Throughout his career, Dennis has benefited from coaching and guidance that has inspired and shaped his journey. A moment back in January 2022 sparked Dennis’ reflection on these experiences as he learnt about the ‘One Million Mentors’ programme and decided to explore further. In this interview we read more about his motivations and aspirations as he takes his first steps on the path of this inspirational scheme…
In August 2021 I had an itch to do something for the local community and that’s been an itch I’ve wanted to scratch for some time now. Fast forward to January 2022 and I was reading my wife’s Red magazine that included a feature on New Year’s resolutions, which is where I first read about The One Million Mentors scheme. I googled it to find out more, and learned it’s a scheme with an aim to connect a million young people with a million opportunites through a mentoring relationship, to increase youth employability, support social action and break down social barriers. And I realised, this is exactly the sort of thing I’d like to get involved in.
I enquired and the programme sent me details on the time commitment and the process for becoming a qualified mentor, which involved 3 or 4 hours online training, reading, videos, Q&A and a two hour workshop. The workshop was with other ‘would be mentors’ and allowed us to engage in interactive scenario-based training enabling us to understand more about mentees, their motivations etc. I’ve now successfully completed the training and will be matched to a mentee based on our mutual interests, my personal journey and career history.
In terms of a time commitment it felt right for me. After the training, the scheme requires you to dedicate an hour per month per mentee for a 12 month period and I thought ‘I can do that!’.
Ultimately I wanted to give something back. I’ve been in industry for 40+ years and during that time, even in my early career (as a chef – not many people know that!), I had some great mentors who took me under their wing, taught me what they knew and passed on some great skills to me which I still use today.
Fast forward into my second career as a procurement professional, I’ve been really, really fortunate to have had probably 3 or 4 great managers who have been formal/informal mentors. I’ve benefited from their support working through issues or challenges that I was facing in my professional career, whether that was a project or a difficult stakeholder and getting advice on how to navigate that. So I’ve felt the benefit of being mentored. And because I recognise how I benefited as a young professional developing in my early career, when promoted to leadership roles, I took the same approach with my team members.
To be a successful leader you ought to be coaching or mentoring your people and I think you have a moral obligation to do that. That’s always how I have rolled and I enjoy it. It’s great to see the light come on when someone suddenly ‘gets something’, not because you’ve told them the answer but because you’ve challenged them with a question or encouraged them to think about things differently. That’s a great moment.
During my masters business degree I became very excited by psychology and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). There was one module I particularly enjoyed called Improving Personal Performance which focused on psychology in the workplace and, as the title suggests, the focus was on improving “personal” performance, through better understanding our limiting beliefs and how we unintentionally self-sabotage ourselves. NLP is the practice of understanding how people organise their thinking, feeling, language and behaviour to produce the results they do. I qualified as an NLP practitioner in 2017, and it’s something I practice through work. So with my academic and professional qualifications, combined with my career and life experiences, I knew I must be able to add something to young people’s lives who are keen to be mentored. I realised I could help mentees overcome some of the “stuff” that I was navigating at that age, and I thought, ‘why not dive into that and see where it takes me?’
When I think about my time as a mentee, the things that remain with me was the ability to bring anything to the mentoring conversation and having my thoughts benefitting from being challenged, but not judged. Being in a conversation which is free of judgement and where someone is actively listening, without a personal agenda, is very empowering. I’m hoping that the 1MM scheme will provide a space and time for judgment-free conversations.
There is always something quite rewarding when you’re working with someone and you see ‘the light go on’. Equally, as well, (and I’ve always maintained this throughout my own mentoring journey), when you’re mentoring someone, it’s always a two-way process. Not only is your mentee benefiting from the conversation, it helps trigger challenges in your own thinking. So if you’re open to it, you as an individual can benefit from it too.
Ultimately, I’m looking to see somebody develop, their confidence grow and achieve their career or life goals through the conversations I’ve had with them, a question I’ve left them to play with or maybe a gentle challenge of something they’ve said in a conversation. That will be hugely rewarding.
Dennis will shortly be allocated a mentee and his formal One Million Mentor journey will begin. We’ll catch up with Dennis in a few months to ask whether the programme is meeting his expectations and those of his mentee, and whether that itch has finally been scratched!
Dennis is a senior purchasing professional, with 30 years’ experience having worked across Aerospace, Financial Services, Pharmaceutical, Retail, Telecoms and Utilities. Specialising in technology sourcing, specifically in Software, SaaS, Business Applications, and IT Services. He is experienced in leading complex sourcing deals ranging from £0.25m – £100m.