As mentorship becomes increasingly seen as a vital component of 21st century corporate culture, John Obaro, the Managing Director of frontline African technology firm, SystemSpecs, has taken a critical look at the role of the mentor, noting that a mentor does not have to be perfect to be effective and that one’s enemy can in fact, be his mentor.
John Obaro was speaking to a gathering of business leaders in the banking world, who have gathered to analyse the roles of the mentor and the mentee in mentoring relationships. The former banker and leader of one of Africa’s pioneering technology companies, was a panellist at the Chattered Institute of Bankers (CIBN) Mentoring Scheme Relaunch program, which took place virtually on Thursday, 18th February.
Today, mentorships have become an indispensable part of work culture. A mentorship is a relationship between two people where the individual with more experience, knowledge, and connections is able to pass along what they have learned to a more junior individual within a certain field. While identifying strong mentors in one’s field is a good way to set oneself up for significant career transitions, it is important to work productively with them to achieve a set of goals.
“Mentors are not perfect people,” said Obaro, “you just have to pick what you want and make good use of it.”
The tech expert said he was a beneficiary of good mentorship, explaining that the advice to start SystemSpecs came from his mentor and former boss. After 10 years in the banking industry, Obaro left to start SystemSpecs 29 years ago. Today, the company is a leading provider of Financial Technology and Human Resource Management solutions, with remarkable products like Remita, HumanManager and Paylink that are helping governments, businesses, banks, and individuals to solve problems.
According to Obaro, mentees need to demonstrate to their mentors that they are eager to learn and are worthy of being mentored by their chosen mentors.
“If anyone is worthy of been a mentor to you, then he must be someone that many people are looking up to, Therefore, many people also want to be their mentees…. why should that person pick you,” he said.
“The only reason is that you must have something different. You must therefore, be in a position to sell yourself. you must show the prospective mentor that if given the opportunity, they will be proud of you.”
He advised mentees to demonstrate the eagerness to learn, follow instructions and even exceed the expectations of their mentors.
According to Obaro, mentors can come from different walks of like. They can also be visible, or invisible, connected to their mentees digitally. Mentors can also be for a long time or for a short while.
Finally, he said an enemy can also be a mentor as long as there is something good in them to learn from.