Mentoring program: Finding your own way, inspired by role models

When I was invited to participate in the mentoring program of Mercedes-Benz Cars, I was delighted. Why? What does mentoring do for me? You can find the answer here…

Since May 2018, I’ve been one of the four mentees of Frank Deiß, the Head of Production Powertrain MBC and the director of the Untertürkheim plant. The Powertrain Production network provides motors, gears, batteries and more for Mercedes-Benz plants worldwide.

We four mentees come from different work areas, and we hadn’t known each other before we joined the mentoring program. In this program alone, there are almost 20 mentee groups, each of which is a diverse mix of people from various fields of activity. Through the new contacts I’ve made and the information we’ve shared, especially in my group of four, I can create and expand my personal network in other areas more or less automatically.

Fascinating discussions and individual conversations

We can have completely open discussions with our mentor, Mr. Deiß. It has been exciting to discover that all of us mentees are interested in similar topics: networking, career paths and continuing personal development, life balance, and the various situations that managers can encounter.

During my personal talks with my mentor, he takes the time to discuss the topics I’m interested in, such as consulting on specific cases, or to share his knowledge and opinions in response to my individual questions. How can I pursue further professional development? Which tasks are the best match for my personality and my skills profile? These are some examples of the questions that are asked and discussed in talks with my mentor. One of the helpful pieces of advice I’ve received during one of these discussions was my mentor’s reminder that it’s very important to direct my energy toward the right targets so that I don’t just waste it.

In my opinion, I’m not expected to imitate my mentor. Instead, the discussions are meant to give me useful ideas that inspire me to reflect and help me cultivate my own management skills.

For me, the qualities of trust and authenticity play an essential role. Mr. Deiß and I have discussed them, and it was great to learn that he too considers it important to stay authentic rather than trying to “sell” ideas he doesn’t wholeheartedly support. After all, a good manager must always be able to persuade his or her team and gain their support.

One special highlight of the program was the invitation to spend a day shadowing my mentor. I was able to look over his shoulder for a whole day as he did his work. It was very impressive to see, close up, the wide variety of topics and tasks he has to deal with in a single day. They ranged from a tour of the production line for transmissions to a talk on the shop floor, a directors’ meeting, and a controlling appointment focusing on budgetary matters.

The MBC mentoring program also gives us opportunities to look beyond the daily work of our own unit. For example, we attended a lecture given by Insa Klasing, in which she recounted the experiences she had as she built up her own career. She encouraged us to find “our own path” too. Another highlight was the “Voice, Appearance, and Impact” workshop. Through the practical exercises in this workshop, I could take home many individualized tips that are helping me present myself effectively in my daily work and in important discussions.

My conclusion

I’ve concluded that mentoring is not automatically a launching pad to a great career. But it’s a great opportunity to get individual feedback from a mentor — feedback that you can use to pursue your personal and professional development — and to draw lessons from your mentor’s career and learn from them. You become more visible in management circles, and that of course also plays an important role. The network is really valuable!

That also goes for the sharing of experiences and the networking with my women colleagues from other units, whom I would never have gotten to know otherwise. It’s invaluable that I’ve gained so much in such a short period of time. The program functions like a catalyst, and I’m happy to be part of it. Our company also benefits from the fact that networks make it easier for people to work together.

And because networking is so valuable, I’ve started a small lunchtime club for women colleagues from my professional sphere so that we can talk about batteries and eDrive while we’re having lunch. An important side effect of these meetings is that we are improving the cooperation between our various departments.

Here are my tips regarding the mentoring process.

It’s hard for me to say what specific things were highlights — because everything was so great!

Three tips regarding the mentoring program

1 – Take the time to participate in a mentoring program and to do some networking! Everyone has lots to do, but this is a unique opportunity and it’s very worthwhile.

2 – Be proactive and also make contacts with mentees outside your own group. Look beyond your own daily work and find out what other people are doing and what exciting challenges are being tackled in other units.

3 – Be open to new things!

And the good thing about it is that it’s always a process of give and take. As a mentee you benefit from the experiences that you are happy to share with others. Today I’m am often asked for advice by younger colleagues who want to continue their personal and professional development. I’m very happy about that!

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Naima Seddouk has worked at Daimler AG since 2001. She is the head of the team that is working on battery systems and the associated software — and thus is helping to shape the transition to e-mobility.