interVivos is thrilled to highlight a roster of amazing volunteer mentors for its Fall 2021 Mentorship Program.

We asked each of them to share one thing they’ve learned from one of their own mentors. Check out what they had to say in their own words.

“It’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay not to have all the answers. Try and learn something new from each interaction you have. They may not all lead somewhere, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth your time.” – Chelsey Quirk

“The power of mindfulness: that no matter how challenging and seemingly impossible your current situation is, there is always something to learn from, appreciate, and find happiness in. Joy and satisfaction are available to you at any time. All it takes is a shift in perspective.” – Christina Ignacio-Deines

“The power of authenticity.” – Christine Channer Auguste

“Spend time figuring out your values and beliefs that you are not willing to sacrifice. Set your goals based on those values and work on achieving them without sacrificing your values and beliefs. Even small steps towards should be celebrated. Be ok with taking a wrong turn too as long as you reflect and learn and grow from that experience. Just keep moving, you will get there at your own timelines. Don’t compare yourself to others, just be your best self.” – Darija Slokar-Zlatarevic

“The importance of surrounding yourself with good mentors.” – François Bourdeau

“To create situations where everyone benefits.” – Kevin Taft

“The importance of clearly communicated expectations when delegating and empowering staff.”
– Matt Schuurman

“That some of my strongest skills like creative thinking and verbal communication — which people call “soft skills” — get easily written off as unimportant, when in reality they’re tremendously valuable and not everyone has them.” – Puneeta McBryan

“You can have more than one mentor or coach for various stages of your life. Always remember the root of your why and stay genuine to who you are.” – ​​Renée Chan

“The importance of dialogue and face-to-face interactions within relationship building, stakeholder relations and in establishing a healthy team environment.” – Trent Daley

“It is not how smart you are, but it is how you are smart.” – Wing Chan

In fall 2020, interVivos launched its first mentorship program featuring volunteer mentors who are Black, Indigenous, or People of Colour (BIPOC). 

With this mentorship program, interVivos aimed to amplify minority voices, as people of colour are dramatically underrepresented in leadership roles across Canada. 

“It is important to take proactive and purposeful action to ensure that different voices are heard, included, and supported across the spectrum of roles,” says Zohreh Saher, interVivos president. “If we fail to challenge the system, we perpetuate the norm, which means that we wait for change to catch up rather than embracing and meeting it.”

Representing various industries and professional backgrounds, mentors and protégés were matched for six months. After a lively round of virtual “speed-rotations ” on Zoom at the online launch party in November 2020, mentor Abby Aiyeleye and protégé Charmaine Lowe were matched for 6 months.

Charmaine sat down to interview her mentor Abby about why she wanted to participate in the BIPOC mentorship program and her thoughts on mentorship in general. 

Abby is a seasoned project manager, strategic planner, and entrepreneur. Originally from Nigeria, Abby has been in Canada for six years, with some years in between spent in London, England, where she attended Greenwich University to study Business Administration. She got her first taste of entrepreneurship selling stuff on eBay, followed by owning and operating a specialty lingerie business with her sister. Her most recent venture is the home design app Clavis Studio, which she co-founded with her husband. The business plan for Clavis Studio won “best pitch – new business” and “best immigrant project – general” from Business Link in 2020. 

In fall 2020, Abby received a message on LinkedIn from Zohreh Saher saying she thought Abby would be a great fit as a mentor for the BIPOC mentorship program and asked if she’d be interested in participating. “I was so flattered!” Abby jokes, continuing to add that she’s had mentors in the past who have helped her grow, so having the chance to give back, in the same way, made her jump at the opportunity. Before interVivos, Abby mentored over a dozen people, both men, and women, because Abby loves helping people “reach for the stars.”

Recounting the interVivos process of matching up mentors, which involves all mentors and protégés meeting for 6 minutes at a time for the speed rotations, Abby says she was first apprehensive of the set-up but ended up loving the format. “It felt like speed-dating,” she says with a laugh. “I thought I wouldn’t have anything to talk about, and I ended up talking to everyone!”

One of the biggest worries both Abby and Charmaine had about participating in the mentorship program was fit. Both worried about not having much to talk about but ended up having so many things in common, from living in London, UK, to their passion for women’s empowerment and wishing to see more women in leadership roles. 

