“The light that you burn for the others is also illuminates your way.”

Mentoring is a known, used method; a relationship model since Homer’s epic, Odyssey. King Odysseus entrusted his son to a teacher, a wise and trustworthy friend named Mentor, when he was going to war. Mentor has preserved the son Telemachus in the absence of his father and become his teacher. He prepared Telemachus for the future. With this relationship being replicated over time, the system called “mentoring” has become widespread and learned in business life. Teachers and consultants become ‘Mentors’, and the advice seeker is begun to be called the ‘Mentee’.

Mentoring is an important development tool that has been used in recent years, especially in the modern business world. Because of my duties in BAT’s Human Resources Department, it’s an area that I’m interested too.

Sharing my experience with others and helping them to find their ideal has a huge role among my personal sources of motivation. Over the years, I realized that I can happily contribute to people’s development, and when I can help them to discover themselves, I am happy and pleased. Even when I graduated from the Department of Economics at Boğaziçi University in 1996, I was fully motivated to study under the Human Resources field.

And I think… If I had chosen to work in the finance-economy field because I was an economics graduate and did not question what I expected from my job life, would I be enjoying my job so much? I do not think so.

During my internship at school, I had the chance to question what I was looking for to be satisfied with business life. I am convinced that I want to do something that touches and adds value to humanity. However, at that time Human Resources was not a well known field of study, so there were those who criticized me and said: “What are you doing in the personnel department?” But I was lucky that I had a tutor and a mentor who gave me courage and confidence to continue in the field. And I listened to him, I made much of his support.

Now, I am too, in an effort to present a similar support to the young people from a few channels.

PWN Istanbul Mentoring Program

I’m a founding member of PWN Istanbul (Professional Women Network – Professional NGO Network). It is an international civil initiative created by women working as professionals or entrepreneurs mainly as an NGO to support women’s entry into business life, their retention and their rise. PWN has several working groups (See Facebook Page). One of them is “PWN Mentoring Group”, which I lead.

Our volunteer mentors in the PWN Mentoring Group are generally business women and men who have 15 to 20 years of experience in their respective fields. Our mentees are young female employees who have at least 5 years of experience in business life. Within the program, the mentor and mentee are matched after a structured evaluation process and progress along the PWN mentoring approach for a year.

Starting with a small pilot project in 2013, the program was so successful; In 2015, we implemented two separate programs, each with more than 20 mentor-mentee pairs.

In fact, all of the PWN mentors (including myself) are full-time, and also very busy professionals. We do these exercises in the evening and during the weekends. Nevertheless, giving effort to a service that we can see such solid and positive results and make people’s lives more meaningful increases our energy. The positive feedback we receive from the mentors involved in the program is the greatest source of motivation.

BAT Turkey Mentorship Culture

Mentoring can occur naturally in institutions as well as in structured programs like PWN. The culture of mentality in BAT is one of the best examples of this.

In the past years, we have tried to implement a structural mentoring program in BAT Turkey. As the Human Resources Department, we’re responsible for the appointment of the mentor and mentee pool. In accord to some criteria, we have been making matches in relation to the preferences of the mentees. However, the program did not reach the desired level. Especially, the mentees were having trouble in the name of owning the program and implementing it to their lives.

When we investigated the reasons for this we saw that,
– There are coaches, mentors, brothers and sisters that our employees have already selected from the people they are close to.
– Trying to put a structural mentoring system on top of this natural system is not as effective as the employee’s own choices, thus turns out to be an unneccesary effort.

Therefore, for the past two years, we have removed our structural mentoring program from our talent development agenda. We have left Mentor-Menti relationships natural and we have also supported ‘need based’ Human Resources consultancy. Periodically; managers may want to improve their mentoring competencies or the mentees may come with an idea like “I will choose an internally mentor for me. Would you recommend me person A or person B?”

And… We are glad to observe that culture of mentoring is organic in the company as a healthy tree, growing in its own nature, branching out, rooting … The main reason for BAT Turkey employees to choose such an informal program is ‘Corporate Culture’: Away from the hierarchy, a culture in which social networking is so widespread that it does not imply notions like ‘Mr.’ or ‘Ms.’, believes in coexisting rather than individual development.

In summary; I strongly advise you to mentor in NGOs or institutions because of the great satisfaction and high energy that it will provide. I also want to underline the need to design appropriate programs for corporate culture during the creation of mentoring systems in institutions.

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