A Year in the Life of a WFA Mentor
What is it really like to be a mentor as part of the Women in Food and Agriculture Mentorship Program? This initiative supported by Alltech is in its second year and aims to support women who want to progress their careers in the food and ag industry by pairing them with mentors of any gender.
With applications for mentors and those who want to be mentored (mentees) open until the 31st January, we took the time to speak to one of our initial mentors, Suniti Mujumdar who is the Manager for Educational Engagement at Alltech, to provide insight into what it like to be part of the program and what she has experienced over the past 12 months.
[WFA] Hi Suniti, can you start by telling us what it was that made you apply to be a mentor as part of the WFA program?
[Suniti Mujumdar] I wanted to share career experiences – particularly about the unwritten ‘events’ of professional growth, building relationships and being your authentic self. I have learned so much from the mentors and mentees in my life. Their guidance and insights have been so valuable professionally and personally, and I hoped to contribute to emerging professionals in the same way.
[WFA] What sort of issues did you discuss in your meetings with your mentee?
[Suniti Mujumdar] The topics were a real mix. Areas included navigating the workplace, ongoing learning and how to apply this to professional growth, personal development, building relationships, preparing for the future and how to maintain well-being at work and at home.
[WFA] How often did you meet your mentee?
[Suniti Mujumdar] While I know many mentors in the program meet their mentors virtually, I was lucky my mentee was based close by. While the program only suggests meeting once a month, my mentee and I decided we would meet once per week for one hour. We designated a time and met at different locations – my office, a break room for a coffee, outdoors on a nice day, virtually or at a unique meeting room in the workplace. If the mentee wanted more time or less time, I would be flexible which I think beneficial if your situations allow it.
[WFA] What have you got out of being a mentor?
[Suniti Mujumdar] So much! I have had the opportunity to meet and connect with many talented people from around the world and also learn from them. The true joy of being a mentor is watching mentees grow and thrive along their career journeys. Mentors can be important role models and inspire future outcomes of budding professionals. To be ‘behind the scenes’ yet have a front row seat and watch someone learn, gain confidence, take on challenges and become who they are is a privilege and A a really humbling experience.
[WFA] What have you learnt about yourself through mentoring?
[Suniti Mujumdar] I have learned about openness, trust, resilience, letting go, patience, communication and the importance of authenticity and time. It is critical to be true to who you are and model that standpoint with a mentee. While the busyness of a workday can fill a calendar quickly, investing your time with a mentee and honoring that commitment is meaningful and makes a bigger difference than we may know.
[WFA] Why do you feel taking part in this program is so important?
[Suniti Mujumdar] Participating in this program as a mentor or mentee is important for inspiring future agri-food leadership. Often in a job, people learn by doing and through those actions, they grow careers. Sometimes people may have to do this alone and can feel lost or unsupported. Mentors have done a lot in their careers and have had to pivot due to industry changes, failures, public health crises, life events and more. They have experienced ups and downs. Mentors can impart an inside, practical perspective that can help motivate and accelerate a mentee’s pace or direction on her or his career journey. When mentees are ready to pay this forward, we create a sustainable mentorship cycle that supports talented people with diverse backgrounds to build a more inclusive and stronger agri-food future for the world.
[WFA] What would you say to those who are thinking about taking part in the WFA mentorship program?
[Suniti Mujumdar] Go for it! Mentorship, whether as a mentor or mentee, is a phenomenal learning and development experience that can be applied professionally and personally. The virtual format enables mentors and mentees to meet from and with anyone anywhere in the world. The program is a meaningful way to connect with an experienced or emerging professional who shares a passion for making a difference in the global agri-food community.