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A growth opportunity for everyone: Mentoring newcomers at Delitelabs

Ewout Stumphius and Siddharth Paradkar are mentors in the Delitelabs entrepreneurship program. As members of the INSEAD International Alumni Association in the Netherlands, Ewout and Siddharth bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table – giving their mentee, Alexandra, valuable insights and tools on how to develop her business idea. However, being a mentor is also a learning experience in itself. We spoke to Ewout and Siddharth about why they volunteered as mentors, the benefits of mentorship (for both mentee and mentor), and the skills needed to be an effective mentor.


Mentoring newcomers: A uniquely rewarding experience

For Ewout, a Dutch corporate lawyer who recently retired as a partner in his law firm, becoming a mentor was “a tangible manner of helping people who need support.”


“It’s very much the coaching component of adding value to other people’s lives, careers, and opportunities,” he adds. “I find that fundamentally meaningful.”


With over 20 years of experience in the logistics industry, Siddharth had similar motivations. He tells us, “I got an email from the INSEAD Alumni Network that Delitelabs was looking for mentors and I put my name in the hat. This was definitely something I wanted to be a part of. I thrive on being able to share my knowledge and expertise with people who can use it and learn from my experiences and knowledge.”


While this was not their first time being mentors, both Ewout and Siddharth noted the distinction of mentoring newcomers, including refugees and asylum seekers. “They are really starting from scratch because they’ve left everything that they had,” Siddharth shares. “These are people that were doing well in their lives - they were working, they were employed, they were educated. But, due to extreme circumstances - many of them out of their control - they had to shift. The outlook for them is so different. When I think of the challenges I’ve faced, it’s nothing in comparison to the challenges and situations that these mentees are in. Hence, to be able to help them with whatever little you can, it’s a far more rewarding experience.”


The benefits of mentorship: Tangible takeaways & personal growth

At Delitelabs, mentors support mentees with a range of topics – from managing their business’ finances to navigating uncertainty to building more confidence.


While Alexandra gained concrete lessons from her mentors, like how to create a term sheet as a means to structure negotiations, the benefits of mentorship extended far beyond these tangible takeaways.


“One of the biggest advantages as a mentee is you get to learn from experiences that other people have had,” Siddharth explains. “It gives you a perspective of how somebody handles a situation. If I’m looking at the road ahead, I have a spotlight of my own that I can see but then the mentor can add more spotlights which lights up the path a little bit more and gives you a longer view of what is possibly lying ahead of you, without having to figure it out yourself.”

Ewout also cites Alexandra’s unique situation as a Ukrainian national who was forced to escape her country after Russia’s invasion. For Ewout, it’s important to “give Alexandra a landing structure in Holland.”


He says, “Alexandra left Ukraine due to the war in a split-second decision. Personally, I think that’s quite a formidable challenge for any person and people who dare to take on such a challenge deserve a lot of respect. I was motivated to offer my expertise to help Alexandra in gaining additional traction in her development. Seeing how quickly she managed to position herself in her new circle in the Netherlands over the past few months is quite spectacular as a young entrepreneur.”


Growing as a mentor: The power of listening

It’s not just the mentees who benefit from the mentorship program at Delitelabs. Mentoring Alexandra has given both Ewout and Siddharth the opportunity to learn and grow as well.


As Siddharth puts it, “The beauty of mentoring is that your mentee doesn’t have to be from the same background or industry as you. In the case of Alexandra, she comes from an architecture background - an industry that I have no clue about but now I get to learn about it. For me, the two things that I generally take away from this are learning more about people – how a person thinks, why they think that way – and learning about a new process or industry or sector. Lastly, but not least, mentoring allows you to then put perspective on a lot of things that you experienced and learned.”


For Ewout, mentoring has reminded him of the importance of listening. “As a corporate attorney, your primary task is to solve a problem and get it done. It’s solution-oriented,” he tells us. “Since joining INSEAD and Delitelabs, I’ve learned that there’s this other angle of asking questions and listening, triggering the thinking process and offering alternative insights. It’s a fundamentally different approach, and it is fun to see this at work with a talented mentee such as Alexandra.”

Siddharth adds, “Whoever your mentee is, listening skills are extremely important. You need to be able to listen and understand the input they are seeking and not color your own biases onto them. Listening is the most important aspect so you can understand the context and then be able to help them.”


A new way to integrate: The need for Delitelabs

The entrepreneurship program at Delitelabs offers a unique way for newcomers to “integrate” into the Netherlands and adapt to its culture – both in living and working.


“There is clearly a need for this,” Ewout states. “There’s a need for this type of coaching and networking and learning environment. It strikes me that the people I talk to as mentees are all driven by their considerable energy, entrepreneurial spirit, and inquisitiveness. As newcomers in an entirely new setting and often under difficult circumstances, the first need is to find your bearings and a social structure. The Delitelabs program offers access to learnings and a network – in combination with the INSEAD International Alumni Association in The Netherlands – and thus is a great first stepping stone for those willing to find their way in an entrepreneurial setting.”


In a program packed with core business fundamentals and ample opportunity for networking, Delitelabs provides newcomers with critical entrepreneurial skills and knowledge to build a sustainable livelihood in the Netherlands – and let’s not forget about the mentorship component. “Looking at the quality of mentors and the wide experience that the mentors have, it adds a lot of perspective and know-how, which then adds more to enrich mentees’ learning and knowledge as well,” Siddharth says. Written by Sophie Poulsen - Content Creator at Delitelabs

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