CIOs discuss the power of mentorship

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These CIOs have gained from mentorship, seen its value and now want to pay it forward – charting the path for the next generation of leaders.

Herby Seedat, CIO at BidTravel, is a firm believer in mentorship and upskilling. He himself was afforded the opportunity to be mentored and in turn, reciprocates the gesture.

“During my career, I’ve had a direct line manager mentor me in my early years and later followed by a Divisional Director within Bidvest until today, I still engage with him regularly: to draw inspiration and bounce some of my ideas and decisions off of him,” Herby explains.

According to Herby, that level of engagement is very beneficial, especially if you’re unsure about making certain decisions. “Just talking to your mentor actually gets you to the answer you’ve been searching for – I found it to be a really useful process,” he adds.

Paying it forward

Herby has also committed himself to mentoring individuals within his own team. He uses a former team member who moved to New Zealand as an example. “Despite being on the other side of the world, he still does engage with me for advice,” he says. “In fact, there’s another good success story in the team – a lady who was a receptionist and showed potential to grow., I suggested she start out in the helpdesk within my team to learn about some of our products.

“She was later promoted to one of our, let's call it the management layer levels, and today she works in a specialist role as an automation specialist in our team – responsible for transforming processes using automation.

It’s a good example of mentoring coupled with upskilling, something he is passionate about, as well as improving processes through automation, a skill this young lady now possesses.

Ruban Naidoo, IT business relationship executive at eThekwini Municipality, on the other hand looks at what people are most passionate about, then comes in to help guide or mentor them. In his case, it was people who enjoyed fixing hardware (computers) or dealing with users, and getting into the fault-finding space. “You also find individuals who love computer networking and putting systems together,” he adds.

Concerning young up-and-coming technologists, eThekwini Municipality is steering a few youth in the right direction through their internship programme – their first layer to mentorship.

“So once these young people complete their qualifications, they’re able to register on our skills database with different departments within the municipality,” Ruban explains. “We then pull the best out of that pool of individuals. We generally look out for developers derived from that pool. Much is the same if we’re looking for young network engineers and other expertise.”

Standard Bank’s CIO for CIB transformation programmes Bessy Mahopo much like Herby, has also benefited from being exposed to great mentors in her career journey – two exceptional leaders in the corporate world, whose unique leadership styles and approaches to problem-solving resonate with Bessy.

“I hold these two individuals in very high regard. They are both great leaders,” she notes. “They believed in me more than I believed in myself, and became my sponsors, and ensured that I had the right opportunities and platforms that elevated my exposure to key decision-makers.”

Bessy also shares some nuggets on the important role mentorship plays in personal and career development, and why it is crucial for leaders to pay it forward.

“We are all born in different communities and have diverse upbringings. Some cultures have inferiority complexes and others superiority complexes,” she explains. “Some people are introverts, others are extroverts. Some cultures groom their kids to grow up very confidently and others don’t, irrespective of whether they are introverted or extroverted.”

According to Bessy, women often suffer from impostor syndrome, given the unconscious biases they may have experienced in their life. In some instances, you find someone coming across as smarter and powerful because they speak ‘great’ English or lack confidence because of their backgrounds.

“As such, I do my best as a leader to mentor people who seem to have a similar background to mine, to help in unlocking their full potential. I constantly have a group of people that I mentor – capacity allowing,” Bessy notes.

She cites a great success story of a young lady who she mentored, initially in an informal way, but their relationship grew stronger over time. The two met 17 years ago: “She was completing her matric and confused about her choice of studies afterwards,” she says. “We persevered and I am happy to say she is now a qualified CA who is also paving the way forward for others.

“I believe that my purpose is to always be a blessing to others and now I do even more mentoring – that’s just me trying to change the world, one step at a time,” Bessy concludes.

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