Abby and Charmaine both agree the narrative lens in Canada is still very much white and male, which is why Abby especially wanted to be a part of the BIPOC mentorship program.

“I hope I can provide two lenses for you: one of growth, and one where you understand the perspective I bring being black, being African, being a woman, being an immigrant,” she says. 

Abby goes on to elaborate that we all have intersections that make us who we are, and making an effort to diversify our perspectives helps us connect more with other people: “In the long run, these things impact your intersectionality as well. There are so many things that make us up as people, and that’s exciting. It’s a great way to connect with other people.”

Abby has some very clear advice for people who are interested in participating in a mentorship program. 

“Make sure you have a clear goal in mind for what you want to get out of the mentorship program,” she says. “Help your mentor understand that goal. Then, don’t be afraid to ask for help or rely on someone else’s expertise. Finally, be open to whoever you are given as a mentor. You’d be surprised at what the person has to offer and at their connections.” 

Abby encourages anyone looking for professional guidance to “participate, participate, participate! The mentors for this program were so diverse; it’s awesome! I was so impressed. I would do this again.” 

Registration for the Fall 2021 mentorship program is now open for protégés. Sign up here: https://fall2021registration.eventbrite.ca/.

Are you interested in being a volunteer mentor for a future program? Email connect@intervivos.ca to find out more. 

The Fall 2021 Mentorship Program is sold out! Join our waitlist for future programs here.

Follow us on social media (FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter) or join our mailing listso you don’t miss out on your next chance to become a protégé. 


interVivos is launching our Fall 2021 Mentorship Program on Tuesday, September 14, 2021. Ambitious professionals from the Edmonton area are invited to take part in the ever-popular interVivos mentorship program. Sign up now!

Our board of directors is still concerned about everyone’s safety, so we will be launching virtually over Zoom. The program will take place from October 2021 to March 2022. Mentors and protégés are welcome to meet in person or virtually throughout the 6-month program for their match meetings. 

Fall is a time to start fresh. After everything we’ve been through this past year, this is an opportunity for you to build new and diverse connections in Edmonton. Become a protégé and connect with Edmonton’s best and brightest. As well, you’ll work on your professional goals and “level up” in your community. Find out more about our mentorship programs by visiting our mentorship page and get the answers to your burning questions.

Here’s what some recent interVivos participants said about their experience:

  • “I loved the opportunity to work through some of the professional roadblocks and barriers I had been experiencing and having the feedback and guidance of someone who had been through similar situations and could help me to navigate them. My mentor also provided me with tangible exercises that I could do to help me gain clarity about my professional aspirations and goals and practically talk through how I can achieve them (or take the first steps). My mentor also has a wealth of knowledge about their industry since they are in a field that I am personally interested in–they had great resources to link me to and networks to connect with. ”
  • “It felt like I could fit professional advancement into my already busy schedule with the flexibility of the program requirements. My mentor was so fantastic, and her success inspires me! Our relationship is a place of mutual learning and respect, and I am looking forward to fostering this connection. We worked through some complex challenges, and I feel like I made some significant progress.”
  • “I’ve been a part of many networking opportunities in the past years, wine and cheese, speed networking, etc., in both the capacity of protégé and mentor. I’ve seen some terrible things happen out of these events because of the power dynamics that are the foundation of networking sometimes. I entered interVivos with very low expectations, but I was so pleased with this program. You all have worked very hard, and it shows! The structured approach and all the thoughts and care you put in from the training to considerations about power, to social media promotion, to the little thank-you’s – it’s all very much appreciated. Thank you for having me–I’ve enjoyed my experience!”. 

The following are the confirmed volunteer mentors for the Fall 2021 mentorship program:

Protégés choose their fee to participate in the program. The fees collected from protégés are directly invested in our programs, events, and non-profit costs. We also provide free protégé spots to local nonprofits.

A reminder that you can register to be a protégé by visiting: https://fall2021registration.eventbrite.ca. Limited spots are available!

Find out more by visiting our FAQ page and getting the answers to your burning questions.

Fall 2021 Program Sponsors

Thank you to our Co-Presenting Sponsors: RSM Canada and Park Power.

