Olesia Kyrylchuk, HR Director at EPAM Ukraine, discusses how to build trust between a mentor and mentee, shares her life hacks on how to fit mentoring activities into a manager’s busy schedule, and shows how the knowledge gained during mentoring can be applied to your work.
Why did you decide to participate in EPAM Managers’ Mentoring Program as a mentor?
After 17 years in HR and management, I have relevant experience to share with people who are taking their first steps in people management. I can help them see situations from another angle and make a more conscious professional choice. Some may say that experience is personal, but mentors usually look deeper than novice managers do or can help employees with management experience fill their knowledge gaps. For a mentee, mentoring is a great opportunity to get different points of view on the questions they have, as well as a good way to quickly gain new knowledge based on the practical experience of a more senior colleague.
Is it difficult to fit mentoring activities into your work schedule?
It’s all up to you how to prioritize your activities. My life hack is to arrange mentoring sessions in the morning, such as 9 – 10 AM when there’s no rush at work yet. With my current mentee from China, we meet every two weeks for one hour. It is very comfortable to fit it into my work schedule. Considering the time difference, morning sessions are also convenient for my mentee – these are the most productive and the calmest hours in terms of workload.
What is the most difficult thing for you about mentor-mentee cooperation?
It is always challenging when a mentee does not know what questions to ask me, the mentor. In this situation, my role is rather to teach than to mentor, and such cooperation is less productive. When a mentee has a certain request, the knowledge shared during the sessions is more precise.
How do you handle such situations?
When mentees do not have an exact request, I usually ask questions to understand what areas might be interesting for them. This way, we can explore areas of interest that mentees might not have shared yet.
Do you think it is important to build trust between a mentor and mentee?
I think the answer to this question is obvious – any relationship without trust ceases partnership. Trust is the basis of collaboration. When mentees trust their mentors, they try to apply the knowledge they gain from them. If there is no trust between a mentor and mentee, anything a mentor says will be questioned and knowledge gained during mentoring will be useless.
Trusted relationships do not happen overnight. Should mentors take the initiative in building trust with mentees?
The mentee is the main driver of mentoring, but I think in terms of trust, it is an equal partnership. There are several layers of trust – on the level of experience, communication, partnership with other people, etc. Both a mentor and mentee should equally contribute to build trust on all of these layers. At EPAM, we have a preliminary meeting for a mentee and mentor, so that both sides can understand whether they will benefit from the relationship. Without this conversation, it would be hard to identify the right partner for mentoring.
How can companies benefit from mentoring programs?
First, mentoring is an excellent mechanism to keep, expand and spread knowledge within the company. And knowledge is the company’s main asset. When such knowledge-sharing happens, mentees’ performance increases while mentors get an opportunity to systematize their experience and expertise. Therefore, overall productivity within a company also increases. For mentees, such cooperation results in getting practical experience rapidly and offers networking and career development opportunities.
What would you recommend to mentors and mentees?
Mentees should ask questions whenever possible and benefit from the cooperation as much as possible. I want mentors to feel how much they can contribute to the company’s growth by sharing their experience. Being a mentor helps to enrich your own knowledge in communication with mentees. In addition by showing your professionalism and the value that professionalism can bring to the company in this mentor-mentee pair, you can contribute to further development of the continuous learning culture that we foster at EPAM.