one particular session – my role as mentor was not to have the answers but to know which questions to ask.
Through further mentor preparation provided by Tech Manchester, I’d come to realise where I could add value – and where I couldn’t. Ultimately, I chose to work with my particular mentee because the challenges he referenced, and potential issues he was concerned about, were ones I also recognised. So, one year on, what have I learned from being a mentor at Tech Manchester?
The first is that, while the entrepreneur community still tends to be dominated by men, there is an increasing number of women setting up their own businesses. So much about setting up a business relies on having self-confidence.
As female mentors, we can often encourage female entrepreneurs in very subtle ways that come about through shared experiences, feelings and frustrations.
Knowing there are other women that these budding startups can go to for advice or support is making huge impact on their success – this is a core element of the work Tech Manchester is doing. The second is that my value as a mentor isn’t so much in my experience dealing with investors, executive boards or running marketing campaigns. It’s in the softer issues like staying motivated when things go flat, or finding strategies to deal with the isolation and loneliness that can sometimes rear their ugly heads.
Finally, for anyone out there considering being a mentor, it isn’t just about ‘giving back’. Although this is a great part of the process, through mentoring I’ve learned so much about myself, my strengths and areas which I still have to develop.
I’ve broadened my network of contacts such that there are always friendly faces now at the business community events I attend in the North West. It’s helped me feel more connected to my home region and be part of something that is undoubtedly a positive force in putting Manchester firmly on the UK’s map of entrepreneurship.
So, if you’re thinking about becoming a mentor, I can wholeheartedly say that it’s well worth it.
Become a mentor!
To explore the process of becoming a Tech Manchester mentor, register today at www.techmanchester.co.uk/register and complete a mentor profile. One of the Tech Manchester team will be in touch to explain more about how you can get started and get you up to speed with the support available.