This month, January 2022, is the 20th anniversary of the first National Mentoring Month, which celebrates the power of relationships to encourage personal, academic, and professional growth.

Growth feels particularly relevant right now, as the pandemic has encouraged people to re-evaluate their goals, resulting in unprecedented job hopping. If you’re taking stock of your professional development, or if you’re a business owner seeking talent and clients, then consider mentorships.

Coaching others is hugely beneficial for students, employees, small business owners and corporate employees. Recognizing this, many IBMers mentor others. The biggest reward may just be the satisfaction that it brings. In this two-part series, we show how these relationships can change livesLet’s start with the benefits to students and entrepreneurs:

Closing the Skills Gap by Coaching Young Adults

The skills shortage affects all professions, but tech jobs suffer disproportionately. In 2020, Manpower found that the talent shortage in the U.S. has more than tripled over 10 years. One strategy to address this is to form mentor/protege relationships that encourage young people to explore STEM careers.

Research has shown that career goals change dramatically between the 9th and 11th grades, so mentors can be particularly helpful during this crucial period. STEM-proficient students are more likely to pursue STEM-related careers, and successfully solve problems during unfamiliar situations.

Take Aaliyah Charles, a former student at a P-TECH school inspired by IBM that blends college and career training. Aaliyah was navigating challenging family circumstances but working hard to succeed academically. A mentor from IBM counseled her on how to perform better in math classes. The advice worked, and she eventually earned a degree in electromechanical engineering.

Patrice Scully, who just retired from IBM after a 40-year career as a computer scientist, has helped many people like Aaliyah. Patrice, who has mentored about two-dozen people, particularly enjoys coaching women, who are underrepresented in STEM fields. She seeks to reassure students that there are multiple paths to a STEM college education and career.

Since it’s hard for young adults to envision the future, particularly if they don’t have as many role models, she introduces graduating high school students to college-age students from similar backgrounds. The interactions encourage ambitious high school students to keep pursuing their STEM dreams in ways that work best for them.

The payoff can be huge. According to studies cited on, young adults with a mentor are 55% less likely to skip a day of school, 78% more likely to volunteer regularly, and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions. Furthermore, young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are 55% more likely to be enrolled in college.

Entrepreneurs Too

Students aren’t the only ones who can benefit from mentors; small business owners can as well. Seventy percent of small businesses that receive mentoring survive for five years or more, double the rate of non-mentored entrepreneurs, finds a 2014 survey by The UPS Store. Yet, only 25% of small and medium sized businesses currently make use of business mentors, according to the UK’s Federation of Small Businesses.

IBM enables its employees to assist entrepreneurs through a program called Reigniting Small Business. It provides seminars to small business owners and works with social service and economic development organizations to provide 1:1 coaching. One such partnership is with the United Way of New York City’s “Together We Thrive” initiative to help black entrepreneurs. In this fashion, Gerald Anderson, an IBM consultant, mentors Chef Keesha O’Galdez. (

Before the pandemic, Chef Keesha was working as a personal chef with in-home clients, but the pandemic created an opportunity to offer virtual services, like online cooking classes. But she wanted greater focus, so Gerald shares his sales, marketing, finance, and technical expertise with her. (It also helped that he grew up in a family that was also in the food service industry). He has introduced her to Internet analytics tools to measure interest in her services, and to have a better online presence. Chef Keesha also seeks other mentors, like from female entrepreneurs who run a group named “Luminary.”

In part-two, we explore how mentors can be helpful to peers and colleagues, as well as to aspiring professionals seeking new job roles.

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