Thank you to our program sponsors:

Thank you to our Program Sponsors: InciteVSM PhotoDowntown Business AssociationRapid Fire TheatreCanaJan inc.Token NaturalsFace Ginch Handmade Masks and Doughnut Party.

 

 

Be sure to check us out on social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter) to stay up to date on all things interVivos and find out more about our Fall 2021 mentors.   Feel free also to drop us a line at connect@intervivos.ca with any questions that you may have.

Brian Curry was an interVivos protége in the Summer 2020 mentorship program. Brian was matched with mentor Amarjeet Sohi.  Brian shared his mentorship journey for the readers of our blog. 

A friendly reminder that interVivos is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that does not endorse municipal election candidates.  


There is emerging evidence that access to mentors directly correlates with measures of success in an individual’s personal and professional life. While that research and academic discussion are necessary, take that all away and you are left with one powerful idea: sometimes it is nice to talk to someone that has been where you want to be. I found myself in that same situation in the summer of 2020 when I matched up with my interVivos mentor,  Amarjeet Sohi.

I think most Edmontonians know Amarjeet’s story by now, so you could understand my excitement when he was announced as one of the mentors for the Summer 2020 program. He was the reason I signed up for the program. While all of the mentors were amazing, I felt Amarjeet had the specific skill set that I was looking for at the time. A few days after the Zoom launch, I found out I was matched up with Amarjeet!

Amarjeet has the qualities that make a perfect mentor: fantastic listening skills, genuine care and consideration for your feelings, and experience that he draws on when you ask for advice. Another awesome quality is his memory. Every time we spoke, he would always ask about my family and remembered everyone’s names and what was going on in our pandemic-affected lives. It showed a level of active listening and engagement that not many people have.

Amarjeet and I met every three weeks during the 6-month program via Zoom. As you could imagine, Amarjeet had many things going on: working, teaching at MacEwan, and mulling a bid for Mayor. So, you can appreciate the type of person he is that he set aside the time to meet with me regularly. We had relatively informal conversations. I would talk about what was going on in my life, including serving on the Edmonton Safety and Well-being Task Force. He offers advice in such a way that does not give answers but forces you to reflect and come up with your solutions to problems. And I can’t forget the pep talks! As a Black man, I was having a rough year with the death of George Floyd and the BLM protests. When I was feeling down, Amarjeet was there encouraging me to keep on fighting.

The mentorship program was a success for me. I met a long-term mentor and friend, someone I can genuinely rely on. Amarjeet recently asked me to speak to his MacEwan class, Compassionate, Collaborative & Inclusive Leadership: Anti-Racism Capacity-Building, about my experiences with racism.

The program was terrific. The best mentorship relationships are when both parties can get something from it. I hope I have added something of value to Amarjeet’s life as much as he has added a great deal to mine. 

My advice to future protégés would be to do your research, have an idea of what you are looking for in a mentor, and be honest with each one during the launch. All the mentors in the program will be unique, and I trust you will be matched up with someone that will bring value to your life. And finally, never underestimate the power of mentors in your life. It can be a life-changing experience, just like it was for me.

Follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter) or join our mailing list, so you don’t miss out on your chance to register as a protégé. 

interVivos recognizes the importance of supporting one another in creating a sense of belonging for all—which is why we strive to create programs and events that can help build this sense in the Edmonton community. 

In Fall 2020, we launched our very first mentorship program to showcase Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) volunteer mentors. There are unique challenges and opportunities associated with being a BIPOC professional in Edmonton. One of our Fall 2020 Mentors, Keenan Pascal, recently shared about his own challenges in an Edmonton Journal article, “A lot of times you’re like the only Black guy in the room in a lot of these professional circles. It’s just (the) reality. In the beginning, you’re a little shyer, you’re a little, like, ‘Nobody looks like me,’ they don’t have the same background to connect. It kind of forced me to quickly evolve in terms of having to be more outgoing. I can’t sit in the back and be the quiet Black guy. You’ve got to put your hand up and get noticed.” 

interVivos endeavours to create a safe space for our participants to share these experiences. For our BIPOC program, we recognized that some of our mentors and protégés may wish to discuss the challenges of being BIPOC or may simply want to learn more about these experiences. We welcomed this critical dialogue and even created a unique BIPOC Resources List for our program participants to help them get more informed, find additional support, or connect with other community organizations engaging in these critical conversations. 

