Dec. 4, 2020
Mentor Link: More than just fast-tracking your career
Thirty-three-year-old Fred Nkiwane felt an immediate connection with Gord Currie when they met for coffee at Weeds Café a year ago.
Both had just been matched by Mentor Link — an online platform designed to connect mentors (UCalgary alumni) with mentees (UCalgary students and other alumni) — likely due to their mutual interest in finance and investor relations. Currie, BA’75, BA’76, BSc’15, had spent most of his career as a financial analyst in the petroleum and airline industries and Nkiwane, at the time, was a first-year MBA student, fresh from Zimbabwe.
“I wasn’t sure what we’d do together or if I could even help Fred,” confesses Currie, who retired a few years ago and wasn’t sure his industry insights or business skills would be as up-to-date as Nkiwane would want. But it turned out what Nkiwane really wanted was exactly what Currie could provide — a shortcut to all things Canadiana. From visits to Tim Hortons and a hockey game, to Thanksgiving dinner, pub lunches and family meet-ups — Currie, like so many mentors, maintains he’s benefited as much by the relationship as has his mentee.
“I’ve learned a little bit about life in Africa,” says Currie, who also served on UCalgary’s Senate for years and is a sessional instructor at the Haskayne School of Business, “and enjoyed exposing Fred to life in Canada. So much.”
Besides insight into Canadian culture, Nkiwane wanted a “safe space to make mistakes,” he explains, thanking Currie and their endless cups of coffee for providing him with just that. “I wanted to make those blunders or missteps before I interviewed for any jobs,” he adds.
“By being able to ask Gord why Canadians call hats ‘toques,’ or who opens the door … or pays for the coffee on a work date, was very valuable. It’s different in Zimbabwe, where, for starters, we wouldn’t meet at a coffee shop, but at someone’s home, and an older gentleman like Gord wouldn’t open a door for someone younger like me.”
Although Nkiwane is quite literal when referring to “opening doors,” mentors can also, figurately, open doors to their network, help with professional-development advice, share leadership skills, act as sponsors and generally boost mentees’ confidence to grow their careers.
Not only is Mentor Link an easy-to-use platform, it “gives you access to a community of career-minded alumni and students who are looking to create career connections and share knowledge and experience within the UCalgary alumni community,” says Carol Wert, associate director of UCalgary’s Alumni Career Development.
“It’s a win-win connection — learning experiences for students and alumni are enriched by the connections they make to mentors who, in turn, can share their wealth of knowledge and expertise as UCalgary alumni.”
Here’s how it works: When mentors and mentees sign up online, they create an account to which they input relevant information such as educational background and the industries in which they have experience or are interested in. They also identify ways they can help or what they would like to get help with such as career advice, industry insights, networking connections and so forth. Based on this information, the platform makes recommendations for matches that are a good fit.
Not only does Mentor Link provide a platform for alumni to connect with students and each other in an open community, it also serves as a platform for other formal mentorship programs and groups on campus to operate. Aptly illustrated by the Currie-Nkiwane connection, this program facilitates a very versatile form of mentorship that allows both parties to meet as frequently as they wish and wherever they choose. In fact, the platform offers different meeting options, including virtual video meetings that allow connections to be maintained, regardless of lockdown status. And, of course, mentors and mentees can connect and meet from anywhere in the world.
To learn more, visit Mentor Link.