Customer Stories

Mentoring Entrepreneurs: Interview With EY Mentor Ashish Kukreti

For the past two decades, EY has supported entrepreneurs of all backgrounds – by recognising their incredible achievements through the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® programme, by standing beside female founders through the Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ programme, and by working with impact-driven entrepreneurs through EY Ripples, a programme that aims to positively impact one billion lives by 2030.

With an ecosystem of unstoppable entrepreneurs and an ambition to help them unlock their full potential, EY is new tapping into the breadth and depth of its global network to bring a new level of support to these entrepreneurs: mentoring.

Guider are delighted to support EY in this effort and to help match talented entrepreneurs with experienced business mentors from a huge range of fields.

“Entrepreneurs are at the forefront of innovating better answers to society’s toughest challenges. It’s exciting to connect early and growth stage entrepreneurs, and an EY community of world-leading entrepreneurs around the globe, to help accelerate their growth and impact.” – Jessie Coates, EY Global Impact Entrepreneurship Leader

Mentoring is an established method of career development with endless benefits for mentees and mentors. It can be hugely beneficial for entrepreneurs facing new markets and challenges, to be mentored by somebody who has experience in these areas, and who can pass down their wisdom. Everyone can benefit from mentoring, especially entrepreneurs, who are forging entirely new paths to create products and innovations that the world needs most.

One of those very people is Ashish Kukreti, COO of Little Ride, the pan-African mobility platform. Ashish will be serving as a mentor in a new mentoring programme that connects entrepreneurs from the entire EY entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The Guider team chatted with Ashish, from Nairobi to London, to discuss the programme so far, and his passion for sharing knowledge as a means to personal growth.

Hello Ashish! Great to have you as a mentor for EY-connected entrepreneurs.

Hi yes, thanks for hosting the programme and speaking with me! EY approached me based on my background and engagement with startups, and asked me if I wanted to be part of the programme. And, from there, I immediately went in the mode of mentorship!

It’s very rare that people have the possibility of meeting someone they could call a mentor. I found myself in this situation at the beginning of my career, and I thought – “Ashish, if you can find a way to give back and contribute, then you should be doing that”.

It’s a wonderful feeling. And surely it brings a big transformation value to someone’s life, someone who is seriously looking for it.

It’s really a wonderful experience for me as well, and I feel great about it.

A picture of Ashish Kukreti smiling on video chat

Often the benefits of mentoring are mainly associated with the mentee – but what are the benefits for the mentor?

When you tell someone else how to do something, it makes you understand it more. It brings you into the inclusion of that thought. It also allows you to understand what is needed and how the science of improvement works for different people in different scenarios. In a nutshell, it makes you more enlightened to different perspectives.

For example, I could say “this is the way to do ROI”, or “this is the way you generate a product from one stage to another”. But when I keep talking about it and go into more and more detail, new things start to form. And with the right questions coming from different places and different people’s perspectives, the mentor also grows, just from understanding how people are doing trade or approaching problems in other parts of the world. And for me, that’s just a mind-boggling feeling!

Similarly, in the process, people also share an incredible level of detailed knowledge, that makes you even more enlightened, and excited. It brings you to the level of their sight, where you can focus thoroughly on the need of your mentees and from there you contribute toward their mission and goals.

Personally, I often interact with people, I love to understand people and work on things like how they feel and act during the different business situations. From there, I try to understand what I can do to help improve their performance or their interaction towards the customer, because that is the virtue.

Besides all that, I also feel it is imperative to ask and learn the right questions to find the real problem, as it then enhances your ability as a mentor and gives you heightened awareness. And for me, it is encouraging and enlightening.

From the sounds of it you’ve been a mentor for many years in many different corporate settings. Is this the first time you’ve used mentoring software?

Yes, this is the first time I’ve used anything like Guider, and I think the name suggests very rightly that it is a guider, it guides you, it tells you what to do, and how to do it.

It’s a very wonderful tool, especially for the mentees, because they know how to approach mentors and what to say at the beginning of the conversation. It also helps you to formulate the first email, which is the right approach.

