Mentorship In Tech Startups? Why Employees Need Mentors

The world of tech startups is fast and always changing. For founders to maintain their edge and employees to continue growing, mentors play a critical role. Here's everything you need to know about mentoring in tech.

Nick Saraev

April 11, 2022

When it comes to launching a tech startup, many unique challenges come with the territory. Many first-time entrepreneurs find themselves in uncharted waters and can often use all the help they can get. 

That's where mentorship comes in. A good mentor can provide invaluable guidance, support, and wisdom to startup founders as they navigate their way to success. Not only can mentorship help startup founders develop their business skills, but it can also help them grow as a leader and an individual. 

Are you wanting to launch your own tech startup, but not sure where to look for advice? Here's why you should consider finding a mentor, and how to go about finding the right one for you.

What is a startup mentor?

If you're familiar with our services and content – or, of course, if you've been mentored yourself – you'll know that mentorship is key to success in any field. Mentors provide wisdom, experience, and often introductions to people who can help you achieve your goals.

A startup mentor is someone who caters specifically to the needs of startup employees. They offer guidance and support, helping startup workers to develop their skills, grow their networks, and achieve their professional goals.

For entrepreneurs and founders, in particular, there are a number of challenges unique to startups, such as navigating chaotic early stages and scaling quickly. That's where startup mentors come in. They can help you overcome these challenges and improve your chances of success.

Mentors for founders

As aforementioned, founders and entrepreneurs can greatly benefit from having mentors. And luckily for them, there are many experienced entrepreneurs and executives who are more than willing to offer their guidance. There are also many organizations and government-sponsored programs that pair young entrepreneurs with experienced ones. 

The question is, which mentorships are best for tech entrepreneurs? According to a study published in the Ross School of Business journal, a few factors make for a successful mentor-mentee relationship.

  1. Mentor experience. The study, which tested how different factors impacted the success of mentor relationships, found that more experienced mentors most often led to better mutual learning outcomes. In that case, entrepreneurs should look for mentors with a wealth of experience in their industry.
  2. Growth mindset. Having a growth mindset is arguably one of the most important traits for entrepreneurs, and by extension, for their mentors. With this mindset, both parties understand that their current skills are not finite, but can be developed with effort.
  3. Approach to mentoring. While there were no recorded differences in outcomes based on how mentors approached their relationships, it's important to understand that different approaches may be more or less compatible with your own style.

Other studies suggest that mentoring CEOs and entrepreneurs can lead to increased innovativeness and productivity within the organization, depending on the quality of the mentorship. This points to the need for an accurate mentee-mentor pairing.

Mentors for employees

Type 'mentorship for entrepreneurs' into Google, and you'll be met with an overwhelming number of resources and programs available to anyone starting their own business. But what about employees? They need mentors too.

Mentorship in the workplace is often underrated and undervalued, but it can be an extremely important tool for career growth. Consider that many employees have not yet begun climbing the ladder in their field. They are at a crucial point to learn from those who have gone before them.

Employees are also required to wear many hats, especially in smaller teams, which means they may have less time to participate in formal training. A mentor can help fill in those gaps and give employees the tools to succeed. 

Additionally, we argue that mentors provide more value than corporate e-learning programs. Would you rather have focused conversations with a mentor who cares about your growth, or take a course? A course may be good to learn a specific skill, but a mentor can open doors and unlock new perspectives that propel you further in the long run.

So, where can employees find mentors?

There are a few different options:

  • Your company's leadership team can act as mentors. This is particularly beneficial for those who are just starting their careers and want to learn more about the company culture, the industry, and what it takes to move up in the organization.
  • More seasoned employees can mentor new hires in an onboarding program. Onboarding buddies are beneficial to new team members as it allows for relationships to form and for knowledge to be shared.
  • It can be greatly beneficial for employees with different specializations to participate in a peer mentoring program. Mentorship programs that pair employees with different backgrounds can help them learn new skills, discover new interests, and network with potential future colleagues.

No matter who the mentor is or where they come from, it's crucial that they are invested in the mentee's success. A good mentor-mentee relationship is a two-way street, with both parties sharing advice, feedback, and support.

Why should employees at startups have mentors?

Not every successful employee has a mentor, just as not every employee with a mentor has been successful. Even so, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that having a mentor is one of the single most important things you can do to increase your chances of success in any field, including tech startups.

So, why should startup employees seek a mentor? Let's run through some of the most important reasons.

1. Additional support

In the startup space, and tech startups, in particular, employees can quickly become drowned in a sea of new information. This can be both exciting and overwhelming, particularly for those who are new to the startup world. A mentor can provide additional support and guidance, helping employees to stay on track and make the most of their opportunities.

2. Source of knowledge

A good mentor is a fountain of knowledge and can provide startup employees with access to information and insights they would not otherwise have. This can be incredibly valuable, particularly during the early stages of a startup, when every bit of information counts.

3. Filling the support gaps

Entrepreneurs are people of many talents, but they still have limits around what they can do on their own. A mentor can help to fill the gaps and support employees when the entrepreneurs and founders are short on time or resources.

Clearly, mentors are important for employees in tech startups – but these aren't the only benefits they have to offer.

What are the benefits of having tech mentors for employees?

For many entrepreneurs, the idea of having mentors for their employees is a no-brainer. However, when the time comes to actually make it happen, it becomes clear that there are a lot of questions to answer. 

What kind of mentors should be hired? How do you find the right people to mentor your employees? And, most importantly, what benefits will both the mentors and mentees receive from this type of relationship?

