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.