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What's the deal with Mentoring? Find out from OneUpOneDown


Introducing Natalie Robinson, founder and CEO of Mum’s Garage and OneUpOneDown, and general go getter!

At Mum’s Garage, Natalie is supporting founders to turn their ideas into uniquely valuable products and services. Her philosophy is to teach people small steps in the right direction over a long period. At the same time she provides great resources and a relevant community. A few of the cool companies she has worked with include Sharesies and Wise Boys Burgers.

Her latest venture, OneUpOnDown is a near-peer mentorship programme. Over a year, individuals who are not too dissimilar in experience are paired for three separate three month mentor relationships.

There are a few similarities between having a mentor and having a Board of Directors. A mentor’s role is to support an individual (mentee) in making the best decisions for themselves, whereas one of the roles of a Board of Directors is to support the CEO make the best decisions for the company.

Natalie, as the pro in what good mentoring can look like, we want to pick your brains! Why do you think a mentor/mentee relationship can be valuable? Natalie, as the pro in what good mentoring can look like, we want to pick your brains! Why do you think a mentor/mentee relationship can be valuable?


A mentor plays a number of roles (similar to a Board, particularly for a startup) depending on what the mentee needs at the time. They act as a trusted, experienced advisor, a sounding board to help the mentee make decisions, and can provide both contacts and resources to make taking action easier.

A great mentor is someone who has been in the mentee’s shoes before with relevant experiences they can draw from. This positions them to be able to ask insightful questions and share relevant advice to help the mentee as needed.

If you compare mentorship to other forms of learning and development, such as online courses, videos and podcasts, the unique value of mentorship is depth of the connection that is formed between mentee and mentor, and having someone who can meet the mentee where they are, even if they’re not sure where that is themselves! This type of relationship is engaging, creates accountability and drives action.


What should you look for in a mentor? What are the most common things people are looking to work on or have access to?


Whether it’s forming a board, finding an advisor or a mentor, I’d recommend looking for someone who has done what you want to do (e.g. started a SaaS business), and/or has a skill that you’d like to learn (e.g. communicating confidently and effectively) and has a network outside of your own.


In terms of personality, find someone who is open and self-reflective. This personality style is likely to be more aware of why they were successful or why they are good at a particular skill so they can provide more insights into the specific actions the mentee can take.

Popular professional development areas we see people seeking to work on are marketing strategy and implementation, business development, sales strategy & execution and management and leadership. For personal development areas, it is often around building professional relationships and connections, communicating confidently and developing self-confidence.


Any tips for our Host boards, or people wanting to mentor? What things can make a mentor effective and impactful?


Ask lots of questions to really understand what’s going on for your mentee. Do this before you start sharing your experience or advice so you can understand the parts of your story that will be most relevant and valuable to share. Less but better information makes taking action easier.

Be patient and appreciate that your mentee will take what they need from you, or what you draw out through questioning. The mentee is on their own journey and it’s important that they make decisions for themselves rather than having you tell them what to do.


Push through imposter syndrome and don’t underestimate the value you can provide as a mentor! Sometimes mentors can feel that they don’t have enough to give, or don’t have enough experience to be a mentor. We’ve had cases of mentors being unsure of whether they added any value, while the mentee found the experience life changing. Giving great advice often doesn’t feel as profound as receiving it. The mentor may be sharing knowledge that is obvious for them, but for the mentee, it’s game-changing. So my advice here is to not underestimate yourself and the value showing up in a mentor capacity can provide for someone else who is yet to experience what you have experienced.


And the flip side? How might OnBoard Observers or mentees in general get the most out of a mentor relationship?


Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, and don’t assume that other people are too busy or too important to answer them. Most people love sharing their knowledge and experiences with others who appreciate it.


Ask great questions, listen, apply the advice and then share your results with the person who gave you the advice. This is an excellent way to indirectly develop a mentor relationship. It is a great way to develop meaningful relationships full stop.

Good questions are ones that uncover some uniquely valuable information from the person being asked. These types of questions are valuable for both the mentor and mentee. The mentee learns something remarkable and the mentor realises they know something remarkable. It’s win-win.

A mentor plays a number of roles (similar to a Board, particularly for a startup) depending on what the mentee needs at the time. They act as a trusted, experienced advisor, a sounding board to help the mentee make decisions, and can provide both contacts and resources to make taking action easier.

