Mentor of the Month Series

Our work depends on great mentors. Individuals who could be relaxing during their weekends, but instead think of new ways to make their mentee's lives better. In this series, we pick one fantastic mentor each month as 'Mentor of the Month' . This mentor receives a special gift voucher and a fun desk statue that tells their friends, family and colleagues how much we appreciate them. We will also feature an interview with that mentor right here.

Mentor of the Month, August 2014 - Nakul Deshpande, Senior Test Analyst at Amdocs

Barbara De Angelis said "No matter what age you are, or what your circumstances might be, you are special, and you still have something unique to offer. Your life, because of who you are, has meaning." Our mentor of the month Nakul Deshpande has been devotedly trying to inculcate the value of being special in his mentee while sharing his own life experiences. Read further to know how he took the path of friendship and trust to build a strong mentoring relationship.

Why did you decide to take up the mentoring responsibility?
Teachers and mentors have played an important role in my life. I love to coach others on skills I am good at, teach subjects I enjoy and am comfortable with and also constantly keep looking out for opportunities to share my life experiences. I have always had a strong urge to give back to the society and this combined with the benefits I see in passing on knowledge, skills and experience to someone in need made me join Mentor Together. Before joining Mentor Together I was providing monetary help to some organizations, but I always felt that giving my personal time and energy would bring about a higher sense of satisfaction within me and I could make an even greater positive impact as an individual. When I heard about Mentor Together, I went through their website thoroughly and immediately decided to be part of the program as my beliefs aligned strongly with the organization’s work.

How was the start to the mentoring?
Before meeting my mentee, we had a 2 day training program by Mentor Together, which helped me to set the right expectations with my mentee. I realized that it would take time to build trust with my mentee. So I focused on finding out about my mentee, listening to him and also sharing some of my own experiences which would help us connect. It took me 5-10 meetings (2-3 months) to bond with my mentee.

Nakul & his mentee What different type of activities did you focus on during the mentoring?
My mentee and I both like to walk and luckily there is a park close to my mentee’s shelter home. Thus, usually we start our session by taking a walk in the park and sharing the happenings from the previous week. During our initial meetings, my mentee expressed his desire to learn English and so once I was able to understand his level of English learning, I decided to teach him English from scratch. Thus, after the walk I would usually teach him English and then sometimes help in his schoolwork too. Alongside working on English and other academic subjects, we also practice the life skills curriculum provided by Mentor Together. Once a month, I try and introduce new activities and / or provide new experiences in his life. For instance visit a mall, watch a cartoon film together. Finally, in the coming months, I plan on facilitating group activities with his friends from time to time, as I feel that would energize him and he would be more receptive in the mentoring sessions.

What were some of the most successful and challenging parts of the mentoring journey?
The most successful part of the mentoring journey has been the bond my mentee and I have established. He counts on me to visit him every week and looks forward to my visits. He is grateful to have me in his life and wants to continue the friendship even after the formal mentoring period ends. The most challenging part has been to help him to do well in his studies. He has had major challenges with his studies. When I met him he was not even able to read or write in any language. Over the last year we have made some progress, but not at the speed that I expected. Also, I have realized the need to be patient with him as he takes quite a bit of time to grasp new concepts. Finally, helping him identify his strengths while developing skills so he could make an informed choice about his career and be successful in future has also been challenging.

What do you think is the most important part of being a mentor?
I feel developing a friendship and thereby trust in the mentoring relationship is vital for a mentor. This helps us recognize the needs of the mentee and guide them in the finest way. A mentor is not just a teacher, instead is more of a big brother or sister who would guide the mentee in all areas of life. Another important aspect is to set the right expectations. A mentor should never be under the impression that he could change the mentee’s life overnight. It takes significant time and effort to make a positive impact.

What do your family and friends have to say about your mentoring journey?
My friends and family have been very supportive and are very happy that I am enjoying this mentoring experience. I am glad to see many of my colleagues participating in this program too.

How do you see your mentoring relationships progressing in the future?
I want to help my mentee to perform well in academics based on his ability. I want to work on his fortes and guide him so he could be successful in future. Another aspect is that I wish to see him as an open minded individual who leads a balanced life and enjoys it fully. I wish to continue with this relationship as long as required to be able to see long lasting positive changes in my mentee.

Mentor of the Month, July 2014 - Madhuri, Business Analyst at IBM

Robert Vallet said - "The human heart feels things the eyes cannot see, and knows what the mind cannot understand." It is true indeed and you will experience the truth when you read about Madhuri Kashyap's beautiful journey. She is our Mentor for the month of July. She came out of her comfort zone and gave heart the priority. She was blessed to have wonderful mentors in her life and so she decided to become one for the children who are less fortunate. Enjoy reading about her mentoring journey and rediscover yourself !

Why did you decide to take up the mentoring responsibility?
I always had good mentors whether it was at school, college or work. They have always told me that it is very gratifying when they see me succeed in something and that I should give back by being there for someone who needs a mentor in their life. So, when I got a mail through IBM CSC I just knew this is what I wanted to do.

How was the initial start to the mentoring in July 2013?
Initially, I was a bit hesitant to be very friendly because I wanted the girls to take me more seriously. We would discuss mostly about studies, future plans and goals and how they plan to achieve it. After sometime, the girls got comfortable and knew that I really wanted to help them so even though academics and goals were a major part of our discussion we spoke about our interests,hobbies, likes and dislikes.

Madhuri & her mentees What different type of activities did you focus on during the mentoring?
I started my class by asking about their interest in academics and tried to find out that how many of them are pursuing their formal school education. Then we moved on to what they wanted to pursue i.e. whether it was arts, science, commerce etc. My mentees expressed their interest for learning spoken English and computers. My mentees and I felt that they needed improvement in English communication and they were also interested to learn computers. So we devised a plan wherein we would work on the MT curriculum activities on my laptop. This way the girls got to do what they liked and in the process I could gauge their responses through the curriculum. We also focused on painting, public speaking, sketching because those are activities the girls love a lot and also the other girls from the home enjoy helping them with their activities.

What were some of the most successful and challenging parts of the mentoring journey?
I would like to share that there was a significant growth in the girls’ academics performance and also their English communication skills improved. This was a great success in my mentoring journey. The challenge that I faced was initially the girls were little hesitant about learning new things and were influenced by peer pressure. Slowly I developed a strong bond of friendship with them and overcame the challenges.

What do you think is the most important part of being a mentor?
Most important part of being a mentor is the support and commitment you give to your mentees and how you engage with them to channel their energies into something productive. Since mentoring is a 2 way street, as a mentor the important lessons learnt were– how I can improve the next session, in what ways I can guide my mentees to strengthen their interest areas and overcome their weaknesses.

What do your family and friends have to say about your mentoring journey?
My family and friends are very happy that I could do something to support someone and in the process I am enriching myself.

How do you see your mentoring relationships progressing in the future?
With each day my bond is becoming stronger with them. I want to focus more on their academics and decision making skills regarding career choices. My mentees are going through very important phase in their lives, where they need to understand their aptitude and interest areas for making better career choices in future.

