Interview with a mentee

two women taking to each other while holding pens
This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series Mentorship Lessons

Let’s start with, what led you to seek out a mentor in your career or personal life?
At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, I thought to myself that I needed to do things differently, because the way I was approaching life wasn’t working out the way I wanted to. People say that Einstein said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again. So I took some time to reflect and I wanted to change my approach. I wanted to learn certain things, I wanted to improve my skill sets, I had a long list, like communication, branding, in business development, economics, investment. And I also wanted to challenge myself to be healthier. And I guess that was my way to cope with all the changes that were going on.

During that phase, I challenged myself to read as much as possible (that year I read, like 65 books!) to absorb as much information as possible. I remember reading your blog, I think, a blog post that you did on innovation or design thinking, and I realised, wait, I know, Bianca.

As I was going through the blog, and I realised also that we had some things in common, we were both learners and we were both generalists. It was also around that time, that I was learning about the term, multipotentialite, which I think you also used it on your blog. And when I learnt about the term, everything made sense, I saw that nothing was wrong with me. I was just trying to fit into a mould that was just not right for me.

Going through your blog, I said I would love to talk to her, to learn about her experience, her approach with building her career, and her approach to learning and pulling everything together. Because the challenge with being a multipotentialite, it is just finding your unique recipe and blend and mix. But I didn’t do anything about it until probably about two years later.

When you then mentioned that you were a mentor and you were considering taking on more mentees, I thought, let me shoot my shot, let me ask. Typically, I’m not the type of person to seek out mentors. I tend to find virtual mentors. I’ll find people on YouTube, I’ll read books, but I’ve never really had much in-person mentorship relationships. So this is really my first official mentor mentee relationship.

The next question I had for you was, how did you choose your mentor, which you’ve touched on but maybe more generally, what qualities you were looking for in a mentor?
Now, don’t say I sound like a stalker but I was following you on Twitter and Instagram for a long time before I ever reached out. So, I got a sense of your personality beforehand and I would “shadow engage” with the content, but just not directly say it. And I thought “Oh, this is interesting. She’s relatable. She seems approachable. She seems to be human.”

You know, sometimes people put on this grandiose persona, this larger than life, I’m unreachable. I’m better than you sort of thing. But once I saw that you were not a threatening persona, and you were pretty kind and engaging, I think I messaged you about beer to ask what you thought about one you had tried. And you answered me and based on how you answered and your tone, I felt more comfortable asking.

So, it took a while for me to build up that courage. But it was really, you being approachable, you being open to the idea and the fact that you were the type of person to share what you’re thinking and what you’re working on, so I felt like I could trust you. 

When we’re talking before about what led you to seek out a mentor, you mentioned the various areas of your life and skills you wanted to improve. But what specific goals did you actually have in mind when you sought out a mentor?

Okay, when I started out, the goal I had in mind was to figure out my unique multipotentialite recipe for my career, how I can bridge all my different interests and skills and make it into a career the way that you have. But fortunately, I’ve gotten so much more out of our interactions. Yeah, so that was the original intention. I wanted to really learn how you did that. But then I realised, oh, my God, okay, there are layers, and layers and layers and layers.

The next question was how has your mentor, how have I, as your mentor helped you to achieve those goals? So I guess perhaps the question really is, have I?

Ah, yes. I think it’s in the process, it’s in the works. I made a note that said my mentor has influenced me to de-clutter, get mental health support, get clear on my career needs, and actually stay in the tech industry. I was sharing with my mother earlier what you had said to me about owning your story, and being authentic about it and that nobody can really use it against you, if you own it, and you accept it. So there are things you shared that I’ve internalised and stuck in my brain.

So for example, since learning more about my anxiety and speaking about it, I’ve had so many other conversations with people who I had no clue that this was a similar struggle for them. Now, I’m openly talking about anxiety, and saying, oh, you know, today’s really a rough day, I’m anxious about this. And today, one of my friend was saying, hey, you know, similar struggle. So I definitely think that our conversations have influenced me to be more open and realise that, hey, there is nothing to be ashamed of here.

So that was a big shift, in my perspective, to be like, stop looking at it like this is something wrong with you, this is a wound, to actually accepting it and working with it, so that you can get better.

Alright, tougher question now, which is what have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced in the mentorship relationship?

Oh, yes, I’m prepared for that one. Brutal honesty! Mi get drape up! I was grabbed in the chest on multiple sessions.

