Mentorship Playbook: A Differentiated Approach

by Umesh Vallipuram

A recent study1 found that there is a significant imbalance between the supply and demand for mentors – 75% of professional men and women want to have a mentor, but only 37% have one. Of those who had a mentor, the relationship developed naturally for 61% of them, 25% offered to be a mentor, and 14% were approached to be a mentor. On average, the mentor-mentee relationship lasted 3.3 years and they spent talking about 3 to 4 hours a month.  Despite the time and effort, the study found that mentors are not having as large an impact as they could have because they’re too narrowly focused, prioritizing career advancement above all else.

While mentoring can be incredibly powerful and important for career success, it can also help us effectively deal with personal life challenges. Great mentors can change the trajectory of a mentee’s career success and life outlook.  Such mentors’ interest is selfless and singular, wanting to help the mentee grow and succeed. One of the more well-known mentor-mentee relationships is the one between Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. In 2011, upon Steve’s death, Mark Zuckerberg posted ‘Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you.” 

Over the last 25 years of my mentorship journey, which spans my professional career on Bay Street, my experience was enriched by being a mentor and mentee.  I learned that great mentor-mentee relationships are predicated on truth, trust, and honesty. In terms of communication, both mentor and mentee must realize and respect each other’s differences in perspectives and truth. 

What I found more profound in these relationships is that it went beyond just being focused on career advancement. I was truly fortunate to have a great mentor during the early stages of my career, which developed naturally as I worked for him. I was relatively new to Canada, very shy and introverted.  He recognized that I was talented and a hard worker, but mostly kept to myself. He would go out of his way to take me out golfing and for drinks or dinner with colleagues and peers in the industry at least once a month. It helped me get out of my shell, overcome my fear of attending business social events, and broadened my network.  My mentor was not focused solely on my career advancement but saw my weakness and helped me through it. These were the stepping stones that formed the foundation for my successful career on Bay Street, and I am ever so grateful for my mentor who had an immense impact on my life.

In taking on the role as a mentor over the last 10 years, I view it as paying forward for how much I have benefitted from having a great mentor. This was my motivation behind taking the lead on the mentorship program at Tamils in Finance. The formal launch of the mentorship program will be in mid-May and we are looking for more Mentors and Mentees. If you’re interested in signing up, please visit.

1 Study conducted by Olivet Nazarene University based on survey of 3,000 professional mentor-mentee relationships.

Umesh Vallipuram is the Co-Founder of BisRing Inc., and serves on the Board of Directors for Tamils in Finance.

This article is re-published from the April 2021 issue of “Street Talk”, TiF’s flagship publication. Interested in writing for us? Click here for our submission guidelines.