Mentor of the Month, June 2014 - Nikhil Lokhande, Subject Matter Specialist at Amdocs

C.S. Lewis once said - "True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less" and we would not be wrong to assume that he had someone like our Mentor for the Month, Nikhil Lokhande in mind when he quoted this. Nikhil has gone far and beyond to keep his mentee's priorities in mind and has always selflessly worked towards the betterment of his mentee. Please read on to find more about his mentoring journey here.

Why did you decide to take up the mentoring responsibility?
During college days, I used to be part of a club that organized social events to teach computer skills to underprivileged students. After the completion of my graduation too I wanted to continue putting efforts for the betterment of disadvantaged youth. However, unfortunately I never came across too many similar opportunities for a long time. Then, last year I bumped into Mentor Together while at Amdocs, via its CSR activities and I decided to join the same immediately. I am glad Mentor Together selected me as a mentor.

How was the initial start to the mentoring in July 2013?
Frankly speaking, at the start of the journey it was really difficult for me to find out time for mentoring and I struggled to accommodate the mentoring into my monthly schedule. But gradually, within two months, it became a part of my routine. Also when I first met my mentee, I was a little skeptical about bonding with him as I was pretty young compared to other mentors and didn’t have much job experience. I was not sure my mentee would like getting mentored by me! I decided to start the mentoring sessions by sharing my personal experiences and that drew him closer to me, my life considering he could relate to my stories. And unlike my apprehensions we kick started on a very positive note. Today I think my mentee is perfect for me, considering I can easily put myself in his shoes and then think about solutions to his problems. Looking back at the journey so far, I can say we have clicked pretty well, have become like brothers in a short span of time, and it has become really easy for him to communicate with me.

What different type of activities did you focus on during the mentoring?
My mentee is little weak in English and so I was focused on the same to begin with. Our meetings would generally begin with we sharing what happened since we last met, followed by reading a few paragraphs from some English story, as he needed to work on his vocabulary on priority. I would also help him in his academics and during these sessions I could figure out that he has an amazing grasping power. While studying we use to take breaks by playing games or watching inspirational videos on my laptop. Sometimes I would spend time with his friends too. Our sessions would end with planning about our agenda about next meeting and we made sure that we stuck to the same.

Nikhil What were some of the most successful and challenging parts of the mentoring journey?
Here I would start by talking about my first challenge, overcoming which has become one of my most successful moments so far. In the beginning the biggest challenge was to make him speak to me or share things with me. And like I mentioned earlier, it was at this stage that I felt maybe he was not too happy with getting me as his mentor keeping in mind the fact that I was young compared to a lot of other mentors in the program. Realizing that I needed to take the first step towards building a strong bond between us – I started sharing about my personal experiences, which to my surprise my mentee too could relate too and that helped us break the ice. He gradually started to share during sessions and we never realized how time passed by. I remember he had shared many stories from his past, where he spoke about the blunders he had made in life and later realized how stupid he was. Listening to those stories made me proud as it clearly showed that he reflected on his life and his doings. The relationship we have built so far has been the most successful thing for me in this journey, as I know that it will last for long and we will be there for each other even after our year long journey with Mentor Together gets over.
One other challenge that comes to my mind has been improving his English skills. We do a plethora of things to make sure he can improve his reading and writing skills – to begin with my mentee has gotten into the habit of reading at least one paragraph from any English book everyday, he maintains a diary, he refers to the dictionary on a regular basis, we follow Mentor Together’s curriculum on English, we do a lot of grammar together and he also prepares speeches from time to time on topics which appeal to him and delivers the speech in front of me. All of these activities help me give him constructive feedback and it certainly has helped him improve his reading / writing skills to some extent – which in itself is a challenge gradually turning into a success story.
Finally, the biggest challenge I faced so far was figuring out how to make him invested and make him feel close to the family members he is living with. My mentee felt his family did not wish well for him and failed to understand certain decisions they made with respect to him, which led to he being disappointed in different instances. It is an ongoing issue and I hope the situation with him improves but thanks to our discussions I he feels he is equipped enough to tackle any difficult situation sensibly.

What do you think is the most important part of being a mentor?
I feel that developing a bond which allows a mentor understand his mentee’s problems even before he/she expresses to you, is the most important part of being mentor. During summer vacations when my mentee had gone back home, we mostly spoke on the phone and even though we were not sitting in front of each other, thanks to the relationship we have developed between us – we could easily figure out if the other one was not in the best of the moods which helped in delving deeper into discussions about difficult situations.

What do your family and friends have to say about your mentoring journey?
This is what a close friend of mine has to say about my mentoring journey so far - “Nikhil’s experience with Mentor Together has been pretty exciting. Whenever he meets us he tells us about his mentoring sessions. Also he has never compromised on mentoring sessions with our outings. As Nikhil’s friend, I know that he is very passionate about such social activities since our college days. As per my understanding Nikhil has given his best to his mentee and I hope he has achieved the Mentor Together goal.”

How do you see your mentoring relationships progressing in the future?
So far so good! We have lots of plans for the coming year considering my mentee would be appearing for his board exams and he wants to fare really well in the same. I would like to help him reach his goals and thereby both of us would give our best shots. In the long term, I hope I turn out to be instrumental enough in giving him the required support and guidance needed for him to secure a good job of his choice which will ultimately help him support his mother and younger brother.

Mentor of the Month, May 2014 - Abhijay KS, Senior Consultant with Opentext

Kahlil Gibran once wrote on giving that “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” We chose Abhijay Rao to be the mentor of the month because he not only believes that giving time can change the world but also does so in the most thoughtful and efficient manner. Abhijay is currently a senior consultant with Opentext. As a mentor he has been persistent in building a meaningful relationship with his mentee, Veeresh inspite of Veeresh not having opened up for a long period of time . When Veeresh was going through a phase where he didn’t have any adult in his life, Abhijay met him almost everyday to make sure Veeresh was doing fine.

Why did you decide to take up the mentoring responsibility?
Often frustrated with the things around me, I always wanted to get involved in volunteering to make the society better. After getting involved in a couple of CSR activities within my previous company, HP I realized I could have achieved the contentment that I was looking for by volunteering my “TIME”. I also wanted to make an impact on aspects related to children, for they would go ahead and reshape the society. That is when I got in touch with Mentor Together and volunteered to be a mentor.

Abhijay & Veeresh How was the initial start to the mentoring in August 2013?
After attending the Mentor Together training in HP, I had an impression that I have got, all it takes to be an effective mentor. Most of my professional experience was around dealing with solutions and transforming them into actionable project plans. So, I thought “mentoring” would also be a real life project! In theory, a well-planned project always yields the stated objective within the timelines. I made a plan and started off the initial days of mentoring; soon to realize that we were going nowhere! Then, I realized a lot of human aspects are involved in mentoring and it isn’t as easy as I initially thought.

How does your typical meeting look like?
The mentoring was divided into logical phases but was not time bound. The initial and most difficult phase was “Building Trust”. The activities here typically were around speaking often and figuring out how my mentee was, his typical likes and dislikes and forming a personality map.
The next phase was “Identifying where to reach”. After a trust had been build, this phase was about identifying my mentee’s possible life goals. Typical activities in this phase were getting and sharing information about various social and career paths; participation in social events; role plays, where Veeresh played roles of what he aspires to be and understand pros and cons of each and finally figure out what is best for him.
The next phase is what I would like to call “How to reach there” and the activities I have planned here are typically academic, the language and life science curriculum from Mentor Together. This is an ongoing phase and I hope on completion Veeresh would be able to reach his goals.

