The Broad-Reaching Benefits of Corporate Mentorship Opportunities

Here’s how one engineering team prioritizes professional development with thoughtful partnerships.

Written by Cathleen Draper
Published on Jun. 28, 2022
The Broad-Reaching Benefits of Corporate Mentorship Opportunities
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Oprah Winfrey’s first mentor was her fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan, who taught her not to be afraid of being smart. Then in her 20s, Winfrey met Maya Angelou, who she described as her “mentor, mother/sister and friend” in a statement following Angelou’s death in 2014.

“She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life,” Winfrey said. Like a good mentor, Angelou gave Winfrey advice about her career and life, which she follows to this day. 

Winfrey has been emphasizing the value of mentorship for decades. In 2002, almost twenty years after she and Angelou struck up a friendship, Winfrey noted the importance of mentorship in an interview with WCVB 5 Boston. “I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship,” she said. “Nobody makes it alone. Nobody has made it alone.” 

All mentors don’t have to be a Pulitzer-nominated poet or a prolific talk show host, and mentorships don’t have to blossom into “mentor-parent-sibling-friend” relationships. Simply put, professional mentors are supportive in many forms, and mentors can be managers, other team members, or leaders and peers from differing departments.

At Sparrow, an HR tech company that provides an end-to-end employee leave management solution, Chief Technology Officer Samarth Keshava considers mentorship to be an intrinsic part of leadership.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t mentoring my team,” Keshava said. 

Sparrow is one of many companies with mentoring programs. Up to 71 percent of organizations pair employees together, according to The State of Coaching and Mentoring 2021 report by Lee Hecht Harrison. That’s a 30 percent jump from pre-pandemic years.

And at Sparrow, the benefits are clear, in terms of both individual professional development and broader team success. 

 

Samarth Keshava
Chief Technology Officer • Sparrow

 

What’s a practice your team follows that encourages a culture of mentorship and knowledge-sharing among your team members? 

Sharing knowledge within the team is critical, but it should also be fun. We took a page from kindergarten and have implemented a weekly show-and-tell for the engineering team to spur discussions and to be intentional in making knowledge available to everyone. 

Team members can choose from an array of topics that may be useful to their colleagues. Employees might demo something they’ve recently built; share code snippets they’ve written or deep dive into a tricky bit of code; or discuss a particularly difficult debugging challenge they encountered. Sometimes it’s just an especially useful tool that others may not know. 

Implementing deliberate knowledge-sharing moments like this is vital to our team’s success as it grows. 

We took a page from kindergarten and have implemented a weekly show-and-tell for the engineering team.”

 

How do you serve as a mentor to members of your team? 

I communicate with each of my team members regularly to understand what is important to them in terms of career growth and professional development. That can look very different across the team. On one hand, it could be an emerging leader who needs opportunities to develop new leadership skills. On the other hand, it could be someone who is looking to improve upon the bread and butter execution of software engineering. We work together to find the right projects that allow the team member to stretch in the ways necessary to reach their goals. I stay involved by working together with my team members on practicing in those areas.

 

What formal mentorship programs does Sparrow offer, and what does this program entail? 

Mentorship is very important to us. Mentors have regular check-ins for the duration of the onboarding process. Beyond that, mentors serve as sounding boards once the onboarding process is complete. We ensure our new engineering hires are paired with other engineers so they have a mentor who can provide guidance on engineering-related topics and general Sparrow questions. 

We take this a step further and match team members with peer mentors or partners on the Sparrow engineering team. We recognize the importance of having a tenured colleague to turn to and that it’s beneficial to have a peer who’s in a similar position to lean on. Our peer partnerships pair team members who are in similar stages of their careers, which facilitates distinct discussions and adds another level of support for our team.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via Sparrow and Shutterstock.

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