How To Find Mentorship: An Interview With Placide Bakala

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Introduction

This interview is about how to find mentorship. I decided to do this because I know that in the tech space, most people have issues finding mentorship. You get a lot of people that are new coming into tech, they are looking for mentors and they don’t know how to go about it. Most people in the tech space are also too busy; they don’t have time to mentor other people. Getting to know someone who is being mentored at the moment by someone is great news for me.

Q: Before we dive right in, give us a brief description about yourself. Let’s know who you are and what you do currently.

A: My name is Placide Bakala. I’m from Congo but I left my country six years ago. I got a scholarship from my government to study in Cote d’ivoire. I studied in Cote d’ivoire for four years. Then I started to work as a designer, then moved on to become a software developer. I’m a software engineer now. Currently, I’m at MEST. I’m an entrepreneur.

Q: For your current mentorship, would you like to let us know who your mentor is and how you got the mentorship?

A: Currently, I have three mentors. I am lucky to tell the story. I met my first mentor five years ago. He was a guest lecturer, I met him, we discussed but we didn’t even talk about mentorship. Two years ago, I was on LinkedIn, I saw him and I was like, “How are you? We met in 2015 and I’d like to discuss more with you. Do you remember me?” He said, “Oh yes! I remember you.” He was open. His name is Abou Koné. He’s a software engineer. He has more than 20 years of experience in Software Engineering and he has a company in Cote d’ivoire, Aki Technology. It’s like one of the big innovation companies in Cote d’ivoire that employs the best developers in Cote d’ivoire. He’s the CEO of the company.

The second mentor is from Congo — Cofina. He’s in Insurance. He’s the Head of HR in Africa at his company and my last mentor is from Open Classroom. I bought a full course last year. When you buy the course, they give you a mentor. There were mentors and mentees on the platform but we decided to continue the mentorship outside there. His name is Sylvain Breton Gerald . Gerald is French and I call him my dad.

Q: So far, how has the mentorship been?

A: First, when you have a mentor, it depends on your industry and your interest. You find a mentor based on your interest or what you’re looking for or maybe something that you like to explore. This mentor helps you to grow.

For me, it’s been really wonderful. I can say I got my first job as a student. I was asking myself, “Why do I need to go to further studies since I have a good job and people were paying me well.” My mentor helped me to get that job because he was like, “When you start in tech, you have to do this and do this. It’s not just about coding; talk to people, meet people, discuss with people.” So I took his advice and I got the job very fast. He helped me and other mentors came and also helped me to grow. Today, I’m really happy because any advice they give me, when I apply it, I get what I want faster than if it were just me.

Q: You are in three mentorships, how have you been able to manage them all?

A: Sometimes, it is difficult. I’m the kind of person that doesn’t want to do stuff for long. I prefer to do things once and I’m done. So I plan such that per week, I have just one mentor and one day with my mentor. We can have a chat or a call meeting. Once per week, one mentor and we can still discuss like I’m having a normal conversation with my friend. If I have a question or I see something on their status on WhatsApp or LinkedIn, I can ask what it is and ask for their advice if it is something I’m interested in.

It’s difficult because sometimes, one mentor tells you that, “When you want to get a job, do that”. Another mentor will say, “No, this is a bad idea”. Then you’re like, “What should I do?” So, one of the things that I do is that I connect them so they can discuss together and give me their final advice.

Q: For someone that wants to find a mentor, what should they look out for in choosing a mentor?

A: First, decide what you’re looking for. Are you looking to develop your personal branding? Do you want to grow in your industry and in what you’re currently doing? The first thing is to decide and then, try to know where you can find those that can help you. Is it online? Is it at meetups or conferences? After that, you go there.

I’m not someone who goes to events where there are a lot of people. So, I went to LinkedIn and I connected with the people that have the skills I’m looking for. You can go to LinkedIn and try to connect with them. Then you can publish, share or retweet something that’s along the interest of the one you’re targeting. That can work if you’re on LinkedIn.

If you want to go for a meetup, after the meetup, don’t be in a hurry to go and meet your target mentor. Just go and discuss with them. When you go, try to have a small conversation with them. I always advise that you take their social media handles instead of their phone numbers because a phone number is too private. Someone can say, “No, I can’t give you my phone number.” Take their social media handles.

First define what you’re looking for, then you try to find people that can help you, then you go.

Q: What do you think are the common misconceptions that people have about mentorship?

A: A lot of people think that a mentor is a judge. I think it is something that people don’t really understand. A mentor is not a judge; he’s just someone that tries to help you to grow in an industry that you want and in something that you want to achieve. If I want to learn design, I want a mentor that can take my hand and say, “You have to do this. To do this, you have to download this tool to do that better.” That’s it but people don’t understand.

A lot of mentors are also like, “No! You can’t do that!” They don’t even give you a reason. They will just say you can’t do that and this is something I think a lot of people think and do.

Q: If someone inspires you, is that a good reason for you to make him your mentor?

A: No. No because you will take them like a god. You will stay at that level and not be able to ask them questions. You will want to do whatever they ask you to do because you place them on a high level. I really advise people not to take people that inspire them as a mentor. It’s going to be a really big mistake. You just think the person is just perfect and you are not going to grow well.

Q: For those out there looking for mentorship, what are your final words to them, what will you like to tell them or say to them?

A: First, clean your brand. Really clean your brand and know yourself and what you’re looking for. Define your goals and your objectives. If you meet a mentor and you don’t know yourself, the mentor will not be able to give you the proper advice because you don’t know yourself and you don’t know what you really want to achieve.

Know yourself, define your objectives and go and meet a mentor in the appropriate place where you’re supposed to meet them — in the place where they are already. Also, personal branding. If they are on social media, you have to clean up your profile and your branding. For example, on Linkedin, if they can see that you talk or share a lot about tech, then they might take you to be good.

Q: Are you open to mentor anybody at the moment?

A: I have few mentees from my university and yeah, I’m open.

Q: If you are to mentor anyone now, what will you mentor them in? Is it design, entrepreneurship or tech?

A: I will mentor in software engineering and design because these are two areas I’m really passionate about. I’ve mastered a lot in these areas.

Me: Thank you very much. It’s been really great speaking with you. I have learnt a thing or two about mentorship and I’m sure it’s going to be the same for others who will find this interview helpful.

Follow Jean-Philippe on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

Listen to this interview on audio

Have any comments or questions on finding mentorship, please drop them in the comment section below.

Also check out a previous interview with TroTro Tractor.

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MARY ABIODUN

MARY ABIODUN

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Techie. Writer. Mentor. Developer. Teacher. Editor. Entrepreneur. Technical Writer. Consultant at marykeenconsult.com