Abhijay & Veeresh What were some of the most successful and challenging parts of the mentoring journey?
There were quite a few challenging parts in this journey! The first challenge was to build a trusted relationship. The next big challenge, was keeping up with the schedules. A lot of personal commitments and unforeseen circumstances became big hurdles we had to deal (still dealing) with in this journey.
The successful part was we dealt well with all the circumstances and we are still going strong. Veeresh is a more confident person and that has been the biggest success so far apart from the few following other proud moments. Few months into mentoring, Veeresh started to call me to schedule the meeting rather than the usual other way round. Also, once we accidentally came across a children's carnival and I encouraged Veeresh to participate in the singing and speaking competition. He was hesitant at first but was really happy he gave a try. We plan to march further and hope Veeresh achieves his goals.

What do you think is the most important part of being a mentor?
From my experience being a successful mentor needs a lot of commitment and a “never say die” attitude. To be a good mentor one has to manage his time and personal space well.

What do your family and friends have to say about your mentoring journey?
My family has been supportive with my mentoring journey! They were especially happy to hear that Veeresh had passed his 9th std. Some of my friends are also supportive and others call me nuts for spending most of my time on weekends with Veeresh! But the way I see it, it’s an art of balancing between the mentoring and your personal commitments.

How do you see your mentoring relationships progressing in the future?
I hope that in the future, this mentoring relationship flourishes and Veeresh achieves his goals. I would consider that I have met my mentorship objectives only when it brings a positive impact in Veeresh’s life and in turn, the society. I also hope more and more people can spend their time mentoring to make this impact.

Mentor of the Month, April 2014 - Seema Perunthatta, Homemaker

Toba Beta once said - "Sincerity increases willingness to care" and the reason why we have picked Seema to be our Mentor of the Month is no different. Seema's is an extremely sincere mentor who always places her mentee's needs before hers, to ensure her mentee gets undivided attention for those committed hours of mentoring every week. Read on to find out how Seema is impacting her mentee's life in a positive way.

Why did you decide to take up the mentoring responsibility?
Mentoring is probably the best guiding process, as there is no end to when one should stop getting mentored. I think that’s the way it should be and hence I will always continue to be there for a special someone as a source of strength, support and guide for as long as life allows me to. I was a Montessori teacher way back in 2009. That was my first exposure interacting at length and working with kids other than my own. I was ridiculed and even warned for being over-caring towards my students, for being sensitive about them. One of the most unusual things I remember I did then was, I made the children in my class climb trees to a certain height to check their leg and hand co- ordination! I also always gave my number to mothers so they could call me if they were confused about handling their wards at home in any situation. I could never be attached less to my kids at school and I wanted to help their mothers too - as I think, only if the child is happy at home can he be happy at school. Life continued and one fine day, my then favorite colleague / friend suggested I think about taking up counseling as she was sure I would do very well in it. That led to I joining Banjara for a professional course in counseling and then later when I came across Mentor Together – I could not help applying to become a mentor. I didn't know the difference between mentoring and counseling until I joined Mentor Together. Mentoring is kind of a whole package and counseling is limited. Mentoring is exactly my meaning for a guide - a guide covering every aspect of the child's growth as a whole for as long as possible.

How was the initial start to the mentoring in December 2012?
I was quite nervous and not very sure of what I was expected to do. Handling toddlers at Montessori seemed easier than taking up the responsibility of a single teenager! But then, I also realized soon enough that getting nervous was a part of my nature and that it was not due to my new role. I have always been apprehensive when it comes to rules and here too I felt conditioned in the beginning because I had a curriculum to follow and the feel of being watched through logs made me uncomfortable. But that was for a very short time till I realized the need for it and in fact, the same curriculum and rules slowly made things clearer and easier for me! I would say that my mentee Vennila too played an important role in making my job easy as she was and is a very easy person to mingle with. She was at first very quiet with just yes and no and sometimes a mere head nod as replies. Though I felt frustrated with that initially, now I feel it was probably natural that she had her inhibitions - any one would be! Why would anyone just throw himself or herself on to a stranger right?

Seema How does your typical meeting look like?
Our typical meeting starts with we greeting each other and then briefing one another on how each of our weeks went. Venilla always talks in detail, first about the happy moments during the week and then about things that irritated her, saddened here, made her angry. She also always elucidates how she felt about every significant event and how she reacted during the happy or sad/angry times. At times, we also talk about how she could have handled certain situations better. I love the fact that we both reflect on our actions every week, which always help us learn about something or the other new. After we finish catching up with each other, I usually ask her about what she would like to do next and in most cases she enthusiastically says – “Akka, let’s do something new from the curriculum.” She also seeks academic help from time to time and I love helping her with all I can. Finally, before I leave, I usually give her a “think about it” homework - like some values or some issues that she should think about and how to go about it. I also sometimes just ask her to think about things she might want to learn about, try doing so that I could provide her with those experiences in the following meetings.

What were some of the most successful and challenging parts of the mentoring journey?
Her initial silence - it was so hard for me to make her talk. I just couldn't figure out how could I make her believe in me. I would always come back home and tell my husband – “I perhaps should have never joined this program. I feel guilty that I am not doing anything good for her. What a waste of time!” And the only thing he would say was, “You are still new Seema. Give yourself some time.” And yes, that was it - Time and patience! Why was I hurrying with her? Would I have started opening up to a new friend in the first few meetings? Would I not be skeptical about discussing my personal issues? So, I just let go of my needs and gave her the time and gradually she started talking openly. At that time when she felt that I was not very curious about her secrets she became relaxed. I didn’t ask her anything personal too during the initial phases. However, I decided to meet her every week without fail. I think that’s where it clicked. She noticed that I was regular, she understood that I am genuinely interested in being with her and not just doing a job. Also there was this one instance from when on Venilla and I never struggled communicating / building a bond - On one of the days, my son was ill but I still did not miss meeting her. I arranged for my maid to be home for extra time. I of course did not mention the same to Venilla but she overheard a conversation I had with my son during the session wherein my son said “Ma, I vomited, so could you please come soon”. She immediately asked me who was vomiting and when I told her she asked me why I still came? I told her that I didn't want to miss meeting her ☺ .I think this incident definitely was the turning point for me in our relationship and my biggest success too. She started talking about home, showed me pictures of her family and involved me in her life from then on.
I would also like to talk about another high point for me during the mentorship so far – When I first met Venilla, she used to be extremely shabby, never cared about the clothes she would wear (not washed or ironed etc.), never cared about combing her hair and the like. When asked about the reason behind the same she would nonchalantly say – “ I don’t care about it.” However, thanks to the curriculum provided by Mentor Together on hygiene and the importance of it, I was slowly able to drill down the essence of taking care of self – wearing neat and clean clothes, combing hair, living in hygienic conditions and the like and today if you come across Venilla you will always see her prim and proper!
As for a challenge, her nonchalant attitude towards serious issues in life is something I still want her to realize and become aware of. I want to ensure that she sees how that attitude could deter her from reaching her goals. I have been trying to make her see how being nonchalant could make her slow, push her to the end of a line, make things difficult for her – but almost in vain. Whenever questioned about the future and how she plans on getting where she wants to see herself in, she would brush the conversation aside saying – “We’ll see when the time comes.” She is not willing to plan, put in efforts in getting to her goals and it is extremely disturbing for me. Also, I feel she is beginning to depend on me, reaching out to me whenever there is a problem and not being pro-active enough about seeking a solution on her own. For every small and big hurdle she says – “I am not worried akka, you r there na for me?' That scares me but I have decided that through different activities, discussion of scenarios and using the life-skills curriculum I shall try and overcome this hurdle sooner or later.

