Around a year ago, after graduating from a Nanodegree and mentoring other students for close to a year, I decided to set up my own mentorship program with the goal of forming formal mentorship connections between people in Tech.
To get a sense of the challenges and benefits of my newly recruited mentors, I decided to put myself in the game too, and set up my profile on MentorCruise (my own platform).
It didn't take long before the first applicants came in. In the beginning, I was one of the only Machine Learning mentors, but it was and still is one of the most popular topics to get a mentor for, so people were interested. The fact that I mentored for free (and for only $10 after I had some undedicated mentees) might have helped too. This is what I've learned.
- The audience is not who I had expected. When I first started the platform, I expected this to be a place for students and mentors. Shorty after, I realized that the user base is way more diverse than that. I talked to students, but also marketing managers preparing for a career change and a mom looking to re-enter the workforce. It has been encouraging to help those people.
- I learned a lot! People with different backgrounds applied to me, many of which had done prior work in Machine Learning too. It has helped me to broaden my horizons, learn new things and see certain situations from other perspectives (e.g. data security, AI ethnics, ...)
- Using my own platform has made it better for others. From time to time I get feature requests from fellow mentors, and I'm happy to evaluate and build them. However sometimes, your power users are not ready to "bother" you with yet another feature, so I implemented things that I found to be annoying or suboptimal. Out of this, an optimized feedback loop, better notifications and an overhauled design got born. If I didn't use the product myself, we might still be stuck with an old version.
From time to time, I still get bad comments from people. Especially paying for mentorship leaves a bad taste on a lot of tongues. But we have our reasons and have to take certain steps to ensure quality and availability of mentors. Having a wall of love has helped - and so did using my own product. It has helped me gain confidence that this can work out, and that the 120 mentors on the platform can genuinely help people.