I like the approach, I like the concept, and I think it is a wonderful product to connect people!

Find out more about how Guider worksGlad to hear! And you’ve already got a mentee in the EY entrepreneurial ecosystem – how’s that going?

I’m working closely with my mentee, we’re talking on many different levels about making improvements in areas she’s looking at.

My mentee has a very good business background and she is proactive in asking what insight I can give from my experience which might be fruitful for her business.

I think it’s essential for me to help her to achieve the things that can lead to her success. She selected me on Guider to assist her in tracking down the right experts and other needs for the business. In totality, it’s going very well.

A quote from global EY leader Stasia Mitchell

Amazing, and you’re based in Nairobi but she’s in London – so Guider has opened up a mentoring programme that bridges geographical divides.

Exactly, it’s a wonderful tool.

The best thing about Guider is that it guides the mentor and mentee through the mentoring process. You find yourself using a platform which is engaging you through smart stages or predefined actions. It’s dynamic, and sometimes it prompts you to move to the next level, as a reminder to get going.

In a sense, it allows you to move as swiftly as you can towards your next goal.

We’ve spoken about the perks, but what are some of the challenges of being a mentor?

The biggest challenge of being a mentor is understanding the problems and challenges your mentee is facing. It’s also important to understand what kind of relevance you have to that problem.

I’ve found that you really have to ask to follow-up questions. As a mentor, you should do question-answer rounds with your mentee, as it helps you to approach a solution very early in the process, which leads to great success for you and your mentee.

Moreover, knowing what is being asked is the challenge, and then answering it is not principally a difficult task. Any problem in this world surely has at least one or two solutions, but what is more important is that you know what question or problem you are solving is, and how you are going to solve it. It’s also important to be able to determine whether responding to a certain problem is even an absolute requirement of the mentee at that point in time.

These are some difficulties any mentors would find if they don’t truly understand the problem and what is needed from their end to contribute to a solution. Most people say you have to ‘know your customer’ and I think that’s the case with being a mentor – you need to know your mentee and understand their business.

Any other top tips for somebody interested in becoming a mentor?

If you have that feeling of wanting to support people and help to take them to the next level, you should mentor. If you feel that brewing inside you – a feeling of wanting to help people and improve their lives, to contribute towards their goals, then that’s really what’s required of you as a mentor.

It is a journey where you transform people and their lives by your thoughts and contribution. Once you are tuned to that level, then the next step is basically knowing the nitty-gritty, which you can learn from books, from different people, and so on, but first and foremost is that you have that attitude and that desire to help someone.

I’m excited to be part of this work with EY! I want to help people and improve lives, and in the process, I want to improve myself.

Graphic with a quote from Ashish Kukreti: "I'm excited to be part of this work with EY! I want to help people and improve lives and in the process, I want to improve myself.
Customer Stories

How EY and Guider are Making Mentoring Accessible to Young People

Launched in 2014, The EY Foundation is on a mission to reduce the barriers many young people face as they enter the world of higher education and employment. Those from low-income backgrounds are less likely to have access to career advice and social networks, so the Foundation has stepped in to help bridge the gap.

In addition to employability skills training, their ‘Our Future’ and ‘Smart Futures’ programmes pair young people with experienced mentors to guide them into the working world and help them secure employment.

Both ‘Smart Futures’ and ‘Our Future’ offer 2 weeks of paid work experience, 10 months of mentoring support, and a CMI level 2 adult qualification. Each programme gives the participants mentors to support them with skills such as communication, team leading, presentation and effective networking.

In the EY Foundation’s last reporting year (July 2019-June 2020) they supported nearly 7000  young people in their journey into employment.

In 2020, Guider has teamed up with the EY Foundation to bring easy, accessible mentoring to more young people.

David’s Story

David Adeniken joined the program in 2017 and was paired with mentor Alexandra Chan, a Cyber Security Associate in EY’s Managed Services department. Struggling between making the decision of entering the workforce and entering university, Alexandra helped him learn about the other options available and he elected to begin a degree apprenticeship.