What do you think is the most important part of being a mentor?
Having patience with your mentee and with yourself would be at the top of my list of important things to bear in mind, as a mentor. Attempting at building a strong bond with your mentee through genuine interest and care would be second on the list followed by being completely trustworthy. Let me share an incident here before I proceed further about the other important things- I clearly remember how once she asked me if I shared everything with my husband and I told her that I do share about some things we do together but that I never talk to him about personal things. And then I asked her if she was ok with it. She surprised me by saying she did not mind I sharing even her personal issues as she felt that my husband would also be as caring as me, else he wouldn't encourage I mentoring! I was left speechless thinking about how deep she thinks. Coming back to the important things about mentoring - I feel it is extremely important to meet your mentee as regularly as possible as well and make him / her feel special.

What do your family and friends have to say about your mentoring journey?
What would I do without their support? They have always been happy about what I do and extremely supportive too. Rajesh, my husband, is involved with the social sector too, through marathons. He runs long distances for ILP (India Literacy project) and has also run for APD (Association for Physically Handicapped). My friends have always felt awed by what I do. I have friends who are doing lot of social service in different forms. Being amidst similar minded people who believe in living for others too in the smallest way possible always helps!

How do you see your mentoring relationships progressing in the future?
I have always lived one day at a time. As of today I feel I should continue my mentoring as long as possible, as it’s not a teacher student relationship, which is very superficial and ends after schooling. In mentoring one builds a bond and it gets deeper and deeper as days pass by. There is togetherness, a companionship that we have built between us and I will try to make it a lasting thing. Even if life forces me out of this city, I still feel I could stay in touch with her as a mobile mentor and I indeed will be there for her forever!

Mentor of the Month, March 2014 - Susmita Mahapatra, Technical Officer at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research

Thomas Carlyle once said – “Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight.” Our mentor of the month Susmita’s success in mentoring stems from her dedication which comes from her zeal to make her mentees independent, responsible, confident and successful in their aspirations. Susmita’s dedication is well reflected in her well-planned meetings with her mentees. Her meetings involve all aspects of mentoring from learning to fun and from growth to sharing. Her innovative ideas of activities during her meetings and solution-oriented approach make her a born mentor. Read on to learn more about Susmita's mentoring journey:

Why did you decide to take up the mentoring responsibility?
I have always wanted to help others in any way possible thereby making a contribution to the society I am a part of! My journey working with people from the underprivileged community dates back to the time when I was working in Singapore where I taught a couple of kids belonging to a very needy family. While doing that I realized that by investing quality time, one could definitely make some positive impact on another’s life. After coming back to India, I was in constant search for an organization where I could meaningfully contribute my time in and that’s when I came across Mentor Together. I learnt more about the organization and the concept of Mentor Together thoroughly appealed to me. I found their work very interesting and decided to join it, if given the opportunity.

How was the initial start to the mentoring in July 2013?
After getting trained by Mentor Together on best practices of mentoring, having understood real time case studies and having practiced role-plays I felt confident and was very excited to embark on the mentoring journey. However, at the same time I felt a little nervous too thinking about what I would be sharing or discussing with my mentee in the very first meeting and how she would take it! But all my apprehensions went down the drain when both my mentee and I started conversing and sharing with each other. Soon after, I was assigned a second mentee too, who was a close friend & neighbor of the first mentee. With time, as our relationship has evolved, we have become close to one other, become good friends and started sharing personal things. It was crucial at the beginning that I gelled well with both mentees as it was important for them to have a common mentor considering they were more comfortable with such an arrangement and I feel great that I could do that!

Susmita and her mentees How was your typical meeting like?
We meet during the weekends in the Partner Institution’s office. During our initial meetings, we spent time knowing each other better, building trust and opening up to share our feelings. Once we became very close to each other, then on, a typical meeting starts with greeting each other, talking about the things that happened in the past week and so on and finally moving to doing some curriculum along with fun filled activities. Since both my mentees are in the 12th standard and have high aspirations, I always spend some extra time to make them understand how to move ahead with strong determination. Finally, we wrap up our meetings with a rough idea about the next week’s activities. Sometimes I also take them to coffee shops or a shopping mall for a change.

What were some of the most successful and challenging parts of the mentoring journey?
The mentoring journey has been full of successes as well as challenges. There have been many instances / situations because of which I certainly feel I have had some success in this journey. For instance - I felt really good when my mentees mentioned about having shared and discussed about the various life-skills and career options we have been discussing in our meetings, with their parents. The fact that both mentees and parents are invested today and understand the importance of the learning and exposure made me feel great. There have been many a times when the girls have shared with me how confident they feel owing to all the exposure and experience they have been getting as a part of the mentoring journey. It makes me proud of what I am doing! Initially, I was a little bit apprehensive about having two mentees and conducting joint mentoring sessions for them. However, it is really good to see that it has worked out very well and that I have not only been able to establish an open communication with them but have also been certain in ensuring that the various aspects of mentoring program progressed as per my initial plans. My mentees, who knew each other well from earlier, were initially hesitant to open up in presence of the other but once they saw that we were discussing serious life issues in an atmosphere of open discussion with real life examples, rather than being preached, they felt very comfortable to share their thoughts, inner feelings and went on to request that the single mentor arrangement continue for them. As for challenges the one that is at the top of my head would be difficulty in making the mentees realize about the value of punctuality. They have been conditioned to think that timeliness is not that important and thereby it was a challenge to make them understand the value of time and the need to respect their own and other’s time.

What do you think is the most important part of being a mentor?
For me, the most important part of being a mentor is to be a “good listener” and listen to what one’s mentee is saying and thereby understand their thoughts & their point of view rather than imposing one’s own thoughts on them. It is also very important to help in making the mentees aware of decision making process and implications of various choices that they make and to motivate / inspire them to work towards achieving their aspirations..

What do your family and friends have to say about your mentoring journey?
My family and friends are extremely happy and feel proud of me. I would especially mention my husband who is supporting me in every aspect starting from encouraging me to join MT, to listening to me, to helping me find different reference materials as well as suggesting me different engaging methods.

How do you see your mentoring relationships progressing in the future?
This is a journey that my girls and I have started together. I would like to continue this relationship in the future even after my yearlong tenure is completed. I’ll always try and be there when they need me or seek my advice. We have built a relationship for life!

Mentor of the Month, February 2014 - Nidhi Khurana, Pathfinder at Mindaide Consulting.

