Mentorship as a Factor of Growth [An Exclusive Interview with Mary Abiodun]

10 min readDec 29, 2023

Full Interview on SheTalksTech.

Listen to the full session on Spotify.

An eye-opening interview on everything you need to know about mentorship and how to profit or benefit from mentor-mentee relationships.

SheTalksTech: What’s your thought on mentorship?

Mary Abiodun: Mentorship is a relationship and it is having someone who is where you want to be and is willing to help you get there — someone to hold your hands and say, I’m going to show you the way, I’m going to lead you to the right path to be what you want to be and get to where you want to go.

SheTalksTech: Would you say mentorship can really be a major factor for growth?

Mary Abiodun: Absolutely! It is a major factor for growth because when you’re in mentor, you’re dealing with people who are much higher there than you are. You learn from them and tap into their minds and brains. You are going to grow. Mentorship is a factor for growth.

SheTalksTech: That’s great. Mary, as an alumni of the WTEC’s MentorHer program, would you like to share your experience as a mentee?

Mary Abiodun: I was in the mentorship program in 2018 and that was the first time I was going to be part of any mentorship program. I got placed with a mentor. Her name is Tope Ogundipe. As at that time, she was a Director at Paradigm Initiative and I was pleased to have someone like her as a mentor.

During the period of the mentorship, she opened my eyes to certain things like work-life balance because she’s a woman in tech. I was always asking questions, “How are you able to do this, how are you able to do that?” She taught me quite a lot and I even have them written down.

Another important thing she taught me is goal setting. She was able to show me that she has done it in her life and it was possible for her. I tried it as well and it worked for me as well.

SheTalksTech: You’ve been a mentee. Have you at any point been a mentor?

Mary Abiodun: Yes, on several occasions, I’ve been a mentor at tech training programs where I had to teach web development/frontend development. My career started in tech. I was in software development earlier on.

I’ve been in situations where I mentored kids, people in secondary schools, even people in the university who wanted to move into tech.

I worked with tech training organizations and sometimes, there are assignments. I go through them and I tell them what to improve on, and many other things. That’s how we move when I’m a mentor.

SheTalksTech: Looking at the Nigerian factor, let’s take the Nigerian youth as a case study, how would you describe their reaction to mentorship?

Mary Abiodun: It depends on the youth. There are some youths who appreciate mentorship like me. And I’m very sure that there are other people like myself who appreciate mentorship.

Yes, there might be some who don’t know the important but I think when they know the value of these things, they can take it more seriously. It’s all about the education, the enlightenment, and letting them know that these things are important.

It’s a serious thing if you take it seriously. It can go a long way in your growth and in developing yourself. I don’t think it’s the Nigerian factor. I think it’s a matter of mindset.

SheTalksTech: Mary, I have a few more questions for you. To what extent is mentorship important? Is it worth going through?

Mary Abiodun: You know, mentorship is not just for one aspect of your life. You can have several mentors for different aspects of your life. For example, if you are looking to work on your physical health, you can have a mentor for that.

If you’re looking to deal with business and let’s say you’re a first time entrepreneur, you’re new in business. You definitely don’t know how to walk through that path. You’ve never done that before. So you might need a mentor for that.

Let’s say you’re going into education, you want to go for further studies, you’ve never been to schools abroad and you need someone who has been there before. That person is your mentor as at that time, when you’re ready.

Mentorship is really important because it can cut across every area of your life. Even for spiritual matters, you need a mentor. People’s pastors are their mentors sometimes. Just knowing that mentorship goes a long way helps you work towards it.

SheTalksTech: What would you say is the success rate of mentorship?

Mary Abiodun: It depends on the parties involved. Whether mentorship will be successful or not depends on both the mentor and the mentee.

There are times when people start mentorship and along the way, one or two things go wrong and they are not able to complete it. In that case, we can’t say it is successful.

But those who follow through to the end, who are able to make something out it are the ones we will consider successful.

I don’t have a figure or percentage to the rate at which mentorship is successful in the world or in Nigeria or anywhere but I know that if the parties involved are able to focus on a goal and achieve it, then that mentorship is successful. If not, it went otherwise.

SheTalksTech: Hearing how some elderly people will say that when they were growing up, they didn’t have the opportunity to be connected with different mentors, would you advise that mentorship should be part of the school curriculum?

Mary Abiodun: When people say when they were growing up, they didn’t have mentors around, it depends on who you refer to as a mentor. Parents are mentors in their own little way.

So, if you had a parent, in a way, they mentored you. You learnt some things from them. Just because they didn’t give themselves that tag, ‘Mentor’ doesn’t mean they are not mentors.

I know there’s a difference between a mentor and a role model.

A mentor is that person that will come and work with you one-on-one and you have a relationship.

A role model is that person that is afar off. You can read their books, listen to their podcasts, or any resource they have to learn from them.

These days, there are virtual and physical mentorships. You can enrol into some mentorship programs by signing up. From there, you can get started.

For the role of mentorship in schools, teachers are very important in mentorship in schools because they are the people we can refer to as mentors in school settings.

The educational system also have other programs that are infused into the educational curriculum. In these programs, people are brought into schools to come talk with students from time to time.

Some people might be willing to take on one or two or more students to work with them one-on-one. It all depends on the plan of the schools and what they are willing to do for the students.

Sometimes, schools also have the Guidance Counsellor. They can also act as mentors but I noticed that most times in schools, the Guidance Counsellor don’t have a close relationship with the students. But the schools can facilitate that program and help more students engage in mentorship.

