Mentoring Month with Farah Mohamed
This month, staff at Prince’s Trust Canada (PTC) are sharing their insights and expertise on mentorship to highlight mentoring as an asset within PTC and beyond. Leading the discussion around mentorship with various staff is Febbie Shikongo, Manager of Mentoring and External Engagement at PTC.
Febbie recently had the honour of sitting down and having a conversation with Farah Mohamed, CEO of Prince’s Trust Canada, to learn about her mentoring experience, thoughts on mentorship and the role it has played in her life, personal and professional. Farah brings a wealth of mentoring knowledge and experience to the organization. Below are highlights from their conversation.
Febbie decided to kick off their conversation with a surprise lightning round of warm up questions, as an intellectual appetizer. I highly encourage you, the reader, to answer the questions for yourself as you follow along.
Q1. Dead or alive, who would you want as a mentor at this stage of your career?
Farah: Easy one, Nelson Mandela. I think he showed amazing strength, grace, and perseverance. A sense of justice for those who could not. And I think even in the worst of days, he still had hope.
Q2. Who would you rather...have as a career mentor, Barack Obama or Sheryl Sandberg?
Farah: Barack Obama, 100%. I think this is an individual who went after something he believed in. He made an amazing difference in the lives of not just Americans, but people around the world. I had the opportunity to meet President Obama in India as we were both speaking at a Summit. I've also met Michelle and I believe that they got into politics for all the right reasons. And they continue to serve.
Q3. Who would you rather have as a personal mentor? Oprah Winfrey or Nelson Mandela.
Farah: I would pick Oprah as a personal mentor because I think that she gets women in a way that sometimes only a woman can get a woman. Again, another person that poses great hope of making change. I think she's been very, very intentional about what she does with her wealth. And I've seen the difference that she has made in the lives of young African girls, which is incredibly important to me. One last thing I would say is that she has been a great example of the power of female friendships.
Mentoring Thoughts and Experiences
Q4. When you think of the concept of mentoring, what first comes to mind?
Farah: Sharing. The ability to let your guard down. Vulnerability (pause), to be open and transparent enough to fully embrace and welcome the exchange of receiving somebody else's guidance and help.
Q5. What is your personal experience with mentoring as a mentee or mentor?
Farah: I have a few actually, so as a mentor my experience has been lifechanging. I have the honour of mentoring a young woman who came into my life. I've seen her go from not having a voice, to finding her voice, to supercharging her voice and following her dreams, to attending Harvard. She now lives in a country that she didn't think she was going to live in, I've watched her blossom into an impressive young adult, achieving her dreams and soaring to great heights all while having a sense of humility and appreciation. I picked the mentor role because I learned a lot from her. I benefited from that relationship through experiential learning. It truly impacted me in the best of ways. And I gained a phenomenal friend.
Q6. One of our strategic plans as an organization is to position mentoring as a key differentiator in the charitable space, mentoring as an asset internal newsletter and our new mentoring software is part of that. What do you think would be a practical next step?
Farah: Mentoring should be accessible. I think that some people don't necessarily feel that it is. A practical next step would be to make it more accessible to all. Removing unnecessary barriers that limit people’s access to mentoring and increase accessibility for both mentees and mentors. Exploring different forms for mentoring, such as reverse mentoring. There's something to be said about being mentored by somebody who is younger, has half your experience, from a different background. It has been genuinely beneficial.
Q7. Globally where do you see mentoring going?
Farah: I envision mentoring as a truly global concept, accepted and accessible across cultures and hemispheres, across ages and economic barriers. I can see someone sitting in Toronto and being mentored by somebody who's beyond the Western Hemisphere. I don't have a crystal ball, so I don't predict a lot but the idea of mentoring being accessible globally just excites me.
Influential Mentoring Relationship
Farah Mohamed and Paddy Torsney
How they met
Farah met her mentor Paddy Torsney in 1993, during election season. Farah was 23 years old and fresh from a tour around Europe after graduating with a bachelors from Queens. That summer, Farah returned to Canada to find a promising job opportunity that she was expecting to land was given away. Following her parent's encouragement, Farah sought out volunteer opportunities to occupy her summer. Having just graduated with a political science degree, she was very interested in volunteering in the political arena. So, she went and met with all the different candidates and chose Paddy because she was 31 (relatively young) and full of amazing ideas and opportunities.
Key Learning: Paddy was Farah's first political boss and notably her most influential mentoring relationship helping to start an impressive career trajectory. Farah gained a toolbox of skill sets that equipped her to impact her community and advance her career. Farah said that the biggest takeaway from that relationship was a solid piece of advice she received from Paddy was that you can help somebody get in the room, but it's their job to stay in that room. Farah learned the importance of refined interpersonal and communications skills, how to be strategic, how to show up and when to show up and when you do show up, when to talk and when to listen.
Learn more about Paddy Torsney at https://www.ourcommons.ca/Members/en/paddy- torsney(566)/roles, or https://canadianlandmine.org/the-foundation/board-of-directors/paddy-torsney/
Fun Mentoring Facts About Farah
- True or False: Farah has been in 200+ mentoring relationships either as a mentee or mentor?
- True or False: Farah thought she would be a sommelier but then she was mentored by a politician who turned her into a political junkie and now she just drinks wine for fun.
- True or False: Farah met one of her mentors in an immigration holding center in Moscow.
To find out the answers to these questions, I highly encourage you to pop your head into Farah’s office to find out which facts are true and grab a sweet treat (wink).
"I never lose. I either win or learn." - Nelson Mandela.
Call to Action
- Check out First Generation podcast hosted by Farah Mohamed, available on Spotify and Apple Podcast features refugees and immigrants who have come to Canada.