In Mollie Marti’s words - “Our power lies in our small daily choices, one after another, to create eternal ripples of a life well lived.” Nidhi has been a huge catalyst in Swathi realising the importance of well-thought of decisions thereby empowering her to lead a good life consistently. Read more to learn about NIdhi’s mentoring journey.

Why did you decide to take up the mentoring responsibility?
I have been associated with young adolescents for over four years now - first as a part-time teacher with two community colleges in Bangalore, and later with mentortogether as a mentor. As a teacher, the scope and impact of one’s interaction is limited as many students are dealt with at any given time. Mentoring brings with it an opportunity to make a greater diference, and get closely knit with the life of a mentee. I also liked the well-researched founding principles around which mentortogether had been conceived, and was keen to be a part of the initiative.

How was the initial start to the mentoring in March 2012?
My mentoring journey started on a challenging note, with Swathi just at the verge of taking her II PU exams, and feeling extremely demotivated about it. The initial few meetings were short and sparse, and would center around perking her spirits up and making her feel confident about doing well. Swathi, by virtue of being an extremely open and confident individual, didn’t take much time to make me feel ‘included’ in her life and started discussing her personal issues earlier than I expected.

Nidhi & Swathi How was your typical meeting like?
A typical meeting with Swathi would entail me going to her place, starting the meeting with general chit-chat, dealing with a specific issue that may merit attention, and finally closing it with a rough agenda for the next few meetings. We have done quite a few outings together, to restaurants, cofee shops and Lal Bagh etc, and have had a real good time.

What were some of the most successful and challenging parts of the mentoring journey?
My mentoring journey has been fraught with challenges and successes alike. The fact that I am an important part of Swathi’s life and the go-to person in case of any problem could count as a success. She discusses her most serious and intimate personal/ family issues with me, seeks my advice and acts upon it. What has been very challenging is changing her mindset if she is very steadfast about something, and breaking through her mom’s mindset which greatly impacts her thought processes. For instance, it has taken months of cajoling and a serious jolt from her family circumstances to make her and her mom consider taking up a part-time job.

What do you think is the most important part of being a mentor?
A relationship can stand the test of time if it is reciprocal and adds value to each one’s life. While a mentoring relationship starts on the initiative of a mentor and an extra efort on her part to build trust and mutual respect, it is the reciprocation from the mentee which makes it truly worthwhile. Having said that, it is important for the mentor to be the driving force, the charioteer who steers the relationship towards long-lasting trust and understanding.

What do your family and friends have to say about your mentoring journey?
My friends and family have been very supportive of my mentoring journey, and have infact, stepped forward to lend a helping hand whenever required.

How do you see your mentoring relationships progressing in the future?
My first mentoring relationship has been very fulfilling, and is a very important part of my life. When I look back, there are things I wish I did diferently to be able to make a greater diference to my mentee’s life. I hope to be able to use those learnings in future.

Mentor of the Month, January 2014 - Pradeep Kumar, Product Architect at WIPRO.

Bud Boyd once aptly quoted “People don’t fail; they just stop trying.” Our Mentor of the Month, Pradeep Pocha’s determination to make his relationship with his mentee a success coupled with sheer perseverance led to a very fruitful mentoring journey for him. Read his interview below:

Why did you decide to take up the mentoring responsibility?
While I was scouting for an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution towards a social cause, I came across Mentor Together. I have always been convinced by the concept of mentoring. The way Mentor Together has designed their program and is facilitating it - looked ideal, lean and efficient. I immediately applied for it.

Pradeep Kumar How was the initial start to the mentoring in March 2012?
At the onset, I was excited but at the same time had some apprehensions about the newly acquired responsibility too. Gradually as I started getting acquainted to the circumstances and getting closer to reality, my perception towards my role and responsibility started to evolve. And then I started to realize the greater onus on me to make things work.

How was your typical meeting like?
Initially all our meetings happened over weekends in a playground close to his home. I used to either play or watch him play a game of cricket and then we used to spend some time together discussing about activities happening around him.
After I built my relationship with him, slowly, the meetings became focused; we did small fun filled activities interlaced with some curriculum topics. And then I started taking him to some events and was taking part in some of his routines. And during the exams there were continuous phone calls and follow-up discussions.

What were some of the most successful and challenging parts of the mentoring journey?
Challenging part in the mentoring journey for me was to establish the need - the need for him to continue this journey, the need for him to value the time we were spending, the need for him to take this relationship more seriously. And the successful moments were the moments when things began to reciprocate, like occasions where I began to get calls on things that mattered to him, occasions where he wanted to meet, and occasions when he used to share some good news with pride.

Pradeep Kumar What do you think is the most important part of being a mentor?
For me, most important part of being a mentor is the ability to help mentee make a decision, ability to inspire and motivate, understand the mentee to suggest what works for him, expand his network, and expose him to growth opportunities.

What do your family and friends have to say about your mentoring journey?
I think to make this work, getting the support from family and friends is very important as this activity would typically eat up the time we spend with them. In my case, I enjoyed their support to a good deal, on few occasions my family as well as couple of my friends met my mentee and shared their views.

How do you see your mentoring relationships progressing in the future?
Both of us enjoy the time we spend together. We continue to meet, and I keep giving him perspectives and continue to support him wherever required, I see my need for him for at least next 4 years, where he would finish off his course in engineering, and become more independent. I wish our relationship continues forever!

Mentor of the Month, July 2013 - Kavya Gowda, Program Manager at IBM.

Like Rebecca Falls once said - "One of the most valuable things we can do to heal one another is listen to each other's stories”. Kavya Gowda lent her ear to her mentees to make them feel confident about themselves and make them realize that every individual’s thoughts and opinions matter. Kavya had some challenges as well in her relationships, but looked at them with the lens of improving her own mentoring style. We salute her spirit, and for this reason she's our "Mentor of the Month". Read her interview below. :

Why did you decide to take up the mentoring responsibility?
Mentors have always had a very big influence in my life. It is because of people who believed and appreciated the unique in me that I stood my ground, had opinions and made a life that I can call my own. Over time, I realized that words had power and when it came from the right people, it changed your world a little. My mentors helped shape my thinking and I knew I had to go out and impact more youth to ensure that I gave back what I received.

Kavya Gowda How was the initial start to the mentoring in March 2012?
I was very excited to meet my girls but at the same time really anxious about what I was going to say and whether my presence would impact them in any small way. Over the course of more than a year, I have found my rhythm with my girls and now we are closer than we have ever been. Our insecurities, fears, happiness and doubts are all shared in an open manner, we have learnt to respect boundaries and challenge each others’ opinions without hesitation.

How was your typical meeting like?
Our typical meeting would start off with us generally catching up with each other. I had one mentee who was extremely talkative and the other not so much. So it was a task to get one to speak less and the other to open up more. I would always encourage them to ask questions about everything that they think they don’t agree with or have trouble understanding. The questions strategy worked so well, that sometimes all I would do was answer a barrage of questions! But, this approach worked very well to open up more conversations and explore their underlying opinions and feelings. In due time we went through a lot of curriculum and did a lot of activities but the underlying thread of opening up and talking to each other never changed.