One volunteer mentor shared about the safe space that interVivos created: “Really impressed with how this process rolled out and the thought and intention behind it. It is great to see the board, already a very diverse group of young women, driven to take diversity and inclusion training to ensure the program addresses any potential power mishap. I’ve personally been in networking and mentorship events/programs where mentors grossly abused their position given the stage and power dynamics that were intentionally set up to be highly imbalanced. Not once did I feel uncomfortable, and I did feel everyone was valued and appreciated, whether they are mentors or protéges”.

At interVivos, we desire to put the utmost care and attention into our programs and events to empower the next generation of leaders. We continue to do this by engaging with the community, participating in training, and sharing our resources with Edmontonians like you.  If you have ideas for other resources to include or have something you’d like to teach us, please send an email to mentorship@intervivos.ca. We would love to connect with you! 

Are you interested in participating in a future mentorship program? Sign up for our mailing list and never miss an update! 

The COVID-19 virus caused everyone to change how they communicate with each other. For interVivos, it changed the way we “meet” as a board and how we run our programs, like modifying our in-person mentorship program into a virtual one

At the pandemic’s onset, interVivos evaluated if we could continue our programming through a public health emergency. We wanted to dialogue with the community-at-large in a safe and engaging way.

interVivos was fortunate enough to facilitate two mentorship program launches via Zoom in 2020. We were able to connect 23 protégés with 23 mentors in our community. In early 2021, we chatted with a Fall 2020 protégé and mentor to hear their thoughts about interVivos and the program launch.

Our protégé perspective comes from Bonnie Chiu. She graduated from the University of Alberta in 2019 with a Degree in Human Ecology and is currently working in healthcare philanthropy. She first heard about interVivos through our posts on LinkedIn and eventually decided to sign up as a protégé for the Fall 2020 Program— her very first experience with interVivos. “I wanted to expand my social and professional network. I find that those opportunities, especially now [due to the pandemic], can be more difficult to come by.” 

We asked her to share more about her experience with the mentorship program launch. “It was a very positive experience for me. I felt there was great communication from interVivos leading up to the event, on event day, and afterwards. It is tough to run a virtual event, but everything was well-planned and running very smoothly.  I enjoyed connecting with everyone— it was the most social interaction I’ve had in months beyond my usual circle.”

Bonnie loved that the event showcased the unique talents and people in Edmonton. “I walked away with a lot of great advice from the 13 mentors during the speed rotations. There were so many takeaways just in that one night!  I’m looking forward to staying involved with interVivos and whatever they plan in the future when they can run more events programs.”

Renée Williams, Vice President Customer Experience at the Fort Edmonton Management Company, was a first-time mentor for our Fall 2020 Program. She heard about interVivos through her friend, Mary Bailey of The Tomato, who was a Summer 2020 mentor. Renée decided to join as a mentor for our first program focused on highlighting Black, Indigenous, or People of Colour (or BIPOC) volunteer mentors because she would have loved to have had a mentor who looked like her during her career journey. 

“I have been very successful in the communications and tourism industry, but I often feel like I did it on my own. As the only Black woman in a senior leadership position in the tourism industry across the province, I am a rarity in this field. Mentorship programs like these are important. I want my son to see himself in a career because representation is an opportunity that I did not have. I want to give him every opportunity to succeed, and these programs can help make that happen for people like him.” 

We spoke to Renée about her first-time experience with interVivos. “The launch was very well thought out and thorough. Everything was organized and easy to understand. I was impressed with the mentors at interVivos. Many of my former colleagues have been involved with interVivos in the past. There were also many mentors participating in the program that I was interested in connecting with in the future!” 

Renée was also impressed with the talent she saw in the protégé pool at the event. “There were so many protégés with diverse interests like government, politics, or simply looking to make a career shift. I learned little nuggets from each person I met. The world will be set up for great success if mentors and protégés are interested in making things better by reaching out, connecting, and asking questions.” 

