Reverse Mentoring

Images I had lunch today with Kelley Boyd and just as we were parting ways she said the words reverse mentoring.  A light went off in my head. 

Yesterday I met with a woman who is a master of many trades and years younger than me.  Super smart.  An educator, a entrepreneur, a coder, a law school graduate and full of life.  We spent some time talking about mentoring people. 

I am working on a conference in January geared towards getting more women in the tech space.  One of the concepts behind this conference is to mentor women coming out of school who are geared towards the tech space.  Providing direction about the variety of opportunities out there in the tech space.  It isn't all about writing code.

Someone who has more years under their belt in essence has more experience.  That experience is varied.  For a woman it can be from running a company, managing a staff, raising children or even running a household.  Mentorships can be powerful.  As the person being mentored, you can learn from your adviser's mistakes as well as their successes.  After all, you only learn from your mistakes. 

The world has changed significantly in the past 10 + years particularly because of technology.  There are those that grew up with technology in their household.  Those would be people around 30 and under.  Then there are those who grew up watching dial phones become push button. 

Kelley, who has had variety of different careers because of choices she made due to family, would be a phenomenal mentor for any entrepreneur.  Her point is that someone who is 24 has just as much to teach me as I have to teach them.  There is so much to learn from the youth that grew up with technology.  Reverse mentoring. 

So as I think about the entrepreneurs that I meet, I always walk away thinking how smart they are and how much they have to teach me although on many occasions I believe my experience is what people are interested in when they meet me.  As I move forward into this conference and continued partnerships with entrepreneurs I am going to think more about reverse mentoring.  I might have many more years under my belt but believe me I want to learn as much from the person on the other side of the table. 

Mentoring should be a two way street. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. Mike Hart

    I was just thinking about this concept the other day as I was going through my blog reading. I’m amazed by the number of bloggers with less than 10 years experience professing to be experts in a particular area. But I still read them because I always find it interesting in how they come at a problem, what they think is important, how they build their arguments, etc. It is the same concept on a different level. We can always learn from others.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Bingo. We can always learn from others no matter the age.

  2. atryon

    I appreciate this idea and feel like I am experiencing it myself in a new project. I agreed to work as a consultant for two women who write a restaurant industry newsletter, primarily in hopes of learning from them and opening doors to future opportunities. Now I realize I am able to teach them about things that come more naturally to me – like social media – which they appreciate as much as I do learning the restaurant business from them. It is making for a strong, balanced relationship.

    1. Gotham Gal

      That sounds like the perfect all around experience. Although you were the consultant you learned about a biz that you might have never touched. That experience will carry with you to the next. I love that.

  3. Kelley Boyd @msksboyd

    Thank you for giving this notion some space on your blog and I really appreciate the kind comments about how you perceive my value. Since we only began that thread of conversation it stayed with me as I walked to my next meeting. Another thing that might be interesting to explore is Group Mentoring. Perhaps the dearth of mentoring for females can be chalked up to workplace concerns that may arise from inter-gendered one-to-one mentoring. Perhaps building groups that are diversified ethnically, generationally and gender-ally (ok, not a word) would be really beneficial. This way there is a breadth of perspective as challenges are met and considered in the workplace. I think I like it.

  4. YourTurn

    This is an important thing to remember, so thanks for sharing. I’m heading a startup with a mentoring component (we’re an education startup focusing first on college/career readiness) and your post reminds me to make sure we encourage advice to be shared between people no matter the age. We can all learn from each other.

  5. Tracey Jackson

    You are so right. When I used to teach I always felt like I learned more each week than my students. I hope they didn’t feel the same way! But it’s totally true. We all have something to give each other.

    1. Gotham Gal

      You always hope that both people come away from anything thinking theylearned more from the other person on the other side of the table than whatthey brought to the conversation. I feel that way about 90% of the time.