Today’s digital and online technology can give mentoring a boost by making it easier to communicate and offer just-in-time advice. Mentoring is described as a seasoned expert guiding a newbie, and it is the oldest form of training; but some companies are finding ways to take mentoring to the next level with digital and online technology.
This is the journey of two smart and technology-driven Ghanaian women, Mrs. Phyllis Kuenyehia, the founder and CEO of KonneKt Xperience, a Ghanaian-based professional mentoring platform, and an expert in human capital development; and her partner, Geraldine Mensah-Dartey, a Data Scientist who loves to tell stories with data.
KONNEKT Xperience, with its personalised programmes, seeks to develop its fellows in their educational journeys, career development and management, emotional and psychological wellbeing, and relationship/networking.
The founder and CEO, Mrs. Kuenyehia, stated in an interview that the KonneKt Xperience is unique because their mentors hold the mentee’s hands through his/her most difficult challenges and deepest fears, and develop unique strategies that can be turned into tools that yield extraordinary results in any area of their lives. She said, “KonneKt is showing the way to…”.
“Mentorship is considered an important training and development tool” (Veale and Wachtel, 1996). The term ‘mentoring’ has its origins in Greek mythology. Odysseus entrusted his house and the education of his son to his friend, Mentor, saying to him “tell him all you know”.
In 21st century terms, this is an excellent way of looking at mentoring. Telling someone all you know is a brilliant way of exchanging knowledge and experience; but Baugh and Sullivan (2005) caveat that when mentoring relationships are good, they are very, very good and produce “beneficial career outcomes to mentors and protégés as well as to the organisations in which they take place”.
The Sunday Webinars: Mentorship without Borders
When Mrs. Kuenyehia relocated from the United States of America in 2015, she discovered from several of her training engagements that the students and young professionals she interacted with, the millennials, are different…just as they are in the US.
They are tech natives and trust technology implicitly, and it often seemed they cannot function without their smartphones, headphones and apps – but they really do not care how these devices work behind the scenes if they serve their purpose. She told a source she then got an idea that today’s digital and online technology could give mentoring a boost by making it easier to communicate and offer just-in-time advice to these amazing millennials, to look at situations more holistically and dig for a deeper level of understanding.
She worked with the idea that “the great advantage of technology in mentoring is it allows you to take the old principle of providing guidance and hone it further to answer the exact question the mentee has at the exact moment the need arises” (Margery Weinstein). This was what started KonneKt World.
Mrs. Kuenyehia founded KonneKt World as a learning institution to help college students, employed and unemployed graduates develop pathways to successful leadership careers in Ghana, irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds – especially as existing mentoring approaches and guidelines at the time in Ghana were geared toward high-income community settings, without considering in detail the differences in resources, culture, and structure of educational systems for low- to middle-income community settings.
To address this gap, Mrs. Kuenyehia set out to develop a free virtual webinar series on Sunday evenings, which she nicknamed ‘mentorship without borders’, targetting all college students, college grads and young adults already in the workforce. The virtual webinars were organised from the capital city of Accra, and hosted renowned industry leaders from the banking, sales & marketing, manufacturing, information technology, oil and gas industries.
There was heavy marketing support for the webinars on most social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, and the webinars became a delight to the millennials – young people aged 18-35 who were hungry for success and career development. Though these webinars were on specific functional business areas, the focus was on leadership and entrepreneurship. Meeting participant numbers grew to over 150 each Sunday, and sometimes meeting capacities had to be restricted.
As the Sunday webinars continued to gain popularity, especially, young people from different countries in Africa participated. There were participants from Nigeria, Liberia, South Africa and Sierra Leone. These webinars became mentoring without borders. Today’s digital and online technology gave the Sunday webinars a boost by making it easier to communicate and offer just-in-time advice.
The excitement and hunger for more professional development activities by the millennials drove Phyllis Kuenyehia and her Data Scientist partner and big sister, Geraldine Mensah-Dartey, to create KonneKt Xperience – a mentoring platform backed by a software with a complex algorithm for matching mentees to mentors, accessed by subscription to manage the huge number of registered webinar participants on the Sunday webinars who were in their database. The team wanted to:
- Create a structure to speed up the mentoring process.
- Put people together without considering how they look but share the same career development preferences.
- Avoid homogeneity, if users only lean on people they feel comfortable with.
- Encourage cross-gender, ethnic, generational diversity to build a sense of community.
Some of the experienced members volunteered to be mentors, which made the idea of small-group mentoring easier…and in some cases allowed one-on-one mentoring.
Mentoring Industry in Ghana
You’d think many mentorship programmes in Ghana would be using software applications to run their mentoring programmes, especially now that many businesses are virtual, as participants can be matched and communicate via a platform.
Unfortunately, the mentorship industry in Ghana has not evolved with technology yet, except a few programmes sponsored by multinational companies and which are exclusively for their employees. There have been some attempts at forming learning and development (L&D) online projects by non-governmental and development agencies, but they realised that while there are many benefits to online mentoring, there are many challenges that come with virtual programmes as well.
