Mentorship is more than an increasingly popular buzzword, it’s also the reason many career women are making it to the top, and why many local businesses are successful.

The National Mentorship Movement currently lists over 840 mentors and over 1 010 mentees on their site alone, and there are any number of organisations that actively promote and support mentor/mentee relationships in South Africa. 

A mentorship is a powerful partnership. The role of the mentor is to share knowledge, advice, and resources, while the role of the mentee is to learn and to use the information gained to excel professionally. 

But how does this play out, practically?

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We chatted to Philile Nzimande, co-founder of a local travel business, and Maud Masiyiwa-Wakatama, Managing Director of Capstone Training and Development, to gain some insight into their powerful partnership. 

“Back in 2014 my business studies required me to have a mentor,” Philile revealed. “I was also new to the responsible tourism field and needed guidance from a black female who understands what being black and female in this industry is like. I wanted guidance on how to navigate this industry.” 

She didn’t really have any expectations from this partnership, Philile told us. “I’ve never had a mentor before, so I went into the relationship as a child willing to learn” she said. 

“Because I had no expectations, my experience has nothing but highs. Sis’Maud is a wonderful strong black woman in business who never gives up on her destiny, always seeking ways to be better and impactful. I like that: I admire that, I look up to that.” 

Philile shared that she has benefited from their relationship in the way she makes decisions, and has learned to stay strong and feminine, while keeping family first. 

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Maud has over 27 years of experience in Tourism, as well as a wealth of experience in SMME development and training in the Tourism and Hospitality industries. She holds national and international qualifications in Travel and Tourism, Community Development and Women’s Enterprise Development, and therefore offers much value to her mentees. 

She told us she didn’t initially intentionally seek a role as a mentor. “I would come across people, especially in the Tourism industry, who would seek me out and ask for my thoughts and then advice on particular issues aligned to their business, work, or work life balance,” she explained. 

“I believe that women in business don’t have to make the same mistakes I made in business. I didn’t have any women I could turn to during my journey and I constantly found that I would go to my male colleagues for advice in business, and the truth be told there were a lot of things I couldn’t share with them.”

Maud explained “Clearly they would have had no idea what I was talking about and would have left me very bruised, because they would have been looking at the situation under a “male microscope”. I tried to find female mentors I could reach out to and they weren’t there or were so far up the ladder and not looking down.”  

She described how they were too busy building their own empires, and a lot of times people pretend all is okay and young people then can’t really find someone to share and help them navigate through business. 

“Twenty years later in business; this is an issue that still eludes – why aren’t women mentoring other women and handing over a positive legacy through mentorship? I decided that I was going to make an unselfish difference in some woman’ life. Ideally, I want to see the next generation take this battle to a whole new level.”

Maud is driven to see her mentees succeed. “I have this deep desire to see the next generation of millennial business women take the lead in breaking down the doors of the board room” she told us. “There is a critical need to develop a strong body of able, willing and committed female mentors across all sectors within Africa.”  

A mentor really wants to add value, she told us, in the form of real-life experience, therefore, it is important that the mentor’s business or industry experience aligns with that of the mentee’s goals. 

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Additionally, a mentee must demonstrate that they are totally committed to the relationship. “Philile and her business partner Pearl showed me their commitment in a number of ways, such as initiating the relationship, requesting a meeting, and being very specific at our first meeting.” 

A potential mentee must be committed, she stresses. “This relationship won’t be a walk in the park. When your mentor is unavailable don’t get all flustered. Also, be prepared to hear some things you don’t want to hear, and to make the necessary changes, within means.” 

A mentorship relationship is an opportunity to learn from the school of hard knocks, Maud says, and advises that potential mentees go into any mentorship relationship acknowledging that. “When your mentor shares his or her failures, acknowledge that it took a very brave person to share their experience with you.” Maud’s final word of advice is to be present. “And I really mean be present. There are many people who pretend to be present just to tick off the attendance register.  Don’t go into any mentorship relationship with that attitude, because it would be disrespectful to both you and your mentor,” she says. 

If you’re looking for a mentor in 2019 browse these local mentorship websites to get started:

sayesmentoring.org

mentors.co.za

nyda.gov.za

mentorshipmovement.co.za

dreamgirlsacademy.com

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