Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Sandra Abi-Rashed. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Sandra, appreciate you joining us today. Looking back, what’s an important lesson you learned at a prior job
One thing I learned throughout my career was the importance of Making Things Personal. We seem to forget that the “What’s In It For Them?” is such a crucial element to rally people around a common goal.
For Mentoro, a non-profit mentoring program originally launched in Montreal (with satellites in Miami and New York), having mentors and mentees embrace a larger purpose was key to having them feel part of a movement. We wanted to create a culture that reminded mentors and mentees that they are part of something bigger, focus on “We”. The structure of the Mentoro program regroups cohorts by theme (ie. Luxury industry, Retail industry), and this makes mentors feel that over and above their mentoring efforts, they are also collectively having a much larger impact together. Not only are mentors supporting the younger generation while committing to knowledge transfer, they are also participating in a valued social initiative that has a concrete impact on the future of their industry.
So what’s in it for both mentors and mentees? For mentors, we are always pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm and generosity they show in the recruitment process. Most accept to participate right away, and even refer us to other people in their network. Mentoro gives mentors an opportunity to give back without requiring hefty commitments. For mentees, Mentoro attracts young professionals who desire to grow on a personal and professional level and helps them meet mentors without all the trial and error, building a community based on the shared values and experience of being part of a cohort. Bringing people together over a coffee, talking about their shared passion, is more than just an action, it’s a feeling of reward for both parties that we all look for.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
Mentoro is a non-profit movement that connects young professionals with accomplished mentors who are ready to share their knowledge, advice and experiences. Our mantra is ‘We believe that sometimes a conversation over coffee, with the right mentor, can have a concrete impact.’
How does it work? In each cohort, we draw up to 25 experts from various sectors and we invite potential mentees to apply for the program. Mentees usually have 5-7 years of experience. We decided to focus on this group because studies have shown that it’s during this point in their career that they need the most guidance. Once the application period ends, a jury evaluates each application, and pairs each mentor with a mentee for a period of six months.
APPLICATIONS ARE CURRENTLY OPEN for our “The Future of Retail” cohort in New York. APPLY BY AUGUST 30, 2022, on mentoro.co
Any stories or insights that might help us understand how you’ve built such a strong reputation?
I think it’s important to ensure that people truly understand the story behind the brand. What is the story or the narrative that got you where you are today? What led the founders to launch this program? Why does it matter? Soon enough they will uncover that the key to all of this is to Be humble. Be true. Share testimonials from other mentees, true stories that give mentors and mentees a reason to care. At Mentoro, we believed in openly sharing the mistakes we’ve made along the way and we’ve personally learned from them. Honesty and trust are the foundation of community.
Mentoro had success in building strong cohorts because it’s ethos truly speaks to people from different walks of life and fields. The program is a free, simple, and inclusive program for both men and women, residents and newcomers, entrepreneurs and professionals. This makes the program highly relatable, and relatable encourages empathy.
Everyone wants to make a difference and know that they leave a mark. Remind mentors over and over again that Mentoro can make a concrete difference, that mentoring matters. Mentors sometimes they forget that what they are doing could have a ripple effect in terms of impact. And mentees sometimes underestimate the power of the experience that could provide them with concrete learnings for the future. For Mentoro, the mantra is: Changing the world, one coffee at a time.
We’d love to hear the story of how you turned a side-hustle into a something much bigger.
Mentoro started off as a small passion project, a side-hustle feel-good project. Melanie and I were colleagues at the time (I like to call her my work wife!), and we found ourselves having coffees with more and more young professionals. They were just starting out in the workforce and had a lot of questions about their career. They didn’t know if they were on the right paths; if they should stay or move on, ask for a raise (yes, but how?), or take on more responsibility. They had questions about things not covered in school, they wanted to know about our career path… so they reached out, looking for mentorship.
Then late one night, over coffee in Paris, Melanie and I decided (perhaps a little naively) to try changing the world our own way, one coffee at a time. We wanted to build something around this idea of having coffee-conversations with the younger generation. We would set up a mentorship program. We wanted it to be free, simple, practical and inclusive: available to both men and women, as well as to both entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs, residents and non-residents. This was our vision when creating Mentoro, which means mentor in Esperanto, the universal language.
The program launched in Montreal in 2016, and it’s still our side-hustle. We’re proud to say that the program has since spread its wings to Miami and New York.