MENTORING IN FOCUS
Building an Inclusive Entrepreneurship Ecosystem
on College Hill & Beyond
Being a great mentor for students isn’t always as easy as it seems. Having a breadth of life and startup experience is certainly a necessary foundation, but effective mentoring is rarely “simple nuts and bolts of advice.” What would you do in these situations? A student is experiencing personal issues dealing with gender, race, or socioeconomic disparities. You’re asked by your mentees to invest in their company. A student comes from a different culture from yours and maybe you can’t relate to or even help them navigate through their pain points. Student founders are starkly at odds over equity splits or decision-making structures.
Continue reading to learn more about our mentor and mentee guidelines, as well as links to videos and resources to help build our collective understanding of inclusive approaches to mentoring, teaching, and entrepreneurship practices.
NELSON CENTER MENTOR GUIDELINES
Volunteer mentors are individuals with extensive experience across various entrepreneurial sectors, from founders to venture capitals to lawyers and finance experts. Many alumni and friends of the Nelson Center volunteer their time to serve as a professional mentor, guiding students through their venture or personal entrepreneurial journey. Whether it’s through our venture support programs or office hours, students bring their challenges and difficulties, maybe possible opportunities, to a mentor for advice. Mentorship also creates an opportunity for both the student and the mentor that can continue to flourish after your time at Brown.
MENTOR SPECIFIC GUIDELINES
View your role as being part teacher, part venture advisor. The Nelson Center’s mission is fundamentally educational; feel empowered to serve as an instructor … one who often points toward answers, not just gives them. That said, you can dispense your knowledge and advice as you would to a colleague, with a forthrightness that might not typically be seen in a classroom.
Resist the temptation to take charge. Perhaps it goes without saying (given the first point above), but it is important that the student(s) and/ or venture be in control of its own destiny. While giving winning advice, recognize that you are not responsible for failures (or successes!).
Recognize that each students’ situation is different. We all come from different backgrounds and identities. It’s important not to assume a student’s identity or that certain resources, whether it be financial or social capital are available for each and every student. For example, a student may also have to gain income while also working on his/her/their venture and cannot dedicate as much time while in school or might not have the networks to raise capital from “friends and family”. We ask that you consider these, and other possible scenarios as you give feedback. Remember your story is not universal. Watch this video on diversity and inclusive approaches to mentoring led by Dr. Banu Ozkazanc-Pan. Some other helpful resources: The Key To Diversity And Inclusion Is Mentorship; U Madison Wisconsin Self-Assessment; Implicit Bias Test; Guide for Mentors.
Sharing contact info. It’s up to you to share your contact info. We recognize that you may meet frequently with entrepreneurs in and out of Brown, and may not have the time to schedule another meeting or even time to have email correspondence. Feel welcome to share your bandwidth with the student or venture you’re meeting with if they ask about contacting you again after the meeting. Be clear if you are open to other conversations, or if you’d like to connect again next time you’re on campus.
MENTEE SPECIFIC GUIDELINES
Preparing to speak with a mentor for the first time
Research: Before your meeting, take a little time to learn more about them (e.g., look at their LinkedIn or search their name and professional experience online). This will allow you to learn more about their background and skill set. Understanding who you are speaking with is a crucial component of mentorship. It provides context to your conversation by laying out an understanding of where the visitor is coming from.
Come prepared with a topic: We recommend that you have something (be it a challenge, question, or specific area on which you would like feedback) to share with your mentor. They are interested in getting to know you and are offering their time because they want to provide support and use their experience as a resource for you. Respect this resource by allowing them to offer guidance to your work.
During the meeting/chat
Introduce yourself. Be sure to introduce yourself and provide a brief overview of you or your venture. Keep it concise, but you can share a one-pager about your venture, a prototype, etc as necessary. This provides your mentor with a basic understanding of you, and what you may be working on.
Advice and constructive criticism. Receive it with grace and gratitude. And treat all advice strictly as “data points,” not gospel. Remember: “Nobody knows your venture as well as you do!”
Exchanging contact info. It’s up to you both. Though chats are typically a one-time meeting, if you would like to share your contact info, you may do so. Recognize that the visiting mentor may meet frequently with other aspiring entrepreneurs in and out of Brown, and may not have the time to schedule another meeting or even have time for email correspondence.
(More to come!)
Mentoring in Focus: Why Being Inclusive in Your Approach Isn’t So Obvious
with Dr. Banu Ozkazanc-Pan
As part of this session, Dr. Banu Ozkazanc-Pan, Professor of Practice and Founder and Director of the Venture Capital Inclusion Lab led an interactive conversation about becoming an inclusive mentor and shared examples of how we can better navigate the diverse social, political, and cultural nuances of our identities and experiences. Watch here.