My search for a teacher
Desperately wanting a mentor.
I’ve been looking for a mentor since I started Morrama. Rob had various mentors, from designers at IDEO to leaders at his church. However I’ve been looking for a female role model and they are harder to find.
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of support out there for startups. There are events, accelerator programmes, even weekends away team building with other founders. But these are primarily aimed at the traditional startup, those building a single product/service, and I’m really not up for the simultaneous ego flexing and massaging that takes place at a lot of these things. A lot of it feels quite superficial, once people realise that you have nothing to offer them they’ll make their excuses and the speed dating continues. The benefit of having a mentor on the other hand is that they are able to give unbiased feedback. They are their to help and advise without any ulterior motive.
Not just me.
Within the team this also became a problem for our lead designer. He wanted a teacher, someone to critique his work, push him in new directions and overall inspire him. The problem was, he was the most senior designer in the team. So I decided to give him a day off a week to get out of the office and find that guidance by building his network, expanding his knowledge and honing his skills. In the process, not only did he became both a more confident designer and a design teacher to the rest of the team.
You would think that I could just simply copy and paste this solution onto myself. If I dedicated one day a week to connecting and learning from others then I would remove the need for having a mentor. Somehow this has always been easier said than done. There’s always something more that could be done when you are building your own business. And so, rather than acknowledge that in the same way my lead designer brought more to the business having a day a week for self-development than doing a normal day’s work, I’ve always chosen to keep my head down and just plough on.
Not all bad.
However I am a sucker for a silver lining, and in this case I believe there is one.
The one thing that did happen as a result of all this is that Morrama has grown from within. Without external influence, the advice of others, guidance from those who think they (and maybe do) know best, I’ve relied instead on the skill, creativity and experience of the team to grow and develop our brand and our company. The result is something that is ours, and that, I hope, each of the team feels truly a part of. For that I am very proud and looking back I would do it all again in just the same way, despite the stress and the emotional roller-coaster it has been.
At 27 rather than looking for the individual I believed would become my teacher, I’ve decided instead to actively absorb and learn from everyone in my community. I attribute this change in mindset to our move to the incredible community in our new home at Ustwo Adventure in Shoreditch. In the process of getting to know the other people here I’ve realised that everyone has something to offer, knowledge to share and invaluable experiences that are inspiring and insightful to others. This network is far more valuable than a single role model.
I’ve also just found out that I’ve been offered an opportunity to become a mentor through the Creative Mentor Network. And I’m super excited. Because although I didn’t find a mentor, I did have a stable education, a role model in my mother, and am part of one of the most inspiring communities in London. There are a great many people who aren’t so lucky.