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Leathersellers’ Mentor Programme

Harriet and Ayomikun

07 March 2024
Reading time 4 mins

Q&A with Liveryman Harriet Stewart with insights from Ayomikun Bolaji, recipient of a Leathersellers’ Foundation student grant, on their experience of being part of the Leathersellers’ Mentor Programme.

I found that having a mentor changed how I internalised advice. It was quite different from how I approached my relationships with other adults in my life, i.e. parents or lecturers.

Having a mentor meant I had someone who had my back. Someone who has been through what I have been through. Someone capable of guiding me through specific hurdles I was facing as they have also faced something similar. It meant having someone who could rejoice in my success, see my progress and open me up to more and more opportunities.

It’s no secret that computer science is a male-dominated field, so having another woman in tech to speak to has been both encouraging and insightful.”

Ayomikun Bolaji

What is the Mentor Programme?

The Mentoring Programme is a way to connect the diverse range of professionals in the Leathersellers’ Company’s membership and alumni network with students who are receiving support from the Leathersellers’ Foundation. But it’s not just about helping students, it’s a co-developmental process where both participants get something out of it. The Leathersellers have a unique platform to connect people at different places in their careers and I was interested to see how I, as a member, could contribute.


What’s your professional background?

I’m a creative technologist and educator. I’m currently Co-Founder and Co-CEO at Mind over Tech. I’m increasingly aware of the less positive side of the relationships we have with technology and how our habits have changed. I enable people and companies to help individuals and families with that relationship.


How does mentoring work in practice?

The Leathersellers provided training, which covered things like safeguarding and how to get the most out of the experience. We had our first call in September 2022 and have had six sessions since, four online and two in person in Oxford and London.

We shared a bit about ourselves and discussed expectations in our first chat, the baseline of which was to be punctual and agree an agenda beforehand. In terms of objectives and knowing how much to encourage and challenge, we set SMART goals. One of Ayo’s was to go to two networking events, which encouraged her to leave her comfort zone. Building networks was also something I knew I could help her with


What did Ayo find useful?

Ayo found it useful to seek and receive advice from someone who isn’t an authority figure. Someone who is impartial and interested at the same time. She was keen to learn more about my career journey in tech and how a broader view of technology could help when looking for a career path; mine has been a somewhat random assortment from freelancing to teaching, and because of this I know start-ups, founders, and also big tech companies. I set up calls with dozens of people to speak with her and noticed a shift in her confidence and outlook during this time. It was a joy to recognise and feed this back to her.


What have you got out of the process?

From my perspective it’s been amazing. I’m very curious about Gen Z and how tech is influencing people’s lives, so it’s been interesting to see her views on various aspects of technology and computing.

In my current job, I have three mentors and want more! What I like about mentors is that they push you to act. In some way you repay their goodwill and time by honouring the commitment to put yourself forward for the things the mentor recommends and sends your way. It’s another level of accountability.

One thing that genuinely interested me about the Leathersellers was that I had access to members, people and partners associated with the organisation and its work. I never truly understood the benefit of this until I was part of the Mentor Programme, and I would definitely encourage others to explore the opportunity if it’s available. If done right, it has incredible value.

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