Career Journey Force For Good

Vassil Chomakov on the Hidden Power of Mentorship

Vassil is a software engineer at VMware with a passion for teaching and public speaking. 12 years ago he started at VMware as one of the five interns and mentees. Later on Vasil became a mentor and then his mentees became mentors. Today he has hundreds of colleagues who have been and still are a part of the process of paying forward skills and knowledge to younger and unexperienced colleagues. Read on to find out about the hidden power of mentorship.

Vassil Chomakov on the Hidden Power of Mentorship

What does it mean being a mentor?

A mentor is an experienced professional but being a mentor is not a profession. A mentor is an adviser and trust is the foundation of the mentor-mentee relationship. And the best part is that mentorship is beneficial for both sides.

What are the benefits of being a mentor?

Deepens and broadens your knowledge on your subject matter. There’s no better way to understand a concept thoroughly than to teach it. Furthermore our interns often work on innovative projects which require research, open mind and creative approach – their questions are not trivial and the mentors don’t have ready answers, so they need to dig deeper.

Develops your leadership skills. The trend today in the software economy is towards collaboration, knowledge exchange and working in extended global teams. Even if you are not a manager, but an individual contributor you are likely to end up leading a project or a group of people at some point. Mentoring provides an excellent training opportunity to start with one or two mentees and develop leadership qualities.

Develops your communication skills. This is probably one of the most important life and professional skills and mentorship provides an excellent opportunity to exercise it in a non-typical situation.

However, I discovered these benefits only after I became a mentor. My primary motivation was different. I wanted to contribute to developing the company and the industry. The software industry in Bulgaria grew out of nothing and now offers amazing opportunities to the people who are part of it – opportunity to work on big, exciting and innovative projects; the financial and social benefits are comparable to these in richer countries. The major obstacle to its faster growth is the lack of experienced engineering talent. Is spite of the growing number of engineering programs, there is a shortage of software engineers with actual experience. Bridging the gap between engineers with zero experience and engineers with experience is one of the goals of VMware’s internship programs.

Our internship program started in 2009 with 5 interns and in the last few years this number rose to 50 per year. We have hundreds of colleagues who have started as interns and are still with the company. Many of them become mentors.

On the hidden power of mentorship

I started at VMware in 2009 as an intern and still remember feeling insecure about whether I’ll succeed in a company that develops world-class innovative products. And I still remember how much my mentor helped me back then.

The hidden power of the mentorship lies in the network effect: if everyone shares his knowledge with a few people we create a network effect that has the power to affect hundreds, thousands, millions of people.

12 years ago I started at the company as one of the 5 mentees, later on together with my colleagues we became mentors. Later on our mentees became mentors and this tree keeps growing. Let’s make it bigger together!

See Vassil’s speech on the Hidden Power of Mentorship – part of the VMware Force For Good series – our virtual meetups with focus on philanthropy, diversity and inclusion and sustainability. We look forward to meeting like-minded fellows to discuss and share knowledge on those topics. The speech is in Bulgarian.

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