• Elina Agrawal

Mentorship: Where I've Found It, How it's Helped and Where You Can Look


As a student, there are few words that either cause an involuntary cringe or fuel a flame of motivation and passion inside of you.


Mentorship seems to be one of those words. If it wasn’t clear, I fall into the latter description. Mentorship has acted as one of the largest pivots in my young life - you know, the moment where you come across something and then everything changes direction indefinitely.


During my first semester at Northeastern University all I did was study for class, hang out with friends and eat (freshman 15 is real). I wouldn’t say I did nothing, but in comparison to my schedule now, I really was taking it easy.


All of this changed during my second semester. I started attending student club meetings when I found WISE, Women’s Interdisciplinary Society of Entrepreneurship. This organisation was a big help in naming and validating my imposter syndrome. I found new resources and worked actively to overcome it through their mentorship program. There, I was matched with my first mentor, Julie Rhee.

May I just say, Julie is an absolutely incredible human being and one of the most honest people I know. We were paired in WISE’s first mentoring round in February 2019, and this relationship kickstarted my journey with entrepreneurship. Julie was my first true experience with a mentor; I shared my insecurities with her and she gave me the confidence to chase any opportunity I could find. With this newfound support and confidence, I applied to executive board positions within MOSAIC, Northeastern’s student entrepreneurship ecosystem.


Ironically enough, Julie and I ended up working together on the student management team at the Entrepreneurs Club, or e-club. For my fellow students, I implore you to find volunteer opportunities with student organisations, as they have been the single best decision I have made during my continuing journey at Northeastern. I was exposed to informal mentorship through e-club.

Whether they knew it or not, my teammates within the management team became fast teachers and role models. A contagiously compassionate and creative young woman named Fernanda Lopez became my most influential mentor. During the 6 months we worked together, she helped me develop soft and hard skills which I rely on until this day. She has the extraordinary ability to encourage and empower those around her while also reminding them to stay grounded and humble. While Fernanda has never formally been a mentor of mine, she has been an inspiring role model and close friend. She encouraged me to speak to as many people as I possibly could, which brings me to my journey with Women Who Empower.


While at an event representing the Entrepreneurs Club with Fernanda and others, I had the chance to talk to Diane MacGillivray. I expressed my desire to interact with the Women Who Empower (WWE) community and she encouraged me to join their mentorship program, through which I met Sheila Walsh in January 2020. Sheila has given me support unlike any other mentor I’ve ever had. Her guidance and connection has helped me keep my composure during this period of change. After all, pandemics don’t stop world economies often. She’s given me resources, confidence, and assurance in all aspects of my life and for that I can’t thank her enough. When I first signed up for the WWE mentorship program, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was hoping to find someone who could tell me about their experiences in London’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, but instead I found support and a drive to go and experience it myself - but that’s a different story.


Women Who Empower has not only empowered and inspired me, it has helped me become one of those very women their name references. This summer I was able to give back to the community by hosting their first ever mentorship networking event, we had mentors and mentees from all over the world attend and speak about how they were taking the pandemic in their stride. They gave incredible advice, all of which you can read here. I’m now an official Women Who Empower Ambassador. Myself and several other incredible women are working on advancing the WWE mission and expanding our reach and support, you can find out more on the Northeastern University Advancement page.


My final call to action would simply be to find mentors for yourself. There are many ways you can do this but here are some ideas to explore:

  • Universities typically offer opportunities for current students to speak to alumni, this is a great chance to network and find potential mentors.

  • Take part in student mentorship opportunities; while you might be looking for help yourself you can always provide guidance to those below you. You never know, your pairing could also lead to some reverse mentorship.

  • If you’re a recent graduate, get in contact with your school’s alumni office, you’ll still be able to speak to older alumni.

  • Speak to colleagues, peers, and family members about your interests and your desire for a mentor, even if you don’t find one, you’ll definitely find advice.

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