How executives from RBC & Manulife have embraced virtual mentorship
Mentorship, and particularly virtual mentorship programs, are a hot topic right now. As we move steadily into our second year of social distancing and remote work, businesses and employees alike are looking into how they can refocus on professional development while reestablishing human connection.
With face-to-face mentorship placed on hold, virtual mentoring sessions offer a fast and cost effective solution to help employees build the skills and confidence to progress in their career. Using experts within your business or organization and available from any location, an online mentoring program gives both the mentee and virtual mentor the opportunity to learn and grow in the areas that mean the most to them.
To highlight the impact that mentorship has on career development, we spoke with Adam Mamdani, Vice President, Proprietary Distribution, RBC Insurance and Rahim Hirji, Global Chief Risk Officer for Manulife, about their introduction on the Ascend Canada Café networking and mentoring platform, powered by Ten Thousand Coffees, and the mentorship relationship that arose.
Meeting someone new, virtually
Adam and Rahim met during the pandemic whilst using the Ascend Canada Café, an online platform for pan-Asian leaders to meet and collaborate. The two were paired after the platform surveyed them on the types of matches they would like to receive and the professional interests they had.
“The platform is great because you can set the criteria for who you’d be interested in meeting, and then once you get the match up you can always decide if you want to follow through with the match or not.” - Rahim
Though they had never officially met in person before, they were in the same community and, as a senior executive at a well respected institution, Adam saw Rahim as someone to look up to.
“There’s not a lot of people in the insurance space and in these types of roles that you meet every day. I took every opportunity to reach out to Rahim and he responded within 8 hours. From there we met and we’ve been meeting virtually ever since” - Adam
The Introduction couldn’t have come at a better time for Adam, who was in the middle of changing roles within RBC and planning a new path for his future career.
“It was an interesting time in my career where I was going through a change in role, so I jumped on the opportunity to receive Rahim’s candid advice.” - Adam
Adam explained the role he was currently in and where he saw himself moving towards, something that Rahim had a good insight into, being in the same industry. Though Adam had big plans, he needed help organizing his ideas.
“Adam was very candid in that first meeting. I peppered him with questions on what he wanted to do, why he wanted to achieve these things, and what he was most interested in. I noticed that some of the things he was talking about were conflicting with what his actual interests were”.- Rahim
Rahim’s questions helped to solidify what Adam wanted to do and exactly why he was interested in this new position.
“ Rahim challenged my thinking, which is exactly what I was looking for in a mentor.” - Adam
Growing their relationship
After supporting Adam on his change in career, Rahim and Adam have progressed to have a more meaningful connection and made a valuable addition to their network for support and advice.
“I think good mentoring relationships tend to be more ad hoc. I feel that it becomes almost like a reporting relationship otherwise, and I think that should be different. It's really much more useful if you have something you want to tease out, discuss, and wrestle with.” - Rahim
“Rahim has been kind enough to take my call when I want to pick his brain. I'm sure he's going to be hearing from me as I continue on my career journey.” - Adam
Rahim’s most impactful advice
As Adam reflects on the advice that Rahim has shared throughout their mentorship relationship, there’s one piece that sticks out.
“Rahim has given me so much great advice, but the one piece that’s stuck with me is to really focus on what you enjoy. There's so many great things that you can do in your career, but you're really going to be successful when you love what you do.” - Adam
Rahim emphasized to Adam how important it is to be energized by his work and have a sense of accomplishment after each day.
“There are so many different things Adam can do, he’s a very accomplished gentleman, but if he’s to really achieve what he’s capable of, he needs to make sure he’s enjoying it” - Rahim
“Everybody has opportunities in front of them, but it's about executing on those opportunities. You may not see them in black and white, and someone may not be tapping you on the shoulder to tell you what to do, but I think in this virtual environment, it's actually made it easier to network than ever before. I've found that if someone leverages the platform and the follow up correctly, they can have quite an impactful journey, networking, and meeting others.” - Adam
The benefits of being a mentor
While Adam has taken a lot away from his mentoring relationship, Rahim has also reaped the benefits of coaching Adam.
Though the pair work in the same industry, they operate in different departments, something that Rahim was able to better understand as a result of their connection, and has picked up a few good habits along the way
“One of the things Adam is really good at, which he learned from his sales background, is the importance of check-ins and making sure that that's actually happening on a regular basis. It’s really good advice regardless of the role you’re in, and it’s really helped me. That discipline is something that I admire.” - Rahim
In addition to that, Rahim also mentioned how much he has enjoyed watching Adam flourish as time goes by, and commented on how taking the mentorship experience online has reduced the barriers of how you give and receive advice. Whether you use Zoom, Skype, or just have a phone call, Rahim sees virtual mentorship as the future.
“I think that virtual or e-mentoring is something people should be thinking of implementing long term. There's been this view that in order to see somebody or have a discussion, you have to meet them in person, which obviously takes a lot longer and is harder to organize. I'm hoping that as time goes on we continue to operate in this way. ” - Rahim
The value of a virtual mentoring program
Although still in the middle of their mentoring relationship, Adam notes that the value of mentorship starts with what you want to get out of it.
“For me, a mentor isn’t about telling you to do this or do that if you want to be successful, it's about guiding you. It's about challenging the status quo and giving you an opportunity to think differently. That to me is what Rahim has provided me.” - Adam
Rahim, who has been in the position of both a mentee and a mentor, says that mentorship provides a unique opportunity to receive a different perspective than that of your manager at work.
“I have a vested interest in Adam doing better, but I don't have a vested interest in what Adam is doing in terms of doing better, as a manager would be. It should really be based on what his desire is, and where he sees his career leading him.” - Rahim
As a final thought, Rahim reflects on his role as a mentor in the mentorship experience.
“I think it's an opportunity to really give back. A mentor-mentee relationship really helps somebody think through what they want to do and why they want to do it. And that’s really fantastic.” - Rahim