What were some of the most successful and challenging parts of the mentoring journey?
My winning moment has been when one of my mentee who used to be very distant and not open about her feelings opened up to me overtime. We worked together and our relationship grew stronger. She began to trust me more. Instead of fretting about life and her future she began showing confidence in herself and started making plans for the future. She laughed more often and held my hand more often. Then suddenly one day she came up to me and said she wants to be like me when she grows up. She wants to be educated, learned and equipped to make a difference in someone’s life, like I have in hers. Winning for me – was that moment.
As for challenging moments, one of my mentee, was a girl with a lot of promise. She was sharp, intelligent, open and seemed mature. She got good grades and seemed open about her opinions. And one fine day after her 10th board exams, she left the girl's home she was staying at and went back to her mother. Later we heard that she eloped with a guy from her class and lost focus in studies. This incident shook me. She was my most promising mentee, where had I gone wrong? Was I not open enough for her to talk to me about her life? Did I not inculcate better sense of values? Did I seem too preachy, so she couldn't open up? Was I too focused on her career and future? These were questions which constantly plagued my mind since she left. Then I came to terms with the fact that, we as mentors can do all we can but we still do not have complete control over our mentees' lives. I did realize that other than what a mentee tells us it is important to understand their interactions with significant other people in their lives. I took the learnings in my stride. I started attending PTA meetings at their schools and colleges, to try and get to know them, their families and their friends. This was a good lesson I learnt and use this now as a learning to mentor my other 2 girls better. I have kept my communication channel open and have garned trust by revealing that I will not judge them no matter what they confess. I am making efforts to get in touch with my mentee who eloped and see if we can get her back to focusing on her life instead of wasting it on something frivolous.

What do you think is the most important part of being a mentor?
Listening. Not with the intent of replying, but with the intent to understand. Over the year I have come to realize that more than listening to what I have to say, my girls just want someone who will patiently listen to everything they have to say. There is nothing better than having someone listen to you and not judge you. Once they speak their minds and when I offer a different point of view they are in a better position to analyze it and accept it/refute it with precise points. The most important thing I could do for my mentees is to make them believe that their opinions and thoughts are valid, however small – they are valid.

Kavya's desk @ office What do your family and friends have to say about your mentoring journey?
My family and friends and especially my husband have been extremely supportive of my mentoring journey. It is because of my husband’s constant encouragement and his eagerness to listen to my teaching methods or approach to solving an emotional problem or just my arbitrary chatter about the girls that I’ve been able to stick to this journey with all my heart. When I say “my girls” everyone knows whom I am referring to. My girls’ pictures adorn my office cubicle and my family knows their traits, exam scores and their small achievements. They are considered family, even though they haven’t met them.

How do you see your mentoring relationships progressing in the future?
It will be a thrill to watch my girls growing up to be strong, independent, fearless ladies. I want to see them achieve their dreams of a college degree and a good job. Most importantly I want to ensure I am there every step of the way.

Mentor of the Month, June 2013 - Anbumani Subramanian, a Lead Architect at Intel.

Plutarch once said – “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” Our mentor of the month –Anbumani Subramanian, has worked on doing just that in his mentoring with our mentee Keerthy. Anbu and Keerthi are an exception in that they are the only male mentor – female mentee match in our 1-year program. Keerthi is in her 3rd year of engineering and aspires to be a research scientist. At the time we matched them, Anbu was working as a Senior Researcher at HP Labs. For her, Anbu is a role-model – a hub of knowledge, a brilliant example in whose shoes she wants to fit into.

Why did you decide to take up the mentoring responsibility?
I have always known the importance of a mentor in one’s life as I had a mentor who has played a significant role in who I am today! Thereby, the moment I saw the communication about Mentor Together by the HP CSR team, while I was working there – I learned more about it and since I had the time to do the extra bit then – I applied to be a mentor.

How was the initial start to the mentoring in March 2012?
At the onset I was a little anxious about the journey particularly because ours was the only cross gender match. However, the moment it was communicated to me that my mentee aspires to be a research scientist – I could not wait to dive into mentoring her and the fact that I could be of help to Keerthi in achieving her goals gave me a great sense of satisfaction too.

How was your typical meeting like?
Between Keerthi and me – we set certain protocols in order to ensure we used whatever time we spent together effectively, working towards her goal. She always mailed across an agenda to me a day or two before the meeting so that both of us came prepared for the same. Our meetings did not necessarily revolve around just her career aspirations but it also encompassed technical aspects of her studies and discussions around other general topics that interested her. We used to meet once in two weeks with each meeting ranging between 60 to 90 minutes. She used to often come to my office as it worked out fine for both of us. I also introduced the concept of summarizing a meeting by preparing minutes for the meeting and thereafter for every meeting throughout the year she got into the habit of preparing minutes and looking back at how we spent the hour together – which also helped us prepare better / highlight any special learning.

Anbumani & Keerthi What were some of the most successful and challenging parts of the mentoring journey?
Owing to certain practices throughout our relationship I can today say that the most successful thing about the journey has been I witnessing her progress across multiple fields – I can definitely say that her writing skills have begun to improve. After each meeting I used to give her tasks to try and complete in the following two weeks before our next meeting – like research about a company and write a brief about it, read the HINDU editorial and write the gist of it. The writings helped me guide her not just in structuring a piece of writing but it also gave me an insight into how well she comprehended things and help her accordingly. Reading a lot also improved her vocabulary. I truly believe that a variety in reading helps an individual broaden one’s horizon of knowledge and I, during our relationship tried to imbibe the habit of reading into her. She got into the habit and that gives me a great sense of pleasure and satisfaction.
As for challenge, I think I sometimes overloaded her with too much of information and she probably couldn’t soak in everything. There were at times, a lag in learning – but if I reflect on it, it is also to do with my expectations having been on the higher side.

What do you think is the most important part of being a mentor?
The experience that a mentor brings in, the exposure that he/she can provide to his/ her mentee and to be able to identify the needs of the mentee and guide him/her to pick the right choices are, I believe, some of the most important aspects to being a mentor.

What do your family and friends have to say about your mentoring journey?
My family and friends are proud of me and think it is a great deal to be able to mentor someone who has ambitions but may not have all the resources.

How do you see your mentoring relationships progressing in the future?
I believe I have built a relationship with Keerthi for life! I am certain she could reach out me any time she wanted to and I would love to see her realize her dreams. I would do all in my capacity to always guide her. However, I am not certain if we would continue with the formal mentoring as I too have switched companies and do not have the same freedom to spend as much time with her any more that regularly.

Mentor of the Month, May 2013 - Vandana Pattanashetty, formerly Program Manager in HP Bangalore.

George Macdonald aptly said - “The best preparation for the future is the present well seen to, the last duty done!” This holds true for the relationship our mentor Vandana has built with her mentee Rashmi. Vandana has helped Rashmi understand more about herself, instilled confidence in her, been an extremely good resource person, a friend and ensured Rashmi independently walks on a well thought out path. Read on to learn more about Vandana’s journey as a mentor.

