Leadership

Mentorship Matters: What I’ve Learned, and What I Try to Give Back

Photograph courtesy of The Muse

Photograph courtesy of The Muse

By Gabriel Mello

My first standout mentor found me early in my career, when I had been with the company for only a couple of years. I was still very young, and I was new to the idea of this workplace culture. His feedback galvanized me into living that culture and adopting it as my own personal ethic. Later, when I was about five years in, I worked with another mentor who taught me everything I know about managing people. He was amazing—he could guide people with completely different profiles and styles and extract the absolute best work from each of them. What I learned from him was instrumental in developing my own leadership. Finally, I worked a third mentor who educated me about strategy. He demonstrated how to make a plan that is clear and visible and then how to mobilize people to work toward that goal. I was fortunate to have people who were complementary to my needs depending on where I was in my career.

Recognizing that, I take an individualized approach with the people I’m coaching, tailored to their capabilities and needs at the time. For example, my central team members in NYC work in smaller teams and don’t manage large groups of people, so my first goal for them is to help them obtain the technical knowledge they need. I usually can’t fill all those information gaps, so I look for benchmarks: people who have done that deep dive, who can teach them the key skills required to master their roles. For example, if a mentee of mine is responsible for devising strategy, I will work to find best-in-class performers who can teach that person how to incorporate new strategies for success. Another approach is to work with leaders on a global scale so that a background in different markets can be developed while accelerating the learning curve of taking on a new position.

For those working in the field on larger teams, both technical and leadership skills are of critical importance. Everyone’s situation is different, but I generally try to coach these managers, teaching them how to motivate people, how to increase their own influence, and how to give people the right challenges so they can deliver their best. For example, because ABI and ZX Ventures are committed to cross-functional development, we often have employees who excel in one area and are moved to a new one to further that development. As a mentor, I will advise on the team building strategy in cases like these so that the team complements the abilities of its leader. This allows for short term success while giving the leader the time to learn without having results suffer as he or she is brought up to speed on the specifics of the business operations.

Mentorship is key to development, but what employees need varies as they progress through different stages of their careers. If employees need help with leadership skills but don’t have the right people around at the right time to help them develop those skills, they’ll struggle. Ideally, we identify the needs of our people and give them the opportunity to work with mentors who are strong on the capabilities they need at the moment. That’s what I’m trying to achieve through my mentorship, to honor the people who guided me.

Advice for Prospective Employees

Gabriel Mello, Global VP of Specialty Sales

I’ve been interviewing a variety of people recently, so I’ve had the opportunity to think about what advice I’d give to someone who’s interested in working with us at ZX Ventures or AB InBev. I’m looking for people who combine ambition, openness, and a global mindset, whether they’re an experienced professional looking for a change or someone at the start of their career.

First, we have to have people who really want to make an impact and drive our business’s growth. In a meritocracy like ZX Ventures, where we promote ownership and provide constant growth opportunities, our employees must be internally driven. Second, by openness, I mean having an unquenchable desire to learn new skills and information. This business is changing so quickly that people who aren’t always growing their knowledge are falling behind. Even looking at my own profile, if I didn’t continually learn new things and advance my skill set, I wouldn’t have the right profile for this company within as little as 10 years! Third, we require people who are global citizens. I’m specifically interested in people who can live in and work with cultures that are dramatically different from the U.S., like India or China.

I can’t overemphasize the importance of that global citizen mentality. I’ve seen a lot of people come through the door who love the idea of being in a global company, but what they really want is to live on the “good side” of the globe. They’re excited about New York and enjoy traveling some, but they’re not actually comfortable living and working in a lot of different cultures. We’re looking for people who are mobile and truly global, and who at the same time want to leave—and live—their legacy. In fact, if I could revisit one part of my career path, I would have left Brazil sooner. I don’t consider it a mistake, because everything that has happened has led me to where I am today. But to really be leaders for our global teams, we have to understand the differences between markets and between countries. We have to know how to manage diverse people in various places who have different cultures and values. There’s no substitute for international experience to develop those skills.

Let me also clear up one myth. Sometimes that mobile, fast-growing, technology-oriented profile discourages people who are mid-career, who think I’m only describing people at the start of their careers. I need a whole range of people, depending on the roles I’m filling. If I have an open position in revenue and management, I may need someone with experience in those fields. I might need someone who can jump in and help me without having to learn and come up to speed. Or depending on the type of challenge, I may need a different profile, someone I can invest the time in to develop into a leader. It’s exciting to work with both groups: mid-career professionals with specific experience and skills and early-career talent whose careers can evolve within our organization.

Wherever you are in your own career, if you think you bring the right combination of drive, willingness to learn, and global citizenship, drop us a line!