Success Stories

Celebrating Success Stories

From champions of women's economic empowerment

Meet Melissa Shin Canada

Editorial Director | Media | Small enterprise

What are three benefits you’ve experienced as a result of joining the mentorship program? 

I appreciated the chance to learn about the business challenges for someone working in an economy I'm not familiar with (e.g. Indonesia) and about the various local support my mentee had access to.  

I also appreciated the chance to hear about a business owner's challenges and to talk through them together. It was rewarding to see the progression from idea to solution. Meeting every two weeks helped both of us stay informed and on track. 

I had a chance to exercise strategic muscles that I don’t get to use every day in my job. I also learned more about an area that I don’t work in — retail — and it was encouraging to know that certain ideas and frameworks can have international relevance. I was also challenged to put aside my assumptions about how the industry works that were based on what I know about North American retail. 

What is one key takeaway that you have learned from the mentorship program? 

One key takeaway from the mentorship program was how impressed I was with the energy, vision and existing success of my mentee. It can be very intimidating to be asked to help someone who is already thriving, especially if you yourself are still growing in your career. However, it is also inspiring and fun to work through puzzles and challenges beyond the basics. There were times that I was not sure if I had anything to offer my mentee since she was already so successful. I encourage mentors to push past that feeling and continue to ask probing questions. Many times, mentees don't have an objective third party to talk to, and they probably already know what they want to do — they just need to talk it out. There is much value in being that sounding board and I know my mentee appreciated me listening and asking questions.  

If you were to recommend this mentorship program to someone, what advice would you give as a mentor or as a mentee? 

My advice for future mentors, especially those who are working with a mentee whose culture you are unfamiliar with, is to try to find common ground while respecting and learning about your mentee's unique situation. Do some research about your mentee's industry, location, culture and religion, among other things. Be aware of the local news, holidays and issues that are important to your mentee. Realize and expect that you will likely learn as much from your mentee as they will learn from you, and do not go in with a "western-centric" point of view.  

It's also important to be an active listener and resist the impulse to try to solve your mentee's problems or "feed them the answer." This is especially important in a cross-cultural situation, as your mentee will know best her industry's options, limitations and possibilities. Instead, ask probing questions and ask her to explain her decisions as much as possible. Make notes and follow up in subsequent sessions about issues she's raised. 

Finally, be patient with the technology and the potential language barrier. You'll want to be cognizant of slang, idioms and cultural references on both sides, but asking questions about these words or phrases can open up a rich learning experience for both parties.