Another Way to Mentor Her

By Bala V. Sathyanarayanan

Courtneay Delavalle-Jones and Bala Sathyanarayanan
Courtneay DellaValle-Jones (left) is a mentor to Bala Sathyanarayanan (right).

I have been privileged to have had a variety of mentors over the length of my career. Most of these mentors have been older and more experienced. I have sat at their feet (sometimes, literally) and gathered wisdom and insights that Ivy League educations could not have given me.

Mentors are a critical part of success, and not just in the workplace. In many cultures, young people are mentored by older individuals on parenting, family life amongst others. Ancient civilizations have documented an elaborate process of preparing future successors to take over from kings, aging or otherwise. These processes involved a lot of learning, mentoring and preparation.

I was uniquely privileged to watch my grandfather (lovingly called the Guru) mentoring his Sishyas (aka disciple, the modern day mentee). This was a daily ritual that I was used to seeing every day at my childhood home in India. As a young boy, I always wondered what his disciples saw in him that I did not see in my Granddad! They were soaking it all in from this humble individual who was so full of wisdom.

Last June, I was matched with a different kind of mentor through the Reverse Mentoring program created by one of our young professionals, Damilola Ashaolu at Xerox. My new mentor is a young lady based in Indiana. She also works for Xerox as a formidable member of our Global Delivery Operations. Courtneay DellaValle-Jones is younger in age and with fewer years of experience than I have but I have learned more in such a short time than I could imagine.

Sheryl Sanberg and her LeanIn organization’s recent call for more men willing to commit to mentoring women immediately resonated with me. While reverse mentoring means Courtneay is the official mentor in this scenario, I believe that mentoring is always a two-way learning experience. I commit to be intentional in seeing her grow and succeed as an outcome of this experience.

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An HR Hero

Bala Sathyanarayanan has received an HR Hero award from GetFive, an outplacement solutions provider. GetFive cited Bala’s strategic role in the recent split of Xerox into separate companies – Conduent and Xerox. He led the HR transformation team through the process of redesigning Xerox’s organization and go-to market structure.

 Here is my call to my peers, particularly to those worried about the dynamics of mentoring a young woman; how about turning the tables and becoming a mentee instead. Commit to learning as much as you can from the remarkable, less experienced and younger women in your teams. You will be surprised at how much you will learn and how your respect for someone of a different generation will grow. It will also give your mentor a chance to develop her leadership skills, and some boasting rights among her own peers.

Everyone must have the humility to learn and keep learning. There is so much we can teach each other- but first we must be willing to learn.

From the editor: Bala V.Sathyanarayanan is a Xerox executive. This article was first published on LinkedIn Pulse.

Follow Bala Sathyanarayanan on LinkedIn.

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One Comment

  1. Tom Beatty March 16, 2018 - Reply

    Nice to see global firms continue to encourage mentoring

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