Why Is It Important to Have a Mentor?
Ronald Seeliger
CEO of Hemofarm AD
We all come into this world, with parents taking care of us, directing us towards future successes, and building our experience and knowledge about the world we live in; after that, we have our (pre)school teachers, our coaches for football or any other sport; even when the teenage years are over, there are professors to guide us through the university period. And then, suddenly, we are left to ourselves, trying to become professionals and make something out of the previously learned. And this, I have to admit, is not fair. We all still need guidance but at the same time, so little is provided to us.

The importance of having a professional mentor: theory vs. experience - it is, for sure, one of the rare situations when theory and practice go hand in hand. There are neither many theoreticians nor professionals, if any, who would agree that mentorship is a waste of time, an unnecessary exercise which benefits nobody. A good mentor can be of a critical importance to an individual’s success; it is something which I still claim, as well as that each of us needs a mentor, even the best of us!

I will also share with you my personal story on mentorship here today. That story began some years ago, some decades ago to be precise, when I got a job in the first private, fast-growing, internet company. I was assigned two ‘godfathers’ then. At that time, I was young, maybe even naïve, because I remember that for a brief moment I thought: Why is that for? Why does anyone have to be assigned to me? I soon realized, however, how privileged I was. My mentors showed me how the company breathed, presented me details of daily operations, taught me how to develop relationships in the organization, how to perform better, and what skills I should develop more and further improve. They were my ‘secret companions’ on this first business trip and probably one of my greatest influencers in the professional life.

But let us be honest: not every mentor is a good mentor. Theory says that a mentor is an ’experienced and trusted advisor‘. What exactly does that entail?

Firstly, it says ’experienced‘. In the business world, a mentor is someone who has (through either the career or a unique experience) gained knowledge and developed skills on how to lead a project, how to achieve objectives or how to solve certain situations; all those ‘small’ things that a mentee considers a useful knowledge and guidance in similar circumstances. Experience is mostly connected with age or length of time spent in business world, which can be also considered a life-experience. I have to admit that it is a very technical approach to mentorship.

Secondly, it says ‘trusted’. On the other hand, trust is a pure emotional element which cannot be created by force or ordered, you either have it or not; it comes in time, more precisely through behavior and communication. Thus, both the mentor and mentee are obliged to try and establish such a relationship.

I would like to add something else to this definition: in addition to being experienced and trusted, the mentor must trully wishto provide support and help as well as to inspire and challenge a person. The mentor has to be bold and self-confident but at the same time he or she should be a trustworthy person who is eager to transfer knowledge to others.

As I have already said at the beginning, when we start a career, we are leaving a life phase in which we are carefully guided and protected by parents or teachers. In business, we need to act on our own and take credit as well as criticism for it. That can be harsh and sometimes even unfair. So, the mentor seems to be a good protector who alleviates this harshness.

Today, I am a mentor to some new youngsters and I would outline something here: it is really a great pleasure to share experience with scholarship holders, my future colleagues. I honestly tell them what I think, and always try to take my mentees out of a comfort zone, put challenges in front of them, and push them beyond their limits (please be aware that the worst limits are those you set for yourself). But, at the same time, I am also trying to be a safe zone, someone they can always rely on. And I only hope I will justify the role I have been entrusted with.

Last but not least, we can say that mentorship is for sure a win-win situation. So why don’t we practise it more often? Frankly, I don’t know. But there is one thing I am certain about - Hemofarm will continue on this path providing support to those who are eager to learn more, being the first and hopefully the best protector to young students and future professionals.