Mentorship is defined as a relationship between a mentor, (the experienced one or the one who gives advice and guidance) and the mentee (the one who receives advice) on matters both professional and personal, with an aim of improving specific skills and knowledge. The mentor is not limited to teaching of specific skills as he also shares his networks and resources on professional fields and challenges the mentee to take up tasks that will move him from his comfort zone.

Today, it has become highly important for young people especially, to have mentors as they look to enter the job market. In Rwanda, such programs are lining up to have students and young people get expert advice on career advice and also personal life.

K-Lab (Knowledge Lab), a unique open technology hub in Kigali where students, fresh graduates, entrepreneurs and innovators come to work on their ideas and projects to turn them into viable business models started a mentoring program in 2012.
“The need to have a mentoring program came to being when we realized that most young innovators and upcoming entrepreneurs had good ideas but needed them streamlined and most importantly needed advice on very specific items around programming and funding,” says Claude Migisha, the General Manager at Klab in Kacyiru.

“The mentorship program has attracted 16 mentors (both technical and business oriented) and 85 young innovators who meet every week for between 4-6hours as standard requirement. The program also runs monthly workshops for both mentors and mentees to keep track of progress and address needs that arise every time.”

Claude mentions that the mentors engaged in this program have helped in giving expert advice that has helped products get launched in the market and most of all, soft skills like presentation and pitching have been well received and practiced by mentees.

“The biggest benefits as shared by mentors is the satisfaction of helping young innovators achieve their dreams and personal goals and they have also been re-energized in their careers,” concludes Claude who has seen mentors invest in business partnerships with mentees.

“Mentoring someone is definitely a self esteem booster,” says Isaac Tumusiime, another mentor at AIESEC in Rwanda, an international non-governmental organization that seeks to help students in universities to discover and develop their leadership potential.

“I started mentoring Deborah Ingabire who wanted to activate her leadership skills through project management. I had managed projects before in Uganda and Ethiopia and I easily mapped out what her needs were and where I could support her,” says Isaac who meets her mentee, Deborah, at least once a month to review her progress.

“From the relationship we have, there has been a lot of listening and giving feedback and Isaac has definitely changed my word view. I have learnt how to network in events and increased my confidence in how to deal with professionals and am only in 3rd Year at ULK,” says Deborah who is currently a leader in AIESEC in ULK.

“Working smart is not just about balancing my school work with AIESEC duties. It is about managing myself and taking an action with a purpose. I have learnt this from Isaac, my mentor, and it is just good to know I have someone encouraging and supporting me in achieving my goals,” concludes Deborah after sharing her experience being mentored.

Other forms of mentorship at work for new entrants include formal mentorship where the mentee is matched with a mentor who will help him through his work in integration and skill building. Such programs have been found to help improve productivity at work, increase the retention rate at a company that simultaneously reduces the turnover rate in a company and there is better relationship building between departments and teams sharing valuable information and knowledge with those who need it.

By Rehema Abdul
[email protected]

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