So why would you want to be an EntryPoint mentor?

By Esa Torniainen

I am currently serving as a mentor in EntryPoint Mentoring Programme, which is part of Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce’s project called Chamber of Multicultural Enterprises (COME). While working on external advocacy related to diversity & inclusion at IBM, I met Shania Shin, the programme officer, whose vivid account of the programme sparked my interest, so I enlisted for the 2017 programme – and have not regretted my decision!

EntryPoint is, as all mentoring should be, two-way: for the mentor and their organisation it offers internationalisation in terms of exposure to international talent studying in Finland, and for the mentee, it provides access to the experience of a seasoned leader or professional, who has knowledge of working life in Finland. People at COME took great efforts to create mentor/mentee pairs for best possible match, based on participants’ CVs and other info provided as background.

Actual relationship with goals and ways of working is defined and agreed between the mentor and the mentee, and drafted as a “contract” – which is important, not so much as a document per se, but as a tool to ensure that some proper thinking is invested into establishing the relationship. By default, the mentoring lasts for 6 months, and includes a few meetings for all mentees and mentors, in addition to the actual continuous mentee-driven dyad work. There are also opportunities for additional thematic groups, company visits, etc.

Looking from the mentor point of view, there are many potential benefits. For an organisation, whose workforce is not yet very cross-cultural, getting insights from international talents creates an opportunity to think about the current workplace culture: would we be able to attract and retain such talents, or would some changes in processes and practices be needed? For example, in recruiting: do we have an aversion against candidates with foreign names, or do we require Finnish/Swedish language capability by default, even for roles, where language actually is not an issue – and thereby exclude most of the talent in the world?

Working in a corporation, where Finnish employees represent a mere fraction of a per cent of the total population, the obvious organisation level benefits may be slightly less evident, however, there are still great benefits for the individual mentor. Throughout my career as a manager and recently in HR, I’ve found most satisfaction in opportunities to help other people succeed – sometimes directly, but more often helping them develop themselves, through “socratic method”, i.e. asking questions to stimulate critical thinking about career aspirations, beliefs in strengths and weaknesses, priorities in life, etc. This, I believe, is at the heart of mentoring.

Even though listening, as always, is way more important than talking, sometimes it also makes sense for the mentor to draw from her/his own experiences and relate stories about past successes achieved and mistakes made. No use repeating old mistakes – better make new ones! For the mentor, such reflection of own experiences in the context of the mentee’s world, offers an opportunity to hone one’s metacognitive skills. One might accidentally even learn to understand oneself a bit better, which is rarely a bad thing.

In the worklife context particularly, I also came to “self”-reflect our Finnish worklife – I would pose that we are not yet among the most open societies in terms of welcoming and embracing diversity, fostering inclusion and encouraging authenticity at workplace. There is still a lot of work to do. EntryPoint programme is a valuable contribution to that end!

About the author:

Esa Torniainen is an experienced manager and HR professional working at IBM Finland
Twitter: @EsaTorniainen