It’s like having a mirror being held up to me and I have to look at it so I can’t hide anymore. It’s like being challenged to face some of the things that I have been avoiding. It’s a lot to absorb. Sometimes I’ll think about it and it’s a tough pill to swallow but it’s a well needed truth.

I remember one of our sessions, you said something to me and I was getting pretty defensive in my mind and uptight. Fortunately, I had the self awareness to realise that I was being defensive and you had a really solid point so perhaps I needed to dig a little bit deeper into what it is that you said. And I did. And what you said was the absolute truth, but I didn’t want to face it, because it was tough.

So that’s the biggest challenge and the biggest blessing. It’s double sided, brutal honesty. You just have to put your ego aside and be teachable and be vulnerable and not get defensive. Because it’s the intention behind what it is that you’re saying. The intention is good, but the truth hurts. My back hurts, Bianca. My chest hurts.

Is there anything you want to add to the next question about what strategies you use to overcome those challenges? You spoke about a couple of things, putting your ego aside, not getting defensive, not taking it personally, and paying attention to the intent behind the honesty. Is there anything else you want to add in terms of strategies you use?

Yeah, just sitting sitting with the emotions. That’s something I have learnt. And sitting with it, it’s uncomfortable. But just sitting with it and exploring it a bit to say what did we speak about? What did that bring up? What am I feeling? I think a lot, I live in my head a lot. So that is probably a part of it. But I tend to sit with it and kind of explore it a bit. And it has challenged me to see things differently. So my note is to say, sit with the emotions and be open to accepting a different version of reality. So it’s been challenging me to see a different perspective.

So I feel like like this question is almost redundant as you’ve spoken to it a couple of times, but for clarity, how has your mentor helped you to grow both personally and professionally?

Okay, let me give you a prime example. Every time I’m about to speak or present, I hear, nobody will know that you’re not confident unless you tell them that you’re not confident. Nobody’s going to know, unless I tell them that I’m not feeling confident.

So my note is that I’ve internalized my mentor’s voice, I can hear her words in my head. She’s inspired me to be more confident. She has challenged me to start before getting all the information. She’s also challenged me to be more accepting of myself.

We have heard a lot about what your mentor has done. So how have you actively participated in and contributed to the mentorship relationship?

I show up. And I tried to be honest. I think deception, especially self deception is so easy. But I show up and be honest and be vulnerable. It’s not easy, but I challenge myself to be open and honest. Because opening up and just sharing, what I think and what I feel is not the easiest thing for me. So doing that has, I think, affected the quality of our interactions. I think that has helped us to have some amazing conversations.

And I think, continuously showing up and not trying to evade our sessions, because the brutal honesty hurts. So I didn’t run away from it and I showed up for more brutal honesty. I think that’s my contribution.

So how do you plan to continue building your relationship with me as your mentor?

Well, I don’t think you can ever get rid of me. We’re friends until the end, just like Chucky. Joke! But yes, I definitely appreciate our interactions. I’d definitely love to continue having sessions.

I’m not sure if your availability will change in the coming future, depending on how it is that you decide to implement your global domination plans. But I’d love to stay in touch, have linkups with you. We haven’t been able to do that as yet, have in person sessions, and probably like a working strategy sessions, where we talk about our plans to take over the world. But I would love to continue as we have been, sessions just to connect and share what it is that we’re working on.

So final question is, what advice would you give to somebody who’s considering seeking a mentor?

I would say do it, of course, but I feel like your mentor is going to meet you at the level that you’re at. So you also have to do work too. You have to be willing to do the tough work of figuring out, what you want, what your interest is, building that self awareness, building that emotional intelligence. You won’t have somebody come in and tell you what to do with your life and rescue you and save you. I think that a lot of the time, mentorship relationships are seen that way where I need a mentor, I need somebody to come and just guide me. I don’t think that’s the best interaction. I think it’s best to have someone who is going to challenge you to see things differently. But you also have to put in the work. So I’d say, start putting in the work while having that interaction with your mentor. So keep learning. Don’t wait until you find a mentor to do the things that you would want to get better at. Overall, I’d say start, do the work, and be open and honest. And be brave. You know, you may get rejected if you ask, but it’s worth asking.

Series Navigation<< What to Ask Your Mentor: Questions to Help You Make the Most of their Insights
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