Thank you to all of the fantastic mentors and protégés who have been involved with interVivos for the past 15 years! We are delighted to share the many unique talents and perspectives that our community has to offer. 

interVivos is always looking for protégés and mentors from all backgrounds for our future programs. You can follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter) or join our mailing list, so you don’t miss out on your opportunity to get more involved with our organization.

Nicole Rodriguez, a University of Alberta student, has participated as a protégé with interVivos for three programs, including the recent Fall 2020 Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) mentor-focused program. We had a virtual chat with Nicole to find out why she keeps on coming back and why other post-secondary students should also take a chance and sign up for a future program. 

Nicole’s highlight of being an interVivos protégé :

When I first registered as a protégé, I had just graduated with my undergraduate degree. I didn’t know what to do next with my education. I felt terrified because I thought that I was falling behind. 

However, meeting incredible mentors, all with diverse sets of experiences and past challenges, changed how I saw progress and my career. And so, to answer your question, I would say the highlight of being a protégé was learning about the career journeys of all of my mentors. They taught me that it is okay to get stuck, to learn to be comfortable with uncertainty and to pause and ask ourselves what the next step that I can take is. I learned from my interVivos mentors that careers are not linear, and just because you decide to take a path does not mean you will be forced to stay there forever. Our values and passions evolve, which might mean that our minds and directions will change, and that’s okay!

She shared how her experience with interVivos helped her grow: 

I am so thankful for interVivos because I have met amazing mentors who listen to understand and support the stage I am in. Dr. Bonnieca Islam, my first ever interVivos mentor, taught me the importance of the decision-making process. That is, sometimes what is easy is not always what is best. My next mentor, Beata Montgomery, taught me that creativity thrives in the space of non-judgment and that vulnerability is a strength. Mike Zouhri, my current mentor, is challenging me to test my ideas and consider various perspectives to develop innovative solutions. 

I owe a lot of my growth to my interVivos mentors. And to think that these are brilliant individuals who are freely giving their time without conditions inspires me to do my best and contribute my skills to our community! I hope there is a phrase higher than “thank you” for expressing how incredibly grateful I am for them.

Why she thinks post-secondary students should sign up as interVivos protégés:

By matching protégés with mentors, the interVivos mentorship program helps students explore potential career options and learn how to apply their education, training, and experiences. The program also helps them expand their network and get to know other professionals in their field of interest. By talking to mentors,  students can increase their confidence in their chosen topics, from problem-solving, communication skills, networking, and leadership skills.

What motivates her to keep on signing up as an interVivos protégé:

There is nothing more exciting than the idea that I will meet another brilliant mentor who is excited to walk with me in exploring ideas and career-related challenges! I feel that it is an honour to have this opportunity, and I would not miss it for the world! Again, the fact that these are volunteer mentors already tells so much about how passionate they are about helping others succeed. 

I believe we are all lifelong learners and that the best way to learn is through engaging and forming community with others, and interVivos is a fantastic platform for that!

We also talked about her current involvement with our BIPOC mentor focused program:

We must celebrate our amazing BIPOC mentors in Edmonton, people who have different identities, experiences and come from diverse backgrounds. Having BIPOC mentors and celebrating their contributions to our community makes me feel a person of colour. I am so grateful to my current mentor, Mike Zouhri. My mentorship feels very collaborative, and I always learn something new every meeting! I am thankful my current mentor listens, adds to, and even challenges my ideas. I feel that I am still in an open and safe space of non-judgment. 

Nicole also shared her best tips for students to benefit from the interVivos mentorship program:

  • Take time also to get to know your mentors. 
  • Do not be afraid to share your “stuck points” and challenges you are currently facing. 
  • Be prepared during mentorship meetings, give them specific updates, and continuously show appreciation! 

Follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter) or join our mailing list so you don’t miss out on your chance to register as a protégé.    

At interVivos, our mission is to cultivate leadership and impact our community through dialogue, engagement, mentorship programs, and events. Community partnerships play a crucial role in making this happen. 

Last year, Park Power joined interVivos as the Presenting Sponsor for our Fall 2020 Mentorship Program. They are a friendly local business that provides electricity, natural gas, and internet services to Albertans and that also believes in building our community through community involvement.      

Before our Fall Program Launch, we spoke with the owner and founder of Park Power, Kris Kasawski, to learn more about him. 