A great mentor is someone who has been in the mentee’s shoes before with relevant experiences they can draw from. This positions them to be able to ask insightful questions and share relevant advice to help the mentee as needed.

If you compare mentorship to other forms of learning and development, such as online courses, videos and podcasts, the unique value of mentorship is depth of the connection that is formed between mentee and mentor, and having someone who can meet the mentee where they are, even if they’re not sure where that is themselves! This type of relationship is engaging, creates accountability and drives action.


What should you look for in a mentor? What are the most common things people are looking to work on or have access to?


Whether it’s forming a board, finding an advisor or a mentor, I’d recommend looking for someone who has done what you want to do (e.g. started a SaaS business), and/or has a skill that you’d like to learn (e.g. communicating confidently and effectively) and has a network outside of your own.


In terms of personality, find someone who is open and self-reflective. This personality style is likely to be more aware of why they were successful or why they are good at a particular skill so they can provide more insights into the specific actions the mentee can take.


Popular professional development areas we see people seeking to work on are marketing strategy and implementation, business development, sales strategy & execution and management and leadership. For personal development areas, it is often around building professional relationships and connections, communicating confidently and developing self-confidence.

Any tips for our Host boards, or people wanting to mentor? What things can make a mentor effective and impactful?


Ask lots of questions to really understand what’s going on for your mentee. Do this before you start sharing your experience or advice so you can understand the parts of your story that will be most relevant and valuable to share. Less but better information makes taking action easier.


Be patient and appreciate that your mentee will take what they need from you, or what you draw out through questioning. The mentee is on their own journey and it’s important that they make decisions for themselves rather than having you tell them what to do.


Push through imposter syndrome and don’t underestimate the value you can provide as a mentor! Sometimes mentors can feel that they don’t have enough to give, or don’t have enough experience to be a mentor. We’ve had cases of mentors being unsure of whether they added any value, while the mentee found the experience life changing. Giving great advice often doesn’t feel as profound as receiving it. The mentor may be sharing knowledge that is obvious for them, but for the mentee, it’s game-changing. So my advice here is to not underestimate yourself and the value showing up in a mentor capacity can provide for someone else who is yet to experience what you have experienced.


And the flip side? How might OnBoard Observers or mentees in general get the most out of a mentor relationship?


Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, and don’t assume that other people are too busy or too important to answer them. Most people love sharing their knowledge and experiences with others who appreciate it.


Ask great questions, listen, apply the advice and then share your results with the person who gave you the advice. This is an excellent way to indirectly develop a mentor relationship. It is a great way to develop meaningful relationships full stop.

Good questions are ones that uncover some uniquely valuable information from the person being asked. These types of questions are valuable for both the mentor and mentee. The mentee learns something remarkable and the mentor realises they know something remarkable. It’s win-win.

What does a typical mentor-mentee relationship look like?

There are many forms of mentorship, both formal and informal. Informal mentorship is probably more common and might be someone like a relative, teacher or friend or a friend of a friend. With informal mentoring, there is no set structure or agreed mentor-mentee relationship.

Formal mentorships are often run through organisations or communities and tend to be more structured. Usually an organisation will provide suggested talking points, encourage a certain amount of in-person meetings and length of mentorship.

In terms of the style and how people like to run their sessions, at OneUpOneDown we’re finding more people lean towards a spontaneous style of mentorship, where the mentor and mentee work through the areas they’re looking for support with on an ad-hoc basis. But everyone is different and it’s hard to say what the best or typical mentor-mentee relationship looks like!

We are pumped to see that OneUpOneDown is live! We are always keen to hear about more start-up ecosystem initiatives. Tell us a bit more about how it all works?

At OneUpOneDown we provide a service to make and manage the mentor matching process. While we have a guiding structure and provide resources to support our mentorship matches, we ultimately leave it up to the mentors and mentees to decide how they would like things to run.

Our mentorship programme runs in 3 month cycles to allow for rapid learning and development, and we suggest our matches meet a minimum of 4 times throughout. We’ve found that most of our great matches meet every 2 weeks so they can keep up the momentum they started with and continue to be held accountable. We also know people are busy, so a lot of our matches meet remotely so they don’t have to use time commuting (and because we have sign-ups from around the world).

If you’re a woman who would like to be matched with a mentor, or want to give back by being a mentor, be sure to check out the website - https://www.oneuponedown.org/

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