Rain Sepp & Dmitri Sarle about mentorship: “A good mentor should not give you an easy time but should challenge you instead.”

Rain Sepp, CEO & Co-Founder of askRobin and Dmitri Sarle, CEO of ArcticStartup discussed the benefits of mentorship programs from both mentors and mentees perspective. Dmitri was the shadow mentor of Rain.
The shadow mentor concept means that when someone is getting mentored, the shadow mentor sits there quietly and observes in the background. When you are talking yourself, you have no time to reflect and to take notes. But the shadow mentor can help you pick up on things you didn’t, which offers you yet another way to look at things.

But why does one take on a role of mentee and why?


“For me, being a founder can quite often be a rather lonely place to be. So having a good mentorship relationship with someone who’s actually able and willing to spend some time with you and to help you discover some perspectives or things that are hidden to you can help you a lot,” explains Rain. Actually, it is quite of a paradox – founders are surrounded by a huge number of employees and people on daily basis, they attend meetings, social networking events, and business festivals but still being in business can feel quite lonely.

It’s the amount of responsibility that makes them lonely since it’s hard to admit to your employees that you don’t know something or cannot solve a problem.
That’s where a mentor who you can trust, share your thoughts, business and personal issues, comes handy.

What is in It for the mentor though?


“I’m a mentor because surprisingly I was never lucky enough to find a permanent mentor. And because of that, subconsciously, I tried to find a way to learn. When I’m a mentor I constantly learn,” said Dmitri. “One thing I found out was that you have all the answers inside of you. Very often when somebody asks me a question before they ask a question, I didn’t know I possible remotely knew the answer, but when somebody asks me, I immediately have the answer.”

As a mentor, you have a huge responsibility to practice what you preach. You will never have a day off, so this is beneficial as a reversed responsibility – you are responsible for others and through that for yourself as well. Being a mentor makes you face different ethical questions on daily basis – what are you doing, how are you interacting and what are you giving back to the world.

It’s the amount of responsibility that makes them lonely, since it’s hard to admit to your employees that you don’t know something or cannot solve a problem.

 
The key element in a good mentor-mentee relationship is a deep level of trust but at the same time, it’s also important that your mentor would not be your friend. Mentor relationship cannot be a friendship as well since that would make things too comfortable. One of the criteria for choosing a mentor is to make sure it is at least somewhat uncomfortable. A good mentor should not give you an easy time but should challenge you instead. “Sometimes you have to trust someone to rip you to pieces to allow you to discover yourself,” says Rain.

Dmitri adds: “I wouldn’t want the person I won’t trust to become my permanent mentor, because this wouldn’t feel good. But at the same time, if I’d be for a short time, it could be a good opportunity to learn. Anything that makes you feel kind of weary or bad, for me, is data that I can use, and I can work with.”

Diversity also helps – if mentor and mentee are two very similar people, the relationship quickly becomes a potential friendship. It’s a good ability to listen to somebody who sees things from a different perspective is exactly the reason people are doing this. It’s also good if mentors are all across the world since they see things differently and have different priorities.

It’s the amount of responsibility that makes them lonely since it’s hard to admit to your employees that you don’t know something or cannot solve a problem.


A skill to be learned is to see a mentor in everyone. You can always find someone or something – a book, a course, a podcast – anything. It’s good to have a desire to learn from your surroundings.