Nicky Dunderdale - Director of Digital Pyson

Article provided by Nicky Dunderdale, Director of Digital at Psyon

Earlier this year, the government-commissioned Rose Review examined the barriers women in business face and what can be done to overcome them. One of their recommendations was to expand existing mentoring and networking opportunities.

A report by Kaggage, last year also highlighted that a mentor can be crucial especially in the early days of business. They conducted research with small business owners and found that the majority (92 per cent) of respondents that had had a mentor found them vital to success, in spite of the fact only 22 per cent were mentored when they were a start-up.

I’m a firm believer in the value of mentors. I’ve had a mentor for the last eight years and I know how important this has been in my career. Would I be the person I am today, personally and professionally, without the guidance and support of the mentors I have had throughout my career? Probably not.

I am very much of the opinion that if you want something, you have to go and get it yourself. This is an approach that sits across the whole of my life, not just work. However, it is important to remember you need a balanced view and working in splendid isolation is never a good thing. To me, the ability to reflect and debate with another as you develop your career is vital to keeping that balance.

All mentor relationships must be built on a strong foundation of trust. This is common sense really; it’s the same for any relationship you have, both at work and at home. It takes time to build trust with another and so the initial focus must be about getting to know each other, including your reasons for entering into a mentor relationship in the first place.

By working to understand each other you will nurture a far deeper level of openness and respect. This, alongside the trust you have developed, will create a winning combination for your mentoring journey.

These characteristics have been the most important for my own mentor experiences over the years. I worked with each of my mentors for a long time prior to formally seeking out their guidance. This is why I have had such positive experiences working with them. We already had well developed professional relationships built on those key pillars of trust, openness and respect.

Whilst all my mentors have been great, I think it’s important to note that life is life and not all relationships work, no matter how hard you try. If it isn’t working, you just need to be honest and walk away – this goes for mentor and mentee.

I have always ensured that my mentors are aware of my professional ambitions. In doing so we have worked together to identify short and long-term goals that will enable me to progress along my career journey. I have owned this and have not expected my mentor to turn up with a pre-formed list of nicely outlined goals. What I have done though in sharing my ambitions is open a debate as to the steps I need to take.

This is where openness and respect has been so key for me. In order to progress I have needed to understand and work on my weaknesses, without taking any constructive criticisms personally. It took me years to be able to deal with that without getting defensive and I still have to have a stern chat with myself every now and again.

My love of debate and problem solving has led to some very interesting discussions with my mentors, developing new exciting ideas and opportunities against the backdrop of my career aspirations. I have been able to not just develop myself in these debates, but have also influenced the direction of our business.

I would 100 per cent recommend seeking a mentor for anyone who is seriously looking to develop their career. For me it has made a significant difference and I very much doubt I would have been able to achieve what I have done so far without the guidance and support of my mentors.