Master in Customer Experience & Innovation alum Dimitris Spyrou tells us about his experience in IE University’s Mentor Program—first as a mentee, then as a mentor. Discover the benefits and takeaways of each role.

3 mins read

by Dimitris Spyrou Dimitris Spyrou recently completed the Master in Customer Experience & Innovation at IE University. He is fluent in Greek, English, Italian, and Spanish, and has basic knowledge of French. Before doing the master’s, he worked as a Data Analyst in a Database Management company. An independent, adaptable individual, he has lived in four countries and enjoys traveling, trying new foods, and having a good laugh.

A few years ago, IE University launched the Mentor Program with the purpose of supporting, connecting, guiding and providing tools to students that can help them with their projects, as well as their personal and professional development. It is a 9-month program where, as mentors, we try to build a safe environment for them to express their thoughts, highlights and concerns, while strengthening the IE Community by bonding students with alumni who have been in their shoes.

After being mentored by superb individuals throughout my IE University experience, I took the opportunity to become a mentor myself. This program is not only beneficial for the students, but also for the mentors, allowing us to provide help and guidance to students while developing essential professional skills like workshop facilitation. What’s more, it allows us to be part of a community where we get to know people from around the world and expand our network.

The change from mentee to mentor is obviously massive. This has made me realize challenges that mentors can go through in the beginning, some of them focusing on facilitating the sessions online. Here I’m going to focus on the top challenges I faced and solutions I believe can help overcome them. This can hopefully help future mentors to prepare their sessions better and current ones to reflect on the ones they have already facilitated.

Time management

Challenge: The biggest challenge for me is time management. This is something one has to be realistic about and always set aside some time as a buffer, in case you need more time than expected to explain the content or for conversations that have been initiated due to the topic explored. During my first session, I wanted to make sure that we had enough time to explore all the topics I prepared for, in an effective and fun manner, while not rushing through the content. Setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) goals and clear expectations for each session is extremely important to get the best results.

Solution: Splitting the sessions into smaller parts. Separating the session into exercises and sections can allow you to time each exercise individually. This will help you set the timing for each session more effectively and efficiently. What’s more, this solution creates a “modular session” where you can cover extra activities or information if you have spare time—or cut some out if you’re running low. It also provides extra slides your mentees can access after the session.

Constant engagement

Challenge: Keeping everyone engaged throughout the sessions is a major concern of a mentor. This is something that can be easily forgotten during an online session. The physical aspect of the interaction and the varying energy levels in these sessions can be more challenging, but it is easily attainable with engaging exercises. Having interesting content and an aesthetically beautiful design are an obvious plus. It’s also important to be relaxed and confident which will be automatically transferred to your audience.

Solution: Ensuring that the activities and the content covered are as interactive as possible. The best way to start a session is with an icebreaker or a warm-up exercise that creates a warm and welcoming environment, helping students relax and participate. Then, during the explanation of content, asking questions or allowing them to get involved and share their ideas on the topic covered is an easy way to keep the audience engaged. But the best way, in my opinion, is discovering fun ways to share content in the form of a group exercise or a game. This will ensure the active participation of the mentees while keeping it simple and fun. 

Overall, being a mentor is a rewarding experience that allows you to share knowledge and help others reflect and develop both personally and professionally. Becoming a mentor was the right decision and I look forward to continuing the sessions with my current and future teams.