Why did I want to be a mentor? First of all, I wanted to help a female newcomer to break into the Finnish tech industry.
Why I did it?
As part of Tieto's giving back initiative, Tieto employees have been able to use some of their working hours for charity. In Autumn 2018 I participated in the workshops to help refugees and asylum seekers to develop their digital skills. It felt meaningful and once I heard about the mentoring program organized by Startup Refugees and Tieto, I immediately applied to the role of a mentor. Why did I want to do that?
First of all, I wanted to help a female newcomer to break into the Finnish tech industry. Only about 25% of our employees are female and I believe our business and the whole industry would benefit greatly if the situation were more balanced. Additionally, I have learned that the female refugees and asylum seekers have even harder conditions than male refugees when it comes to finding a job in Finland, so I wanted to smooth the road for at least one female talent.
Second, I have lived abroad in China and Egypt and I know how hard it can be to adapt into a new culture especially when you don’t speak the language. I wanted to give back and it was made easy by Tieto as I could use my working hours for the charity work.
Expectations vs. reality
Startup Refugees picked highly educated newcomers to participate in the mentoring program, so I had certain expectations for my mentee. Luckily my mentee Sara had an Engineering degree from Libya and she was very determined and motivated. There was some language barrier but fortunately I am familiar with the Arab culture so the communication was smooth nevertheless.
In the beginning of the program we set some goals together. The challenge was that Sara does not have her residence permit yet, so we could not take some actions that I would have liked to take (such as apply for jobs). However, we were able to draft a couple of different paths for her to take with two subsequent goals – the first is to find a good job in tech industry and the second ultimate goal is to complete a master’s degree in Engineering and work as an Architect in the Construction industry.
I learned during the process that it’s not that easy to find a good job or study in Finland when you don’t know the language, it takes a lot of small steps to achieve the end goal. We also made some smaller things together, such as created a LinkedIn profile and video CV, polished her resume and I also gave some tips for the everyday life in Finland. We met about once per month for two hours and then sent some emails in between our sessions.
Sometimes I explained some cultural differences between Finns and Arabs and we got a few good laughs about those. It’s up to each mentor-mentee pair what they want to do and talk about. I and my mentee are both determined and ambitious so we achieved a lot during the spring, given that she arrived in Finland only last Christmas. I would have liked to be able to help her out even more but I, as a mentor, had to accept that the process will take time and I can’t do things for her.
Advice for future mentors
My advice for the future mentors is that it is beneficial to think in advance what kind of mentee would be a good match and then write it in the application. That worked very well for me, I believe my experience could have been a lot different and less fruitful if I didn’t state my expectations and wishes in the application phase. I definitely recommend everyone to take part in these kind of volunteering programs – It feels good to do good!
The mentoring program is part of Tieto’s #Wecare -campaign. Read more about the initiative.
Senja has a long experience as a Project manager and she recently started working as a Customer Lead for eCommerce customers. Senja has a business degree and her favorite hobbies are real estate investing and scuba diving.