Mentoring is key

Monday, April 26, 2021

Nikki Wilton is a Sales and Transformation Leader with more than 25 years of experience in the IT industry. Having run women leadership programmes in various capacities over the past six years, she is no stranger to the mentorship environment. She is passionate about people, drives successful outcomes within her teams, and through her unique and strategic business insight, she plays a big part in helping accelerating women’s careers through the talent pipeline.

Understand your position in the business

For Nikki, a clear understanding of your company’s strategic objectives, profitability goals, the core client base and your market lie at the heart of successful career progression, and this shift in thinking is what Nikki wishes to impart on her mentees: “It’s understanding what is important in the business and the part that you have to play in achieving those business goals.”

“I’ve run many women’s leadership programmes, and throughout those programmes I’ve seen the things that women struggle with. Things like how to operate in an interview, how to ask for a pay rise, how to articulate achievements, how to contribute to the strategic goals – those are the things women need to understand in order to improve their chances of getting that next job.”

A success story

In 2020, Nikki approached Janita Sluurman on the Righbrains platform to become her mentee, and although the direction of their mentorship journey was initially uncertain, they soon identified a set of goals that would culminate in a promotion for Janita. The road to reaching these goals started by first identifying Janita’s core strengths and the areas where she was likely to be most successful: “We updated her external LinkedIn profile, identified the conversations that she could have across her business and who her sponsors were, and then determined how to change the narrative.”

Working with Janita fast became a very rewarding relationship: “Firstly, she is a great mentee. You see, there are different types of mentees. There are mentees who you can chat to for an hour and say ‘I think you need to do this,’ or ‘look at that article,’ or ‘watch this video,’ or ‘do these three or four things,’ and Janita went away and did all of those things almost immediately. Other mentees will take up lots of your time and not really be committed to that journey of moving forward. But the mentees who take every single thing you say, hug it, and go and make it happen – there is nothing more rewarding than that. If I give you my time – and my time is quite precious – to see an actual outcome from that gift is the biggest ‘thank you’ that a mentee can give.”

And the impact of Nikki’s guidance and Janita’s commitment was remarkable: “Janita has gone from being a person who wasn’t quite sure where she was at, to a member of the senior leadership team at Eurofiber. And that, in the space of three months, is phenomenal.”

Mentoring is important

With the benefits of fostering a mentorship relationship being so clear, there is still a large number of young women undertaking their professional journey alone, often unaware of the opportunities for growth and the value that objective input from a mentor could add to their career trajectory. Fear of asking for help is also a big problem for younger and emerging professionals. But here Nikki stands firmly in her resolve to never turn down someone who asks to be mentored by her: “Women in my position don’t say no, because they know how important this is.”

For a mentor / mentee relationship to be truly successful, Nikki believes that it’s important to foster an environment of trust and honesty: “A mentor is not your boss, so you can be vulnerable about the things that keep you awake at night. Take your whole self to that conversation, because that person who is perhaps 20 or 30 years older than you, has at some point in their career been in the exact same place as you.”

To make progress and for mentees to learn from their actions, the importance for them to regularly ask for feedback is another element for success that cannot be underscored enough: “Ask what they think you did well, what you didn’t do so well, and how to do something differently to be more effective. If you are not continually seeking to improve, then people won’t know that you’re interested in progressing forward.”

A mentor equips you with the tools to believe in yourself

According to Nikki, mentoring does not always have to be about goals and challenges. The most important thing is to just start the conversation: “It’s handy if there’s a challenge to talk about, because that makes it really easy. But if there isn’t a challenge, just talking about where you want to be in your next job is a good place to start. Mentors, for me, and particularly smart mentors, give mentees the tools they need to show them how to believe in themselves.”

If you are interested in becoming a mentor or mentee in the digital field, be sure to sign up to the RightBrains platform, where you can find your perfect match!