It’s a common claim from many companies that their people are their most valuable asset. What’s less common, however, is the evidence to back this up. But at Mend, we have matched our commitment to our teams with learning and development opportunities to support the personal and professional growth of our Menders. As the company has transformed from WhiteSource into Mend, and expanded its technology and product offerings, we have worked hard to support our workforce with similar opportunities for transformation and growth.
One of the initiatives that has been successful in realizing this aspiration is the Mend mentorship program. Working together with training and HR business partners, we have matched mentors and mentees within Mend to provide opportunities for learning, upskilling, and personal development.
The results of our initial program were hugely satisfying. Now we’ve begun a second wave of mentoring partnerships that we’re confident will prove to be equally fruitful in facilitating employee growth. To illustrate how this program works, we spoke to a mentor and a mentee who participated in the first round of partnerships, to discover their aims, how their relationship worked, and the benefits they gained from taking part.
Meet the mentee: Daniel Elkabes
Daniel is the Security Researcher Team Lead at Mend. He joined Mend in 2019 and manages the company’s vulnerability research team that finds new vulnerabilities within open-source projects and is the company’s authority on security issues. As part of this role, Daniel leads the team’s efforts in designing and implementing new ways to find vulnerabilities or malicious code and assisting other teams within the company teams with in-depth security analysis.
Daniel was invited to present at the Open Source Summit in Austin, Texas, in June 2022 and wanted to learn how to sharpen his public speaking skills. He decided that the way to achieve this aim was to team up with a mentor who could help him. That mentor was Yariv Shapira.
Meet the mentor: Yariv Shapira
Yariv is the Director of Global Cloud Alliances at Mend. In his role, he owns end-to-end responsibility for Mend’s sales engagement with strategic global cloud alliance partners, AWS, and Microsoft. This involves building and executing Mend’s co-sell process with the alliance partners, leading and guiding the global alliance team, comprised of sales and operations professionals, and contributing to the go-to-market strategy by working with the internal and external marketing teams.
Yariv had experienced mentoring in the past and had found it beneficial, so when he heard about the mentorship program at Mend, it seemed natural for him to step forward and volunteer.
Daniel wanted to improve his public speaking and presentation capabilities by developing compelling storytelling skills. He was paired with Yariv, who has a strong professional track record in this area. “The opportunity came at the perfect time for me, as I was beginning to think about how I was going to prepare for my presentation at the summit,” Daniel explains.
Yariv wanted to apply his experience in a mentoring role to support Daniel. In particular, he brought deep knowledge of developing and executing graduate programs and talent development from his past career. He also saw it as a personal challenge, as a team player, and as a manager. “I’m a firm believer that when you give, you get back, so it’s important to give back, to contribute, because not only do you help others, but you also develop and benefit yourself, ” he explains. “It’s a win-win process.”
Daniel and Yariv attended a workshop to help establish goals and coach them to work together most effectively. This provided a structure for the working relationship that the pair enjoyed. It kept them focused and on track, and ensured that they were accountable to each other to make the mentoring process a success. The HR team followed up with each pair to ensure they were meeting and to check if they had any challenges. A further supervision workshop took place with the mentor-mentee pairs to check that they were comfortable and engaged with the process. And everything concluded with a closing workshop to review how the process had gone and to agree on the results. All the workshops were led by an external coach/consultant.
Daniel and Yariv met for five sessions in the run-up to his conference presentation. Between each session, Daniel would complete some “homework” they agreed upon that helped strengthen his skills. As the mentee, Daniel was responsible for setting the next meeting and driving the agenda to ensure that he received the advice and instruction he needed from Yariv.
It was helpful for both of them that Daniel’s commitment to delivering a presentation at the Open Source Summit gave them a concrete time frame, which shaped the process. He and Yariv were then able to reverse engineer what milestones they wanted to reach along the way.
Daniel observed that both of them needed to be on the same page as regards the aims and the progress of the process. “If I were to focus on one thing that makes a good mentoring scheme work,” he said, “It’s the dedication of each person to the program and the process.” Yariv confirmed that the structure put in place by the program consultant was crucial for making the program a success in a relatively short period.
Lessons learned, and the outcome
For Daniel, the mentoring process taught him how to better build and pace a presentation, and to consider the audience so he would address them in a manner that they would find understandable and interesting. This consideration wasn’t something that initially came naturally to him, as a technical expert.
In June 2022, he made his presentation at the Open Source Summit with new confidence and was delighted with the way it was received by the audience. He recalls, “The feedback from people who attended my presentation was very fulfilling, and now I’m feeling much more experienced in public speaking at conferences than I was before.”
But it wasn’t just Daniel that learned some lessons from the process. While discussing the talking points of Daniel’s presentation, Yariv was pleased to find that he was improving his understanding of Daniel’s field of expertise, and by extension the focus of Mend’s work — cybersecurity topics such as the ways malware and malicious packages operate.
“Being a mentor opened me up to places at Mend that I didn’t know, challenges that are new to me, and understanding that’s key to my development,” said Yariv. “I learned about the content world that Daniel leads, which was completely new to me.” Furthermore, he felt that he learned how to be a good mentor, and that it’s important for a mentoring process to have structure for it to work well; to prepare before each session, set objectives, and follow up, to get the most out of the process. And he emphasized how important it was for mentors to be good listeners, so they can best provide their mentees with what they need.
Daniel echoed these sentiments, adding the importance of Yariv’s establishment of a calm, open environment and a process that allowed for steady progress, measurable against objectives set, and an increase in his confidence.
Thoughts on mentorship and advice for mentors and mentees
Understandably Daniel and Yariv’s opinion of the mentoring process is very positive.
“Getting the opportunity to learn something from an experienced person is something I highly appreciate, and I consider it something that can have a big impact on a person’s future,” says Daniel. “The process exceeded my expectations in every way. Yariv was very dedicated to me and my success, and he contributed a huge amount of effort and time to my progress.”
Yariv saw the benefits for mentors too. ‘Becoming a mentor is a great move,” he explains, “because it helps your self-development as well as the person you’re mentoring.”
Yariv is enthusiastic about mentoring again in the future, and Daniel has already signed up for the process again, both as a mentor and as a mentee. “Every employee can be a good mentee,” says Yariv. “It’s all about being open to the challenge and being focused on what you want to achieve.” Daniel agrees. “Providing you’re committed to the process, the sky’s the limit.”