One of the things I’ve noticed in schools is that most students in secondary school don’t know what to do after they finish. They don’t know what’s out there. They don’t know the courses they should take. A lot of people don’t know if they will find jobs if they take certain courses.

This is where mentorship come into play, where you can ask questions like: How did you do this? What were the challenges you faced when you were in school? How can I also overcome them if I find myself in these situations?

Mentorship is very important in schools and we can’t over-emphasize it.

SheTalksTech: How can we make mentorship more appealing for these students?

Mary Abiodun: I’m going to start with WTEC did during their mentorship program. Othe programs too can take a cue from that.

One of the things WTEC did for us then on the first day, which was the opening ceremony of the mentorship program, every mentee got a stipend to encourage them.

As at then, most people involved in the mentorship program were students. So it’s very possible that they didn’t have money to go see their mentors. You can use the stipends for transport fare to go see your mentor and learn. In a way, it helped.

Another way to support more people getting into mentorship is to make it interesting. There’s something about follow-up, ensuring that the parties involved are adhering to the rules of the mentorship. This also depends on the mentorship program.

If you don’t follow up, you don’t know what’s happening. WTEC did that for us. They were always checking up and at a point, you can even change a mentor.

If you find out that the relationship between you and a mentor isn’t working, there’s nothing wrong in getting another. It could be that your values or personalities don’t align.

These things happen, so you should be able to change a mentor at any time if you feel that you’re current mentor is not serving you well. Little things like this can encourage people to participate in mentorship.

SheTalksTech: What would you suggest to people aspiring to be mentees and mentors? What should they look out for?

Mary Abiodun: Most times, people usually think that a mentor-mentee relationship is such that the mentor is always older than the mentee. In some cases, it doesn’t have to be so.

The point I’m hitting at is mutual respect. The parties involved have to respect one another if they will make the most out of it.

Also understand that whoever is a mentor is sacrificing their time to come do whatever they want to do for you. You should respect that time as well. Don’t wast their time.

Issues might arise but let there be constant communication. There are times you can be given a task to do after a meeting with a mentor. It could be an assignment, research or feedback.

Not doing this is equivalent to wasting the mentor’s time. Everybody’s time is precious, not just the mentor’s time.

To fully maximize the mentor-mentee relationship, there’s nothing wrong in anybody pulling out if they feel like the relationship isn’t serving them. Openness is another key thing. Be open.

If it happens that the mentorship relationship has to end, don’t burn the bridges. This person might not serve you as a mentor now, maybe they could introduce you to another mentor or connect you in other ways.

SheTalksTech: You talked about not picking a mentor by age, that it’s not a major factor if the person has other qualities you’re looking out for. What other qualities would you suggest?

Mary Abiodun: Most times, a mentor has more knowledge than you in something you want to learn. Look out for knowledge, experience, the projects the mentor is working on (if you’re interested), or if they are working on things you would later want to do in life.

There are certain ways to reach out to mentors.

Social media is there to connect. You could go through someone who has a personal connection with your mentor-to-be, who can link you up. You can source for their contact and reach out.

After reaching out, if they say they are not willing to mentor you, it’s not by force. It’s probably because they have other responsibilities, or they just can’t take you as a mentee at that time.

Don’t feel bad about it. I’m sure there are other people you can find that will be willing to mentor you.

SheTalksTech: A major point I got is that you need to just reach out and not be shy. Fear, most times, can deprive us of so many opportunities. I’ve heard instance of people saying we don’t have enough mentors in tech. That might be true. But the ones we have, if you need a mentor, you should be able to reach out to them.

Mary Abiodun: Let me tell you something. There was a time I found someone who had five (5) mentors and I was very impressed. This person happens to be a UI/UX Designer. I was curious as to how he got 5 mentors at a time.

I decided to have an interview with this person and I have it documented on my blog. It’s on Medium. I have a Medium blog. You can check it here. This person reaches out to these mentors and they are willing to take him on.

It’s also a skill to be able to filter out what you need from the mentor.

SheTalksTech: It takes courage to say you don’t want a particular mentor anymore. I know you’re also a mentor. If a mentee decides that they don’t want you as a mentor, how will you feel?

Mary Abiodun: In that case, we will talk. I would also want to learn from you. There must have been a reason you don’t want me as a mentor anymore. I would need to get that feedback. It could help me in my next mentor-mentee relationship.

It could be an issue between us that needs to be rectified. For me not to make the same mistake with someone else, it would be good to learn from you.

These things are not hard. It just depends on how people take these things. It’s not a big deal.

SheTalksTech: Any advice on how mentorship can facilitate growth?

Mary Abiodun: If you’re a mentor, you should always put in your best and give your best to those who are your mentees.

They too could also become a mentor someday. There are certain things they would have learnt from you that they would be using too. In a way, they will be carrying on your legacy but you might not know.

If you’re a mentee, whoever is going to be your mentor, support them. Don’t make them feel like you’re a burden to them. Let them also enjoy the process. It should be an enjoyable relationship.

If we all put this in mind, we will be able to get mentorship to serve as a form of growth in all areas of our lives.

Full Interview on SheTalksTech.

Listen to the full session on Spotify.

Start a mentorship conversation in the comments or reach me by email or Twitter.

Twitter: @maryabiodun01





Techie. Writer. Mentor. Teacher. Editor. Entrepreneur. Growth Marketing