My Connect Mentors Journey
In the beginning…..
I met with a very determined Swede called Elina Hedman in a hotel bar for a coffee and little did I know but that meeting was going to change my professional life.
I had just been made redundant at the ripe old age of 24, two years after graduating from university and only into my second job in London. I’d spent my first 15 months at a WPP mobile marketing agency, forging my way up the career ladder from intern to Account Executive and then made a decision to move companies to accelerate my career and get promoted to my next big job title. Sadly, this was cut short but this couldn’t have been a better thing to happen to me.
Changing and adapting
Not having a plan and being flexible did not come easy to me. After meeting Elina Hedman, Founder of Connect Mentors and Director of Aerate, we got cracking straight away on what was then an early concept of what would become ‘Connect Mentors’.
Here I was, all of a sudden working from cafes, private members clubs and, even from home! This was a far cry from my structured life in an office, 9–5pm, clock in — clock out, and even my semi-structured life at university. I definitely struggled to live the start-up life and work all hours that developers work, especially as they were based outside of Europe, as well as covering all areas of a growing start-up. I was suddenly in charge of marketing, social media, events, business development, account management and overseeing the development of the platform, along with growing the backlog to create features and functionality of the next phases of the platform. Working at a lean start-up gave me incredible exposure, breadth and responsibility to develop my skills faster, simply because everything needed to get done! This business insight from the front-line gave me the confidence to know that everything is possible and within my reach, with a bit of hard work.
Bashing it out
We needed the platform to succeed, just the two of us, so the work ethic was very much ‘complete the platform as easily, quickly and least expensively as possible’. As with all projects, you need to launch before you can promote it and engage with clients / partners, so it was paramount to get the platform to market before we could start sales. Having something to show to potential clients and partners was hugely empowering and important. This made discussing the platform a lot easier to demonstrate and for people to understand and see the value.
So here we were; running around London, attending events, showcasing to potential clients, meeting investors at all hours of the day, expanding our networks, building the platform and growing our brand presence and awareness of what we were trying to achieve within the market.
They say you should want to jump out of bed every day to go to work and I can safely say that, even though I was exhausted at the end of every day, I was certainly loving every moment. I felt motivated to grow the concept because I felt that there was a legitimate gap in the market for a service to provide support for juniors and grads within the tech industry. The work I was doing was exciting, new and away from the desk-based professional life I had been living up until that point. Working alongside the dynamic, driven and determined Elina, she taught me a lot about perseverance and working hard to see the success of your ‘own’ platform. Through this formal, professional relationship, we became friends and I was privileged to be on the journey of ‘Connect Mentors’ inception.
Working alongside a friend meant that I was fortunate to have a very honest and open communication style with my employer. After a while, as exciting as working in changeable environments was, we were both mature enough to recognise that that style of work was not fully suited to my personality. It was important for me to discuss this in the context of the business as I felt that I wasn’t delivering the best results for the platform, nor working to the best of my abilities. At that stage of my career too much unpredictability from start-up life was not conducive to my personal growth, even though I had learned a lot professionally. It was at that point that I decided to leave the platform. I was surprised at how much I had learned about myself, about how far I could push myself professionally and actually care about a concept that wasn’t coming from a huge corporation (as per my previous client experience).
Upon leaving the platform, I regained perspective on how I wanted, and needed, to manage my working life. I made the decision to find a role that was more desk-based and hours-regulated. Yes, I had decided to become a ‘square’ again but for my own stability and growth, I needed to move on to a role that had more structure. In no way did that mean that I was cutting ties with Elina, so evidently shown in the fact that I returned to work with her at Connect Mentors in 2017 as a contractor and again on a permanent basis as of June 2018.
My own personal Mentor
So, as you may have guessed, Elina became my Mentor very quickly. Whether she knew (or knows) it, from working so closely with her at her own start-up, I received unforgettable one-on-one advice and support from her on a daily basis. Having someone to look up to, run queries by and take their advice with regards to professional challenges are the essential ingredients to having a successful Mentor relationship.
Of course, on both sides of a Mentor relationship, there needs to be a willingness to: teach / learn, invest time / adopt changes, assess / self-evaluate, which is a fine balance so not to appear overbearing / stubborn, ‘know it all’ / combative, relentless / uncooperative. I was fortunate to find someone who wanted to invest their time into supporting my growth at such a pivotal time in my career. Without having been introduced to Elina back in 2014, I would not have had a job or Mentor to date.
Career highs & lows
My career has been through many fluctuations; sprinkled with some travelling, working at different agencies, across all platforms, and I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by professionals who support and encourage me along the way. Being made redundant so early into my career, and therefore searching for a job involuntarily, definitely knocked my confidence but also the experience gave me thicker skin, especially when interviewing. It enabled me to be a lot more critical in the interview process, so that I would be 100% sure that the presented opportunity was going to suit me, my skills and my career growth. Essentially, I developed the skills to turn the interview process on its head and make the company work for me, and not the other way round.
I am now pleased to say that I am working back with Elina, on the Connect Mentors platform, providing London with Mentors from across a wide variety of industries, and I’m looking forward to see what 2019 has in store for us all.
My top five things that I want Mentees to know
- To not build a career out of your Further Education course.
- To be made redundant — it’s not the end of the world (even though it feels like it at the time).
- To be scared of the unknown — if it were known, it wouldn’t be scary!
- To network — they’re there to help you and vice versa; you should want to collaborate with your network, stay open and embrace opportunities as appropriate.
- To adapt on the fly and not know what you’re doing! Just do your thing and roll with it! It will all work out for the better in the end.
Written by Heli Metsmaa-Petersons, Operations Director.
More about Connect Mentors…
Connect Mentors is managed by Aerate Inc, which is an incubator of its own concepts through early design, testing and development ready to be marketed and scaled up. Its concepts are interlinked by the mission of connecting people and making technology more accessible.
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