Yasmin Ibrahim on the difference mentoring can make
Yasmin’s career has combined strategic and operations leadership with entrepreneurship and mentoring. She has worked in financial services for many years and led a corporate strategy team at American Express before shifting her focus back to the startup world, helping to empower female founders and providing entrepreneurial advice and mentorship to women. Yasmin is the founder of Desi Shack, a range of quick-service restaurants in New York.
She currently mentors startups at Rise FinTech Friday events.
Mentoring is powerful. It’s about taking your own experiences and learnings to help others achieve their own goals – in life as well as business. I've benefited greatly from the guidance of exceptional mentors throughout my life - the most impactful of which advised me through the lens of the intersection of my personal and professional lives. That's what I aspire to do with my mentees.
I’ve advised many women, some on the corporate ladder, others as founders, but the entrepreneurial streak is strong in them all and they share traits that propel them in powerful ways.
Many give voice to common questions and concerns, whether they’re about funding, networking, natural abilities or the practicalities of running a business. Pointing out that these thoughts are shared universally by their fellow entrepreneurs is often a big relief in itself. There is real power in communicating the shared experiences and challenges of the entrepreneurial journey.
Many female founders I work with are incredibly driven and somtimes predisposed to being too ‘heads down’, ploughing through the day to get work done and to deliver. There’s a big temptation not to come up for air, but that’s a mistake. ‘Heads down’ is necessary but it’s not sufficient. It’s vital to take time out to get involved in activities that grow you and your endeavours in the longer term. Strategising for the future, building your network, making and taking opportunities to share your passion – these are just as important as carrying out the day job. One aspect of it, and a question I put to mentees, is how to embrace their personal style and put this at the centre of their entrepreneurship. Founders and employees alike will benefit from figuring this out because the more they can use their innate skills, the greater their ability to control their future paths, whether through personal influencing, networking, career planning (in corporations) or any of the myriad of other undertakings women need in order to succeed.
A common theme I've seen among many of my female mentees (and I include myslef here) is a desire to 'check off all the boxes' before diving in. That may manifest itself in not applying for a position because they don't feel like they've met 100% of the requirements or not raising their hand for a new challenge, but the outcome is the same - we're limiting our advancement opportunities. Sometimes the only think holding us back is ourselves. Sometimes we should take that leap.
Although everyone has a different approach, I would share some simple advice with any woman starting out in any form of entrepreneurial scenario. You might be developing a fledgling startup, making your first corporate career push, or marketing yourself in new ways:
- Surround yourself with smart people and don’t think you can do everything yourself. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, and your decisions will always be better with other people’s input
- Grow your network early. It’s that heads-up/heads-down balance. However busy your life, carve out time for networking. Start doing this early in your career to make it a habitual part of your day, week or month
- Trust your gut and make decisions a little earlier. Thinking of leaving your role? Uncertain whether a particular funding route is right for you? Your head might not be sure but your instinct probably is.
- Challenge the stereotypes of what makes a great male or female entrepreneur
- Rethink the traditional structures of the work day. I've heard the phrase: the future of work is here, and I believe it. COVID-19 will break and disrupt working models for years to come, removing artificial barriers to productivity, unlocking a whole new world of potential for those who have always found that traditional working day challenging.
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