For many social impact professionals, mentorship is how they got to where they are today.
“We believe mentorship is something everyone should indulge in,” said Kahiga Tiagha, founder and lead partner of The ITEM (The Inclusive Technology & Entrepreneurship Movement). “Having a mentor allows you to look around the corner without necessarily having to actually look around the corner — you’re learning from other people’s experience, and you’re learning from other people’s failure. It shortens the time between you and your goal.”
The ITEM was created last February to ensure that as Philly’s tech scene grows, “it’s as inclusive as possible,” said Tiagha, an attorney. Its goal is to encourage upward mobility of low-income Philadelphians with tech training and by fostering relationships with tech employers. Over 850 people are currently signed up with the group on Meetup.
Not every mentorship is equal, Tiagha emphasized. People tend to reach out to potential mentors “almost reflexively” based on the professional’s reputation or resume, but that particular professional may not have the exact expertise they’re looking for. It’s not a one-size-fits-all experience.
That’s where Askmentor comes in. Tiagha is bringing the Hyderabad, India-based online platform, which connects budding entrepreneurs with seasoned professionals, to Philadelphia.
"Having a mentor ... shortens the time between you and your goal."
The platform is the difference between “wantrepreneurs” and people who are deliberately looking for mentors and have something specific they want to learn from a mentor, Tiagha said. Potential mentors and mentees will be verified for participation after they register on the website and must indicate that they have a specific reason for participating.
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The platform was created by a former client of Tiagha, an attorney, who is based in Hyderabad. Tiagha realized the potential value of bringing Askmentor to Philadelphia — both for those who use the service, and for what the cities can learn from each other. India boasts an active startup scene, as does Philly.
Yes, this international angle means that an entrepreneur who signs up in Philadelphia can anticipate being matched with one from India. In a best-case scenario, those entrepreneurs might eventually go into business together someday.
“We’re not trying to outsource jobs, but that could be a way to build a relationship between the two tech environments,” Tiagha said.
Mentor-mentee relationships might start on the phone, move online and develop so that they might meet in person eventually, Tiagha said — and distance shouldn’t be a barrier to that relationship.
“If they’re willing to mentor me along the way, even if that person is in Brazil, then I’m sure I’m going to make myself available to be mentored by that person, especially if they have made themselves available to me,” he said.
The platform is still in beta form, but Tiagha hopes to sign up 100 mentors and 1,000 mentees by September and plans to partner with SCORE Philadelphia to get the word out about Askmentor to local entrepreneurs. The service is open to experts of all sectors.
Sound interesting? Get involved with The ITEM by attending the group’s Shark Tank-style meetup on June 21.-30-
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