Kris is a family man, entrepreneur, and community builder. He first got involved with interVivos as a mentor in the Spring 2016 Mentorship Program. We asked him to share more about his experience as one of our mentors. “I enjoyed the speed rotation format. It was a fun experience because it forced you to dig into it with the protégé and get a rank of each other.”

He sees the importance of mentors. “[Mentors] can help you evaluate what you’re doing. They can share their successes, mistakes, how they’ve grown, and pass the knowledge onto their protégés. Life is a long game. Protégés can get advice from those who have lived through longer.”

For our Fall 2020 Program, we chose to showcase Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (or BIPOC) mentors and share the impressive work they do right here in Edmonton. 

Kris was thrilled to help highlight these diverse leaders in the Edmonton community. He understands the importance of connecting mentors and protégés with different backgrounds. “Everyone has their own implicit biases and environments. These matches can help challenge these barriers and biases. We can build more community capacity and increase inclusiveness.”  

Kris is a loyal supporter of interVivos ever since getting involved as a mentor. He has attended many of our community engagement events and has even spoken at some of our events, including this Program Launch! 

We are so grateful that he believes in the work of interVivos. Thank you, Kris Kasawski and Park Power, for your sponsorship of our Fall 2020 Mentorship Program. We look forward to many more opportunities to partner with community leaders like you to impact the city of Edmonton! 

To find out about how you can support us, please email connect@intervivos.ca.

This article was written by Mark Horoszowski and published by Harvard Business Review.

The research on the power of mentorship is pretty clear: People with mentors perform better, advance in their careers faster, and even experience more work-life satisfaction. And mentors benefit, too. After all, “to teach is to learn twice.” Despite all these benefits, and even though 76% of working professionals believe that a mentor is important to growth, more than 54% do not have such a relationship.

The problem is often that people don’t know how to find a mentor or establish a relationship. The following eight steps can help.

1. Define your goals and specific needs.
Get out a pen and paper, and write out your career goals. Make sure they are SMART. Then, list out some of the biggest obstacles to achieving them. This specificity will help you decide what type of mentor you should be looking for. Maybe you need to develop new skills, expand your network in a specific sector, or build confidence to have some tough conversations. By first understanding where you want to be, as well as the biggest opportunities and gaps to getting there, you’ll identify how a mentor can truly be helpful to you.

2. Write the “job description” of your ideal mentor.
Equipped with your goals and what you need to help achieve them, think through how a mentor can help. Write out the type of mentor that can help you seize your biggest opportunities and/or navigate your challenges. Be specific here. Perhaps you need someone that can help you accomplish a project, make introductions to people at a certain level within a specific industry, or coach you through a tough negotiation. In your job description, make sure to also include the “why” – just like companies want potential hires to understand the bigger purpose of their firm, explain why mentoring you will tap into something bigger. Make sure you include this job description when you reach out to potential mentors, so they know why you’re asking for a mentor and are more willing to help (covered in the 4th and 5th steps).

3. Search for mentors through your second-degree network.
Mentors can be from anywhere. They can be from your LinkedIn network, professional connections, or people you’ve met at conferences. It’s important to remember that while people are certainly busy, being asked to be a mentor is a massive compliment. People might say no, but it will be a positive exchange and you shouldn’t be shy about thinking big and making the asks, even if you think there is no way the person can find time for you. Let them be the judge of that.

4. Make the ask (and keep it simple).
Asking someone to be your mentor the first time, second time, and even third time is a little awkward. It’s likely you’ve never been asked to mentor someone else, nor taught how to make the ask for yourself. Embrace the uncomfortable feeling and be vulnerable. There is no harm that can come from asking, but take it slow. Ask someone for a first conversation to learn more about their work and interests. Once you learn more about each other, if there is an alignment, then make the bigger ask for mentorship. Asking someone cold to be a mentor with a long email is too much to take in.