Why did you decide to take up the mentoring responsibility?
I’ve always liked observing children from lower socio economic means. When I travel in BMTC buses and see young girls / school kids it constantly reminds me of my childhood days. We were not affluent growing up – I grew up in a small taluk and studied in a Kannada medium school. I can completely understand the struggles these girls must be going through in their lives. I struggled myself with spoken English until PUC. I never had anyone who could help me communicate well in English. So I have always felt I need to do something for them but did not know how. Then, when I saw the mail from Mentor Together which was circulated at our workplace, I was thrilled. I immediately told myself that there could be no better platform to kick start what I have been long waiting for and without waiting a second applied to be a mentor with Mentor Together.

Vandana & Rashmi How was the initial start to the mentoring in March 2012?
Like I mentioned I was extremely excited to embark upon the new mentoring journey and after Mentor Together’s training felt quite confident at the start. It was great to meet Rashmi and in our first meeting itself we spoke about the common things we wanted to do during the course of the mentoring. She said she wanted to learn computers and from my side I suggested learning English. Although she was in an English medium school from 8-10th I thought she needed support in English as it is a must in today’s world.

What different types of activities did you focus on during the mentoring? OR How was your typical meeting?
A typical meeting between Rashmi and me would start off with a lot of chit chatting. She loves to talk and enjoyed sharing everything that was happening in her life – about school, home, her teachers and her friends etc. When I look back at our journey over the last year, her ability to open up completely in front of me helped us strengthen our bond!
We also made sure that we worked on the objectives we decided upon during our first meeting. I got her acquainted with email, video chat (Skype), social networking (facebook), search engines. We also spent time on puzzles like Sudoku and fun games like UNO. We used the internet to work on her English communication skills – she thoroughly enjoyed learning English through the interactive web based exercises! We used the career curriculum that was provided as well but Rashmi was quite certain of her strengths. She was very interested in Biology related subjects, so we focused on identifying future study options in that. Even though we realized she may not get a competitive enough score to get into Medicine, which was her first goal, I introduced her to the many Biology related undergraduate degrees. So after her PUC, she selected Microbiology.
We also went out and had fun from time to time. One special day was when she came to my book launch – I had translated Subroto Bagchi’s book “Go Kiss the World” into Kannada. It was an enriching experience for her.

What were some of the most successful and challenging parts of the mentoring journey?
The most successful part of the mentoring journey has been the relationship we were able to build. Rashmi’s ability to confide in me meant that we spoke a lot about so many different topics, which in turn improved her confidence levels, her social skills and her communication skills. Rashmi was previously hesitant to speak in large groups but she was able to overcome that through the mentoring. Another high for me was the fact that I was successful at building a bond not just with Rashmi but also her family. Rashmi invited me home for the Varamahalakshmi festival, which was a good opportunity to meet her extended family. Her parents put a lot of faith in me on a lot of matters regarding her future choices. Recently when Rashmi was discussing something with her mother, her mother told her “I don’t know, ask your mentor what to do!” I too personally learnt a lot from my relationship with Rashmi. I have always been a person who sets very high expectations from things. Being a mentor has taught me to set realistic expectations yet enjoy the journey.
Vandana & Rashmi One challenge for me was that Rashmi was always more inclined towards having fun and talking. I wanted Rashmi to learn about as many things as possible but there were times when she only wanted to talk about everyday matters. To strike the right balance was a challenge for me! Mentoring is not like teaching in a school where disciplining happens and teachers force children to learn something. I never wanted to thrust anything on her in terms of education. So at times, I did have to pull back my own ideas about what I felt she should do.

What do you think is the most important part of being a mentor?
According to me, the most important part of being a mentor is to be able to identify the needs of the mentee, engage with their ideas and thoughts appropriately so that they can make sound decisions at the end of the day and stand on their own feet. It is also extremely essential to set one’s expectations right as a mentor so that we always remember it is the mentee who we are there for! I also think being sensitive to the mentee’s world and things around her is extremely important.

What do your family and friends have to say about your mentoring journey?
My family and friends are extremely proud of me and have been very supportive throughout the journey. There have been a lot of times when Rashmi has spoken to my husband on different topics. She felt at home in my house and I think it’s a reflection of Rashmi’s relationship with not just me but my entire family. Because of what my family and friends have witnessed, a lot of them too want to be a part of Mentor Together.

How do you see your mentoring relationships progressing in the future?
I definitely see this relationship continuing. I want to see Rashmi graduate and do well. I have built a relationship with her for life!

Mentor of the Month, April 2013 - Suresh G, Pricing Manager in HP Bangalore.

We picked Suresh because he was a rock-solid support for his mentee during a time of immense personal exigency for his mentee's family. During the same time, Suresh's own family was coping with a sudden personal loss, but he was still there for his mentee. You can't will yourself to be important to your mentee. Sometimes things happen in your mentee's life and whether or not you respond to them makes you someone of value. Suresh responded, and we're so grateful to have him in our team. Read on to learn more

Why did you decide to take up the mentoring responsibility?
Maybe mentoring comes naturally to me! I am the youngest in my house but my elder brothers always seem to find my advice useful. I wanted to mentor also because I feel I missed out by not having a mentor in my early days; that could have shaped my life differently. So I strongly believe that if we are able to contribute to whatever small extent, it can make a world of difference to many. I strongly believe career mentoring should actually start early from school days.

How was the initial start to the mentoring in March 2012?
At the start, there were lots of question on how this will shape up by the end of the year and how much of difference I can make to an individual as I hadn’t done this before in my life.

We know you felt a little unsure of how to really help your mentee in the middle period - what happened there and why did you think that happened?
One mistake I made was taking my mentee at face value, and not digging deeper at the start. I didn't factor in that he would have his own feelings and background situation for how he reacts or responds to me. So at times when he was shy to express himself, I had doubts about the value of my mentoring. I probably should have met his family much earlier than I did eventually. When I went and met them personally and understood their background, my initial apprehensions died down. I saw that they valued my contribution quite a bit and from there onwards I was confident that I am taking steps which are making a difference to them.

Since December 2012, you've been very deeply engaged with your mentee, and his family - how did you see that role evolve?
Darshan’s family didn’t inform me of the ailment that his mother was going through. Perhaps they felt they were already getting a lot of support from us. There was also a gap in our meetings. When I met him after the gap, Darshan broke the news that his mother was ailing with Breast Cancer and that they had started treatment in Manipal Hospital. It was a difficult period for me as well as my father-in-law was also suffering from a strange ailment which nobody could diagnose until January 2013 - it was Lung Cancer with Brain Metastasis. He expired within 20 days of diagnosis. So I could understand Darshan's pain both personally and financially. I was very worried that they had already spent a huge amount just for diagnosis and the first chemotherapy, with the meager earnings that the family had. This unexpected illness seemed like a sure recipe for disaster as they had to spend their entire life’s earnings to get through this difficult time. I also feared that Darshan’s career/studies would take a real setback and that was the trigger point to find a solution. Through Arundhuti and the help of a previous mentor whose father was the Head of the Baptist hospital, we could help them get through this difficult time. Currently his mother is continuing to get good treatment at the Baptist hospital at the most minimal amount. The final stage of treatment was given free of cost. Our Bangalore mentors also pooled in generously to help the family out. Without the help of all the mentors, this couldn’t have been such a happy ending. Each and every one contributed to the cause . Suresh & Darshan I still feel that I should spend more time with Darshan and his family. I will strive to work with him to shape his career as we are in the last leg of the formal journey that we undertook way back on March 2012 .

