Relevance of a mentor in the corporate world, where ‘customer is the king’

Mr. Neeraj Gehani, Product Director at dunnhumby, speaks on the Relevance of guru, teacher, mentor, and trainer finding a different meaning today- especially in the corporate world and towards an individual’s holistic as well as career growth.


  1. Why should we seek a Mentor?

The dictionary definition of a mentor is, ‘An experienced and trusted adviser.’ The world around us is changing fast, and it is virtually impossible for any one individual to have the right set of experience and frameworks to navigate the complexity. Our personal and educational experiences do not necessarily equip us to handle different challenges life throws our way. Mentors can show us direction, broaden our world-view, and help us take appropriate steps based on their personal experiences.

Organizations are looking to nurture and retain their best talent while employees want to grow and build skills which set them-up for long-term success. Despite the common intent, employee engagement at workplace continues to be low. As per Gallup’s state of the global workplace 2022 report, only 21% of employees are engaged at work, and only one-third feel they are thriving in their overall well-being. Formal and informal mentorship at workplace and beyond can be one of the solutions to this dilemma.

  1. Relevance of a mentor in corporate life?

Most employees tend to look at managers as their mentors, but it is rare to always find a great manager with the breadth and depth of right experiences to give unbiased and correct advice. Furthermore, the relationship with the manager tends to be more formal and oriented towards achieving delivery goals leaving little room for open-conversations around career trajectory, unsaid challenges etc.

A mentor with the right experience can help employees connect with their deeper motivations, share valuable experiences at different stages of their careers and explore potential paths which the mentee may not be aware of given their limited experiences. Beyond the primary focus on navigating the organizational complexities, skills, and career planning, one can also freely discuss broader challenges around mental health and

psychological blockers, which are important topics but generally considered a taboo to discuss with immediate supervisors.


  1. How can a ‘mentor’ be a ‘great mentor’ in the corporate world?

Being a mentor is both a privilege as well as a position of great responsibility. In order to be a great mentor, one should have:

Relevant Experience 

The starting point is to have the right experience in the area one is mentoring someone in. A mentor with diverse set of experiences can help the mentee evaluate a particular situation from a multi-dimensional lens.

Empathy and Listening Skills

Strong empathy and listening skills are equally important for one to related to the mentee as a human-being and put oneself in their situation. Often, mentors make the mistake of being too prescriptive about what the mentee should do. The mentor should keep an open-mind and understand there is no one path to success. His role is to help the mentee find the answers himself by Socratic approach of questioning, which can help him reflect and refine their thought process.


The mentor should also be able to understand the limits of their own knowledge and experiences and connect them with other mentors who may be better equipped to support the mentee at different stages of their evolution.

Role Modelling

The mentor should also act as a great role model by showcasing/sharing how they themselves deal with challenging situations and adopt a growth mindset.

  1. Why should mentoring be considered important for one’s good career?

Mentors also grow in the process of mentoring as they feel responsible to help their mentees evolve as well as put their own experiences in context. Mentorship also provides them exposure to diverse perspectives as well as increase their levels of self-awareness. Since leadership is driven by followership, the mentors build higher level of trust on their competence within the organization. In addition, mentors hone their art of delivering effective feedback as well as leading with questions which can help improve their management skills.

  1. What should mentor/teacher/trainer avoid in the post covid world (to inspire/motivate students)?

The covid pandemic has had drastic impact on definition of workplace and employees’ perspective of the role of work in their overall life. The mentor-mentee relationships should also evolve with the changing times. Specifically, the mentors should avoid the below detailed pitfalls:

Lacking Empathy – The pandemic has had a detrimental impact on general mental well-being of many individuals. It is important that the mentors/teachers are sensitive and compassionate while dealing with mentees/students.

Out of sight, out of mind – Not maintaining contact with their mentees as students/employees who are increasingly working, remotely.

Being Inflexible – Mentors should be flexible engaging with the mentees in terms of mode of engagement, that is, virtual versus face to face.


  1. How can a mentor emerge relevant in the field of data vis a vis customer science and product development?

Both data science and product development are among the most sought after career options today. There is a lot of interest from both young and experienced professionals to either start and/or pivot their careers to these domains. Even though there is a lot of information available on the internet on how to build the right skills to be successful, it can be overwhelming for aspirants to absorb all the advice and take the right steps.

A mentor with the right experiences can help one take the most optimal approach to build their careers in the fields of customer data science and product development. Further, the mentor can also help the mentees build their network in the industry and connect them to the right opportunities. It is also important for mentees to seek opinion from multiple mentors in order to have a more rounded view of potential pathways to success.

Great mentors also proactively share their knowledge and experiences broadly with the community and position themselves as experts in their respective fields. They can take advantage of opportunities to teach/share their know-how both within and outside their organizations via industry workshops, guest lectures and sharing thought leadership via professional networks such as LinkedIn.

  1. ‘Customer is the king’- how can data science/data analytics reinforce this statement, if you are to lead a workshop being a mentor at an organisation?

All businesses exist to serve and delight their customers. Typically, organizations rely on HiPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) to make decisions on behalf of customers. The winning organizations on the contrary use data to make decisions about what to build and whom to build for. Democratization and ease of access to the relevant data to front-line workers who are closest to the customers can help organizations truly make the right decisions and treat ‘Customer as a King’. Predictive algorithms can help organizations target the right customers at the right time with the right offering via the right channel.

Data analytics can help organizations unify their strategy and business outcomes to the right customer engagement, satisfaction and monetization objectives and help them win in the marketplace.

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