One common issue was communication – due to the constraint of less than 50% of Ghanaians (a population of 31 million) not having access to reliable Internet. Ghana’s government and telecommunication companies are on a mission to improve access to the Internet. Patchy coverage and high costs are holding back digital participation (#Speakup Barometer – Ghana).
Mentoring in Ghana is done predominantly in the old-fashioned way; it is a very vague platform, unstructured and unorganised. Most mentoring companies have not digitalised their processes. On the other side of the spectrum is KonneKt Xperience, more development-driven, tech-savvy, looking not just at the mentee’s current job function but beyond, and taking a more holistic approach to career development.
Innovation with Technology
The KonneKt Xperience programme became a formal mentoring relationship characterised by its intentionality, with a business model of potential mentees applying by subscription as an individual or as a group. The mentoring relationship is then created by matching the mentee with a mentor by a matching algorithm. The matching is based on areas of interest, career preferences and personality traits.
Phyllis and Geraldine realised from the onset that good mentors’ recruitment and selection would be key to success of the programme, and so a comprehensive mentor recruitment process was creatively developed with assistance from their network of human resource practitioners. Like many digital talent and career development programmes, KonneKt Xperience comes with a lot of benefits as it is facilitated by the KonneKt XP software:
- Mentors and mentees no longer had to be in the same country or continent. This means a larger mentor pool for mentees to choose from, offering a larger range of specialties and knowledge.
- Mentee-mentor matching algorithm in the software optimizes the mentor pool for the mentee’s specific goals and objectives. This means the relationship can focus on exactly what the mentee needs.
- The KonneKt XP system gives mentors and mentees the opportunity to send messages, schedule meetings, and plan their meeting agenda. These features are helpful especially if the mentor and mentee are in different time zones, so that they can stay connected.
- The mentoring curriculum also prepares mentors and mentees to create goals and track their progression. This helps the organisation measure the success of the mentoring programme.
- Many of the millennial mentors and mentees have less access to laptops compared to smartphones, and prefer using the mentoring app on their phones.
Technology took the manual management of the programme out of the mentoring programme, so that the organisation, mentors, mentees and admin teams would focus on the goals at hand, making digital transformation of the programme a good investment. “I wish we’d done it years ago, because it saves so much time and effort,” says Phyllis to her Data Scientist partner, Geraldine
“You have been matched…Why KonneKt?”
- KonneKt World trains, coaches and mentors college students, recent graduates and professionals to develop their careers into leadership. One of our important areas of focus is developing recent female STEM graduates and young professionals in entrepreneurship and leadership.
- KONNEKT Xperience holds your hand through your most difficult challenges and deepest fears.
- KonneKt Xperience helps you develop unique strategies which can turn your challenges into tools that yield extraordinary results in any area of your life.
- KonneKt Xperience is designed to help its mentees expand their knowledge and skills, gain valuable advice from subject matter experts to build their professional networks.
- KonneKt Xperience is a Mélange of Perspectives
- KonneKt Xperience is a Global Affair
- KonneKt Xperience is a Trusted Expert Network
- KonneKt Xperience is an interactive and comprehensive community
- KonneKt Xperience is a structured, customised mentoring relationship
- KonneKt Xperience is an opportunity for one-on-one coaching
- Weekly webinars that host global and industry subject matter experts.
Phyllis Kuenyehia is Human Capital and Workforce Development Strategist at KonneKt Advisory, a firm she founded. Phyllis designs and offers specialised workshops, coaching and talent development programmes that address the needs and pain points of professionals, organisations, businesses and educational institutions. Her training programmes cover various disciplines across all industries.
Phyllis’ career experience ranges from roles in Investment Banking with Morgan Stanley, New York. She has worked at major financial services and investment brokerage institutions such as Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments in Washington D.C. She started her career at Barclays Bank, Ghana. Before her relocation back home to Ghana, she worked as a Senior Network Engineer at The Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. USA.
Phyllis runs a structured comprehensive global mentoring, professional development and career coaching programme called KonneKt Xperience that leads students and professionals on the path to discover their authentic career paths as well as living fulfilling lives. Through the programme, she connects mentees to more experienced professionals, industry experts, resources and job opportunities. The programme offers its members a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction.
She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Banking and Finance from Central University, Accra – Ghana, and an MBA in International Business & Finance from Point Park University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – USA. She is married with two sons.
Geraldine Mensah-Dartey is a Data Scientist focusing on Insight Enablement for Commercial Strategy and Analytics at Cardinal Health in Dublin, Ohio, USA. She has an extensive background in managing cross-functional business operations and technology projects. She is an analytical and a conceptual thinker, who effectively partners with senior managers to assess opportunities, facilitate strategic decisions, and drive successful implementations.
Geraldine is heavily involved in professional development training and mentoring, and a partner in the KonneKt mentoring programme.
She is an alumna of the School of Engineering, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, with a BSc (Hons) Chemical Engineering. She has an MBA (Marketing) from the University of Leicester, UK, and is a graduate of the Harvard Business School, Business Analytics Programme, Boston, Massachusetts. She loves to tell stories with data, and in her free time she loves to cook and mentor younger professionals in her community. She lives in Grove City, Ohio, with her beautiful daughter Baffoa.