Research by Upreach shows that state school students were less likely to have access to career advice at school, complete work experience, or have access to a network. Private school students were 45% more likely than state school students to have career help at school. The EY Foundation works to fill in these gaps by providing the guidance that motivated students, such as David, are looking for.

David was taught about building his self-confidence, being proactive, and was able to learn from Alexandra as she led by example. EY offered him the opportunity to tackle not only Mount Toubkal in South West Morocco, but the fundraising for it too, showing him that he can achieve anything he puts his mind to.

Mark’s Story

Mark sought out the EY Foundation as he needed job guidance. He was placed on a 2-week work experience position with a construction company. He quickly became part of the team, learning from other employees and his managers. His managers watched as he became more open, forthcoming and grew in confidence. With his new skills and new growth in confidence, Mark knew that he wanted to become a plumber and understood the journey he needed to take.

Many ambitious students such as Mark and David take on the challenge of building their future, seeking skills such as ‘job seeking’, ‘CV Writing’ and ‘networking skills’. The mentees had identified where they most sought help, and with the support of EY Foundation were able to get that boost they needed.

Research shows that 80% of jobs are found through networking, and private school students were 45% more likely to have accessed new jobs through family and friends, compared to state school students. This is why networking skills are especially useful for those from low-income backgrounds, who are least likely to have connections.

Guider and the EY Foundation Together

With Guider, the EY Foundation has been able to connect mentees and mentors virtually across the world. Giving young people access to a wider range of mentors than ever before. Guider simplifies the matching process and makes it easier for the programme managers to report on the impact of the mentoring programme.

  • Mentor Matching – The platform has a simple matching process giving mentors and mentees the freedom to select the most suitable partnership. This frees up time for programme managers to focus on providing the best experience for mentors and mentees.
  • Reporting – Manual reporting can be long, tedious, and difficult. Programme managers can see important data such as which skills are most sought after by mentees right on their Guider dashboard.
  • Learning Hub – The mentors and mentees are able to access a range of information and resources to help them progress in their journey.

The Impact

The EY Foundation found that 22% of the programme participants were worried about the impact Covid-19 would have on their work experience opportunities, and 46% were worried about the impact Covid would have on exams. With Guider, their participants are able to access mentoring and learning opportunities at home with minimal disruption regardless of lockdown.

In their 2019 to 2020 impact report, the EY Foundation found that:

  • 61% of the young people on the programme came from the top 3 most deprived postcode areas in the UK
  • 100% were on free school meals

However, as a result of the programme:

  • 92% of mentees felt that the programme improved their career prospects
  • 78% said the programme helped them decide their future goals
  • 76% were satisfied with their present job
  • 75% of employers said that the EY programme helped them understand the challenges many young people face.

It’s incredible to see what the EY Foundation has achieved over the years and the progress young people are able to make when given opportunities they hadn’t previously had.

We look forward to continuing working with the EY Foundation to bring simple, accessible mentoring to the employees of the future.

Advice for Businesses

Why Project Management Skills are Important for HR

The HR department is in charge of the most valuable resource of a company – people.

In addition, HR professionals have a wide range of responsibilities, such as finding the right people for the right position, training, keeping track of performance, making sure everyone is satisfied with their current state and much more.

So, when you think about it, HR professionals have similar responsibilities to Project Managers. For this reason alone, a person working in HR needs to have solid project management skills before they can advance their career.

In addition, new technologies and the current state of the world brought new challenges for the HR field. People work mostly from home nowadays, and business partners are more fond of video conferences than ever. While this complicates things, the right skills can help you face the change and lead everyone towards embracing the new way of doing things.

As such, today we will discuss why HR professionals should take a peek over the fence, in the yard of their PM colleagues and how some project management skills can be a career driving force.

