As a software engineer with a non-technical background, there has always been a heavy cloud of not being enough, being an imposter surrounding the entirety of my software engineering career.
Whatever the role, I have always felt I was not competent enough. I felt maybe if I learned as much as I could, worked as fast as I could, and worked 20 hours in a day, it would make me feel better, but it didn’t.
I spoke to an acquaintance about finding a mentor, and they asked if I had considered being a mentor.
"What was I going to mentor about?", I asked myself.
I am still struggling heavily in my career; I have so much to learn, and I haven’t even done anything worth mentoring others on. This led me down the path of reflection.
I reflected on my journey so far, my growth, my resilience, my story, and the fact that people who met me always wanted to know more about my story. This meant I had something worth sharing.
Even if I wasn’t where I dreamed to be, I was where others dreamed to be.
The Doubts and Insecurities
Ignoring all the doubts in my mind, I took up a role as a mentor for Futurize Fuel Africa. I had participated in the program a year ago, but this time I wanted to be more hands-on.
I wanted to give it everything I had. I wanted to win.
It was a herculean experience as it came during a time in my life where I was busier than ever and I felt I had no room to breathe, but I still did it.
I mentored a group of students and recent graduates on building a business idea in the healthtech industry. This experience was unique in the fact that we were all from different countries, had never met each other, and here we were, trying to build a business together within a week.
I personally had obstacles to overcome because I had to learn how to balance being a leader to people who were my peers and some older than me. I had to learn how to say, "We have done enough on this; we should move on", without sounding domineering or stifling creativity.
I observed how they grew in every meeting we had. They went from being a bit unsure and overwhelmed, to being extremely empowered, confident, and even excited about what they were building.
I felt honored whenever they sorted my counsel on topics, and I enjoyed watching them work without my supervision.
We didn’t win the competition, but we all learned from it. I felt really good about myself. I felt I had done something; I had left an impact on others, and they made sure I was aware of the impact I had made on them.
It was fulfilling.
Realizing I am more in touch with the Obstacles My Mentees Face
As a mentor in my early career, I have realized that it is easier to guide others when it is a path you have recently crossed. The obstacles they are currently facing are still very fresh in your memory.
I am more aware of the struggles in the industry, and I can give advice based on the current happenings.
They can also watch me fail, and stand up again, thereby displaying resilience in real-time.
I have learned that it is okay not to be sure or know all the answers; what is important is that I keep showing up, for myself and for others.
Stay committed to the process, not the product; growth is continuous.