It's a lot of work, and depending on how you go about finding mentors, it can be a weighty investment of time and resources. So, why bother? What makes the endeavor worthwhile?

There are a few key benefits that both mentors and mentees can expect to reap from a good mentorship program. Let's delve into each of them in a little more detail.

1. Employees have role models to look up to

One of the biggest benefits of having mentors is that employees have someone to look up to. A good mentor is a role model, an advisor, and a friend all rolled into one. They can provide guidance when needed and offer support during difficult times.

2. There's a support system employees can trust

In addition to having someone to look up to, employees also need a support system they can trust. This is especially important in the early stages of a startup when things are constantly changing and employees are under a lot of pressure. A good mentor can provide that sense of stability and offer encouragement when things get tough.

Statistically, startups are more likely than established businesses to go through rocky patches. In fact, only 1 in every 10 startups will actually reach success. 20 percent of startups fail in their first year of operation. With those kinds of odds, it's important for employees to have someone they can count on to help them through the instability.

3. Employees have access to career guidance

Another benefit of having employee mentors is immediate access to career guidance, advice, and insight. Experienced mentors have a lot of knowledge to share and can help employees navigate their way through tricky career decisions.

And these are not simply empty assertions – the research says it all. According to studies like this one conducted by Sun Microsystems, employees gain so much experience from their mentors that they are hired and promoted more frequently and are paid more than their non-mentored counterparts. 

4. Mentors expand employees' professional networks

In the startup space, visibility is everything. The more people you know, the more opportunities will come your way. This is where mentors really shine. By expanding an employee's professional network, a mentor can help them connect with other professionals in their field and open up new opportunities for growth and collaboration.

5. Access to resources and information.

According to the World Economic Forum, over half of employees are going to require training by 2022. As it currently stands, however, only 50 percent of tech employees are actually satisfied with the resources at their disposal for learning purposes. 

So, how can this be resolved? Mentors provide a way for employees to gain the know-how and hands-on experience they desperately need, regardless of the tech learning resources available to them.

6. Employees learn from their mentors' mistakes

Finally, having a good mentor is that employees learn from their mentors' mistakes. Experienced mentors have been down the road before and know what to avoid. They can help employees make better decisions and avoid common pitfalls.

So, there you have it – six great reasons why you should consider hiring mentors for your employees. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, but it should give you a good starting point for thinking about the benefits of mentorship in tech startups.

How to launch a mentorship program at a tech startup

While tech startups are vastly different from startups in other industries, they follow the same basic principles when establishing a mentorship program. Ready to establish one within your own tech startup? Let's break down the process, step-by-step.

1. Align on a goal for the program.

For any team effort to be a success, the goals of the program must be clear and concise. Everyone involved in the mentorship program should be aware of what's expected of them. 

What do you hope to achieve with the help of a mentor? Increased productivity, improved communication, or stronger team bonding? Defining and agreeing on a goal is essential before anything else.

One of the benefits of using mentorship software is that it can be moulded to fit the specific needs of your startup. If you're not sure what you need, speak to your team and see what they feel would be the most beneficial.

2. Promote the program.

Mentor-mentee relationships should never be forced; instead, they should grow organically. For this to happen, you need to build interest in the program by promoting it among your employees.

Promote the program in several ways:

  • Share your goal for the program and what you hope to achieve.
  • Highlight the benefits of having a mentor. These could be personal or professional growth, career advice, access to resources, and more.
  • Make it clear that mentors are not just for high-level employees. The program is open to everyone in the company, regardless of their position or tenure.
  • Send out memos and reminders about the program, and post information about it on your company's intranet or social media pages.

With a mentorship platform like Together, this step is made easier by sending out questionnaires and increasing employee engagement in the program.

3. Pair mentors and mentees.

The pairing of mentors and mentees shouldn't be randomized. Instead, it's best to take into account the goals of the program and match mentors and mentees according to their skills and interests.

An effective way to do this is by collecting information about employees, such as skills, experience, and interests. You can then use this data to match mentors and mentees according to their areas of expertise.

If you're using our services, the Together platform does all the heavy lifting for you with its powerful matching algorithm that takes all valuable information into account.

4. Provide meeting agendas and suggested discussion topics.

While mentorship seems like a simple concept at face value, it can be difficult to know where to start when meeting with your mentor. This is especially true for mentees who may not have a lot of experience in the workforce.

That's why it's important to provide both mentors and mentees with suggested discussion topics and agendas for each meeting. This will help keep the meetings on track and ensure that everyone is getting the most out of them.

You can use our mentorship program templates to guide pairings in the right direction and keep them on track.

5. Check in with members.

It's best to treat your mentors and mentees like plants. You can plant the seeds and leave them to grow, but you need to water and care for them if you want to see results.

This is why it's important to check in with your members on a regular basis. This could be done in the form of surveys, interviews, or even just meeting up for coffee. The goal is to ensure that the mentorship program is meeting the needs of everyone involved.

6. Track results. 

There are many reasons you should keep tabs on the progress of your mentorship program. It's a great way to show the effectiveness of the program, it can help identify areas that need improvement, and it can help you make better decisions about the future of the program.

The best way to track results is by using metrics. This could be something as simple as the number of mentoring sessions that have taken place, or it could be more complex such as measuring the impact of mentorship on employee productivity or engagement.

Establishing a mentorship program at your tech startup can be an extremely valuable way to encourage employee growth and development. Together's software helps companies run internal employee mentoring programs at scale, from registration to reporting. Our software ensures that every employee is matched with the best peer, mentor, or expert to learn from. Learn more about how to build a mentoring program that runs itself, or get started for free.

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