1. Planning & Risk Management are Valuable Skills for HR

When it comes to careers in Project Management, the options are quite varied. After all, every industry needs people capable of managing projects and leading successful teams. However, the skills are quite similar, regardless of the industry.

At the base, the job of a PM is to manage the available resources (people in their team, equipment, software, other devices & tools) and budget, and make sure the established goals are achieved on time. Building on that, the PM also needs to keep track of each individual’s progress and make sure the team works as a whole.

On a more advanced level, project managers are risk mitigators. They keep track of the entire project, from conception to product release, and identify the problems that may hinder progress along the way. Once identified, a problem can be easily solved using the available resources and project management skills.

Now, as an HR professional, your job is quite the same, only at a bigger level. Your job doesn’t just extend to a team; you are in charge of taking care of the entire human resource of the company, from top to bottom.

Since HR professionals manage the human side of a business, skills like coordination, risk management, and delegation are extremely useful. Just like a PM, an HR manager has to identify the best people for available positions and carefully help them achieve success within the organization.

In addition, PMs are extremely good at planning. In fact, you can’t find a successful project manager who doesn’t have several plans weighing on their mind at any given time of the day. Furthermore, a plan made by a PM will include information (in detail) on the objectives they want to meet, the scope of each task, deadlines, budget and cost estimate, risk assessments, and a lot more.

And yes, highly skilled PMs will apply the same level of planning whether they are working on a new high-tech product or their shopping list!

HR professionals can use this dedication to proper planning to manage multiple projects at once without losing track of other duties. For instance, a well-structured planning system can help you better understand task priorities and act accordingly.

2. HR Projects Can Influence Everyone

Unlike a PM, the actions of HR professionals can have broad implications for the employees and the company owners. As such, their responsibility is several levels higher, and by default, a mistake will be more damaging.

However, a person with good project management skills can keep track of their actions and their implications. Furthermore, they will be capable to delegate efficiently and mitigate risks before anything major goes sideways.

If we take a closer look at almost any HR project, it’s easy to notice that the main goal is better workforce productivity, which in turn drives company profits. As such, the project doesn’t just affect a few customers. Failure will also affect the owners, shareholders, and other people involved with the company.

To avoid this situation, an HR manager should be able to:

  • Assess the risk of failure by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the people they coordinate. For this, you could run regular surveys to identify the biggest challenges the members of your team face with a specific project.
  • Plan solutions based on the challenges you’ve identified
  • Pay attention to the behavior of the people you coordinate in order to identify and defuse any conflictual situation. Also, if a conflictual situation shows up more than once, it’s best to dig deeper and identify the core reason (otherwise, it will keep happening).
  • Create structure. As an HR manager, you can use PMs talent when it comes to fragmenting large projects into well-structured steps that seem more approachable. Start by creating clear job descriptions, setting a  formal performance review process, and end with setting goals that fit your work style.

Overall, if you have a good grasp of the big picture (via proper planning and structures), it’s easier to identify unhappy employees or teams that don’t quite work well together. This way, you can diffuse the situation before it hinders productivity and brings a negative mood within the organization.

3. Change is Already Taking Place

In a world where the focus is shifting towards result-based work models (remote workers), the role of the HR department is quickly changing. A direct consequence is that employees no longer need constant supervision and care – they are more individualistic and can take care of these aspects themselves.

As such, progress is measured in accomplished goals, completed tasks, and delivered results. However, HR still needs to find ways to care for the people who work from home and to create cohesive teams with members scattered all over the world.

This is not an easy task and requires a combination of skills from both sides (HR and PM). As an HR manager dealing with remote workers you need an in-depth understanding of risk mitigation, budget management, resource allocation, project design, team leadership, communication, time management, and more.

Wrap Up

The new way of working and doing business is not just a fluke of unusual times. It’s a growing trend that’s here to stay and evolve.

As such,  skills and knowledge in project management will become extremely useful to any HR professional who wants to grow their career!

Guest Author: Sarilaya Cada.
Sarilaya Cada is a freelance content writer. She is interested in a wide range of fields, from project management, to education, to engineering.