5. Have a first meeting.
You have two goals for your first conversation with your potential mentor. First, you need to determine if this person is really the right mentor for you. Then, find out whether they are open to the idea of mentoring you. How you approach the conversation will depend on you, but in general, you’ll want to do these few things:

  • Make it easy for the person. Go to a location convenient for them, have a coffee (or tea) waiting, come prepared, and make the meeting no-pressure and comfortable.
  • Spend time getting to know the person. You probably want to talk less than 30% of the time.
  • It’s okay to ask for small favors out of the gate. In fact, it might even help you build the relationship.
  • Make a clear ask: “I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. Would it be okay if I followed up with you again in one month after I make some progress towards my goals?”
  • Say thank you, and then follow-up again over email to say thank you again.

6. Start simply.
For your next meeting, keep it simple and follow up based on your last encounter. Once the person confirms they will meet with you again, send an email proposing an agenda and hinting at the idea of a longer-term relationship. Something like: “In our next chat, I hope we have a quick catch-up, and then I’d love to further expand on our conversation from last time. I’ll come prepared with some specific questions that I think you could help me answer.”

7. Create a structured accountability process with a mentorship agreement.
After you have a simple conversation or two, try making a more formal ask: Would the person be willing to sit down with you once a month for the next six months until you achieve your goal or solve your problem? If so, then consider creating a simple one-page document outlining what you will accomplish in those six months together. While it might seem a bit overkill, it will help add clarity to you and to your mentor by helping share the goal of the relationship. It will also help you set a clear agenda for each meeting. You can suggest it by saying: “I truly appreciate your time, and I really want to make sure I’m making the most of it. I was thinking that I could prepare a simple document that would share my goals with you, my commitment to you, and what milestones I hope to achieve in the next three months. I think it will help hold me accountable to come prepared to our conversations. Would you be okay with that?”

8. Continue to follow-up and say thank you.
You should definitely send a thank-you note after every meeting. Beyond that, once your mentorship arrangement comes to a close, you should continue to say thanks. I once had a mentee email me two years after our partnership. It made my week! In exchange, I was also able to help make some new and interesting connections, and she the same. So remember, it’s okay to ask for a favor, just make sure to show proper appreciation!

🎙️ Listen to Fall 2020 Mentor Shani Gwin talk about the BIPOC focussed mentorship program on Edmonton AM: interVivos looks to bridge the diversity gap at work (December 2020)

Shani and Teneya Gwin are a part of our first-ever Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (or BIPOC) focused mentor program. They’re also the first set of sisters to participate as mentors with interVivos. We are celebrating these milestones by showcasing them on our blog. Read below to find out more about the Gwin Sisters. We had the pleasure of having a physically-distanced interview with them in early November 2020.

Here is what they told us about their roles in the business world:

Teneya: We chose career paths that complement each other, and we can partner on projects. Being raised in a proud Métis family, we both knew it was essential to break down barriers and create spaces and platforms for Indigenous voices. There are probably very few times when we are together that we don’t bounce business or project ideas off of one another, and I admire her advice.

Shani: I’m proud of us. To think how far we’ve come in our journey from five years ago, there’s a lot to celebrate. As Teneya mentioned, our careers work well together, so it’s been a lot of fun and because we are sisters; we get to be brutally honest. It can be deadly! We help each other grow and see new parts in the work. I value Teneya’s insight. She recently trained some of my staff and she’s so great at what she does. We do have many mentors, Elders, and leaders we get to work with and learn from everyday. I’m very grateful to them all for their support and for sharing their knowledge with us.

We also asked about the best career decisions they have made: 

Teneya: The best career decision I have made was to leave a corporate organization and start my own consulting company. On my own, I had to believe in my skills, and I was finally able to see my strengths. I felt I was always trying to sell my services and explain why the Indigenous perspective was critical in my corporate role. Once I made the terrifying decision to go on my own, my entire life changed personally and professionally. The amount of growth I have gone through in 4.5 years is bananas!

Shani: I agree. Leaving my government job to focus on Indigenous communities, organizations, and projects was the best decision I made. It was scary to leave a salary, benefits and paid vacation, but I went for it, and thankfully, I haven’t regretted it. There comes a time when you have to make a leap of faith as an entrepreneur. It is a lot of work to make it happen, and I took it as far as possible while still working my other fulltime job. I appreciate the support and mentorship from Chief Tony Alexis during that time and even today. He was very influential to that decision and continues to champion me and the work I do. Ishnish Chief Alexis.

