Here are some concrete examples where reverse mentoring has helped us expand our portfolio of offerings and, in some cases, even helped us be better corporate citizens:
- Our team mentored us on the various techniques to adopt in accessibility testing recently, which gave us a chance to brainstorm various programs with team members. As an outcome, we have engaged visually impaired people to provide realistic accessibility feedback to our clients, which they are finding very useful. Besides the product value this initiative adds, we are proud of creating job opportunities for the visually impaired in the software testing discipline.
- Our team’s mentoring in the areas of security testing and automated compatibility testing has forced us to invest more in these areas, including a focused R&D effort and a dedicated lab, which is empowering the team to perform better.
One may ask, “What are the challenges of implementing this program?” and “Can’t all of this be done at a project level or even an all-hands meeting?”
Like any other initiative, reverse mentoring is not free of implementation challenges. As a team, you need to be committed to succeed in this program and not use the mentoring meetings to whine or complain about other individuals. If the mentors do have such feedback, use other modes and programs to share this feedback with the management. Once you build such objectivity into the program and a sense of trust has been established amongst all entities, including the mentor’s hierarchy of managers, the trust becomes unshakeable and will be a guiding pillar in the program’s success. Also, although other meetings can be convened to encourage knowledge sharing, by design they do not help reap all the benefits described above. So, while all-hands and team meetings are valuable in their own rights, when you implement the reverse mentoring program with the specific goals outlined above, it has its own benefits to offer.
In a nutshell, the goal of this program is to promote a positive impact for all entities—be it your management team, your employee base, the organization at large, or, indirectly, even your clients. The positive energy is viral, and you will be one happy organization about how contagious it is! Reverse mentoring is not rocket science and it can be easily replicated in an industry, domain, or organization of any scale. Gaining the support and trust of your entire organization will make this program withstand the test of time, and you can continue to improve on it with every passing year to make it even more meaningful and valuable to you and your organization.