What do you think is the most important part of being a mentor?
Being a mentor is hugely challenging. How much ever you think you know your mentee, you will be surprised to find that you still have lots to learn about him to guide him the right way. So it's an everyday learning and you need time and heart to pursue it.

What do your family and friends have to say about your mentoring journey?
They have been a great support in this entire journey and have encouraged me immensely to continue the journey. Of course they are proud that we as a family are able to make a difference to another life and family.

How do you see your mentoring relationships progressing in the future?
This is a journey. I would like to guide him as long as he finds my advice valuable, not only career, but in his personal life as well. As we continue I do expect Darshan to be more proactively involved, which he has starting doing by calling me up and updating on what’s happening on his mothers health.

Mentor of the Month, March 2013 - Veena Nagendrappa, Infosys Mysore.

Outstanding mentors are those who go that extra mile for their mentees, because they treasure the relationship so much. A few months back, Veena did something that may seem simple, but completely warmed our hearts. She learned that her mentee Mamatha's birthday was approaching and that her mentee wanted more than anything to meet her mother, because she hasn't seen her in such a long time. Veena got hold of the girl's mother's number, but without letting Mamatha know. She called Mamatha's mother up and explained everything, and offered to pay for her mother to be able to visit her daughter. Mamatha's mother realised that this meant a lot to Mamatha, and decided to make the visit! Our mentees often miss out on the simple joys of childhood as they grow up. That Veena helped her mentee have such a special birthday makes her our 'Mentor of the Month'! Read on to learn more.

Why did you decide to take up the mentoring responsibility?
I always wanted to volunteer and try and work towards the betterment of the society. I was involved in some volunteer activities of Soften (Infosys CSR wing), but it was just some interactions with kids. Along the same time, Mentor Together came up with a good platform to reach people and also support them. It involved not only interacting with the girls, but imparting knowledge in a programmed manner. This was the encouraging part because a commoner like me would not have material which is designed after years of research. The platform seemed right and hence I jumped in.

How has the experience been?
The experience has been extraordinary and enlightening. It's a learning experience. And I seriously feel that learning in this case is at both ends. The girls come from such different and difficult background and yet they have such strong will to thrive and make life better. It's fun to be there for them although it's only twice a month. It's just great to have made such good friends. It's just not about the 2 girls I mentor, but the other girls who are there too are great to know .

What has been the best part of the journey until now?
The best part of the journey is that journey itself:) There was no part of it which was dull. Every week may not have been the same; some were easy and fun filled and others were challenging, but everything contributed to building a bond and getting closer to them slowly and steadily. Gaining their trust and learning that they look forward to meeting me is certainly the highlight of the journey.

mentor Veena What has been the most difficult part?
The most difficult part is probably when they wouldn't open up easily. It does require a lot of patience to make them open up and talk about their personal issues. We come from very different backgrounds. Understanding their difficulties and at such a crucial age requires patience, persistence and perseverance. So developing that patience and trying to get through to them was the difficult part. But after every little breakthrough the happiness is priceless.

Describe your mentoring style for us?
My mentoring style is mainly based on the fact that "Listening is the mother of all speaking". I just let them talk freely about anything that pleases them, keeping the conversation open ended. And in the meanwhile I listen to what they're saying verbally and non-verbally. Staying in the conversation and respecting their opinions is important. I always kept their mood in mind and do not coax them to talk if they don't want to. I respect their space. And always treat them as equals. Whenever a meeting starts, the first hour or so goes in just chit-chatting and sharing a few laughs. And then we do the curriculum. I try to keep the teaching and all the chit-chatting in balance. Also once in a while, just a visit to say hello and not do anything serious has worked wonders. This way, I have been able to get a sneak peek into their lives and it has helped me get closer to them over time.

What do your family and friends have to say about your mentoring journey?
My family and friends are happy that I'm a part of a mentoring team. They have always been encouraging and helping me throughout the journey.

How do you see your mentoring relationships progressing in the future?
I see the relationship getting stronger. Although the program is for a year or so, I intend to keep in touch with them in the future. And try and support them as much as I can in any little ways possible.

'Mentor of the Month for February 2013' is Keshava Chandra R, from HP in Bangalore, who has been mentoring Vinay a 2nd year Pre-University student, since March 2012. a) Why did you decide to take up the mentoring responsibility Since when I know myself, I’ve always had love for people, mankind. A feeling of being useful for someone, some way always made me happy. I was doing it whatever way I could. Couple of years back, I had an opportunity to interact with counselors – I was amazed with the possibilities that counselor/mentor can have on the minds of people. I also had interest on psychology and the power of mind. So all put together – made me apply when I found the opportunity for mentoring young minds. That was divine, challenging, fun and something that I always loved to do. b) How has the experience been? The experience was enlightening. To be a mentor - keeping expectations to the minimum, without being judgmental, leading by values…yet being natural, reachable, humorous, guiding and supporting is challenging at times. It is growing by sharing. It definitely made me a better person. I hope so it did for him! J c) What has been the best part of the journey until now? Pain made me happy! Crazy? Let me explain.. A month back – when me and Vinay were talking about, he suddenly asked ‘Sir after March gets over, you don’t meet me? ’ – I could sense little pain in his voice..First time I felt my journey as mentor got me what I wanted! The love n respect I got back from him is the best part of my journey so far! Whatever I did – I did it with involvement; be it fun outing, helping out in his assignments, introducing / learning something new, or even just listening to him! It was all the time refreshing. d) What has been the most difficult part? With Vinay I probably didn’t had any difficult part at all. He’s awesome, fun, talented and his hard work, determined will and sweetness of speech – sometimes a kind of inspiration for me as well! J At first, I had uncertainty about gaining the confidence into the relationship; But as Dale Carnegie says “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in them, than you can in two years by trying to get them interested in you” – well, that worked for me! J d) Describe your mentoring style for us? I did plan my mentoring on the need basis. We followed curriculum that was given until we got a grip on it. Along with that there were few areas of life skills that needed to be addressed – I was eager to give it all. But we take anything, only when we want it! Same thing I applied here too. Be it public speaking, English grammar, goal setting, career alternative, leading life with values, assertiveness, stress handling, spirituality (not religious); all were introduced only when the situation / conversation demanded. Roaming around not having any particular agenda was also part of mentoring. Knowing more by listening without being judgmental, respecting their privacy, making them feel comfortable at all times is always my priority. e) What do your family and friends have to say about your mentoring journey? Friends n colleagues always reacted with grace, they’ve always seen it as I’ve doing my little for the society – that made me feel more excited on mentoring journey. Balancing family at times were challenging, but they indeed supported me for this. f) How do you see your mentoring relationships progressing in the future? Needless to say, as I answered Vinay that day – our relationship indeed started with MentorTogether but, it’ll not end with the contract! J We are friends now and we’ll remain so forever. I’ll be available for him anytime, for anything. MentorTogether gave me few new friends, a network of enthusiasts, enriching experiences, inspiration by achievements of others… and moreover it enforced my trust – that world is a beautiful place!