Then, we delved into the common challenges that they see in their work:

Shani and Teneya: When we come up against resistance, typically we find that the challenge is really about the other party not knowing or lacking general awareness about the issue at hand or the history between Indigenous people and Canada. There’s a lot of groundwork that goes into mitigating that resistance. We find that we are educating and sharing knowledge before we can even work on the initial problem. Once we can bring in that context, the resistance isn’t as heavy-handed, and we find people are generally more willing to understand and move past it. It’s essential to find someone to lean on when doing this work; it is emotional labour. We are lucky to have each other and help move each other forward because sometimes it can be exhausting.

We wanted to find out about their mentors:

Shani and Teneya: There are so many mentors just in our family that we look up to and rely on for advice. Our mother, Carola Cunningham, has worked in justice, housing, family services, and consulting, specifically with Indigenous communities in Canada and abroad. Our father, Lloyd Gwin, has worked most of his career in skills development, training, and employment for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit across Canada and is very active in the Métis community as a volunteer. Our poppa, Chester Cunningham, founded Native Counselling Services of Alberta and has been critical in representing Indigenous folks in the justice system and was instrumental in decreasing Indigenous people’s incarceration rates. And our Kokum, Florence Gwin, who taught us the importance of education, sharing what little you have with others, and always lead with kindness. These are just a few of those in our family that we wanted to acknowledge. They have the most significant impacts on our lives and how we move forward on our journey.

They also shared how work and self-care go together, especially during the pandemic:

Shani: I was in a meeting the other day, and someone shared the importance of community care over self-care. We can talk all we want about the importance of bubble baths or going for a walk alone, yet many of us will not have the privilege to do those. Community care is helping take the load off others in your community and vice versa. I have two children, my partner works out of the house, and my company is the busiest it’s ever been. I had no time for self-care during the pandemic. I wanted to, but the extent of it was leaving to get groceries alone once my partner was home. During that time, I leaned hard on my community to help. My mom would drop off a meal once in a while, so I had one less thing to worry about.

 My sister took my kids as part of our cohort/bubble so I could get work and housework done. My dad would bring baked treats, and once it was safe to do so, he would babysit my children. Community care was self-care. It’s an important distinction to make. We can build our communities and rely on them when we need them. And vice versa. We delivered groceries and necessities to my parents during the pandemic; we brought over meals, and FaceTimed them with the kids. We had ‘bring your own hot dog’ fires outside with them once it was warmer. This was our way of taking care of them and their mental health during a difficult time.

Teneya: During this pandemic, it has been extremely challenging for me to find time for self-care, and I need to make more time for this. Unfortunately, most of my work takes place during naptime, and once my child is in bed for the night it’s exhausting, but I know I’m not alone. My partner works out of town and is a business owner himself, so we both know the importance of hard work.

I am mindful of when I feel lighter, and those moments are when I’m with my family, doorstop visits with my friends, tea and cookies with my parents, and backyard fun with my sister and her kids. These moments are my self-care, being with those that I love. As you can tell by our responses, our cups are filled with community care; it’s a great example of why we chose the career paths we did. 

Teneya is a first-time mentor with us, and we are thrilled to have Shani as a repeat mentor! We asked what they think is the role of a mentor:

Teneya: I value the importance of building relationships; as a mentor, I am excited to learn from and exchange ideas with my protégé. I have hired and worked alongside so many incredible people; seeing their growth or catching up from time to time makes me honoured to have been part of their journey, and I hope to do the same through this process.

Shani: I love meeting and connecting with new people and seeing people I know and care about succeed. This is an excellent opportunity for me to keep sharing my knowledge with others, but also I get to learn so much from my protégé. Their perspectives and expertise are just as valuable to me. My first interVivos mentorship experience was a perfect match. We were on different career paths, which made it enjoyable. I learned about the tech industry and the innovative projects they were working on, and I shared my skillset with them to help build their career. I found it extremely rewarding, and we are still in touch. We just worked on getting their company some air time on CBC radio.

 

If you’re interested in being a volunteer mentor with interVivos in 2021,  please email mentorship@intervivos.ca. We are always looking for diverse mentors from all professional backgrounds. Stay tuned to our social media to find out more about the journeys of the Gwin sisters as mentors with our program.