NAW 2017: Interview with Anthony Vincent – ITP Mentor of the Year

Mentoring is a vehicle not only to grow others self-awareness, but your own too.”

 Winner of the ITP’s Mentor of the Year Award, Anthony Vincent has been mentoring for almost eight years. His most recent mentee, Jessica Ashton, was a finalist in the Apprentice of the Year category. So, how did it all begin? Starting his career as an apprentice himself, Anthony joined BT straight from school at 16. Over the years, he held several roles, and at 23 was promoted into his first engineering line operational management role. Since then he has worked across transformation, production and supplier management, and managing apprentice field teams to today where is responsible for driving operational delivery with third party suppliers.

Were you ever mentored?

Yes, and still to this day I have mentor. I have had a number throughout my career who have inspired me and helped me in several different ways. Some have helped grow my maturity whilst others have been a sounding board for me to self-reflect on my leadership style etc. Where you are in your career and which areas you wish to develop should help determine your choice of mentor. Also, having more than one mentor at a time can be beneficial too, as it has allowed me to broaden my ‘network of influence’ outside my normal sphere in the business and get a refreshing point of view from someone else who doesn’t necessarily have a conscious or unconscious bias to the world I may be working in at that time.

What drove you to become a mentor?

Having had some fantastic role models who have supported and inspired me throughout my career, I’ve learnt the importance of one of the traits that makes them who they are; the desire to want to give something back. Being a mentor is one way I can give something back too, and if I’m able to inspire and be just a little part of next phase of talent coming through then that’s great. You never know one of them might be my boss one day, as I did become years later for one of my very first mentors.

How long have you been mentoring?

I have rarely actively offered mentoring support to someone out of the blue – for me is doesn’t work like that. It’s all about the needs of the mentee, what they feel they need to develop, and who inspires them enough to want as a role model. So, as I do with my mentors, I approach them. Looking back, I’ve been mentoring for as long as I’ve been a manager – since 2009.

What do you get from it? Do you ever experience reverse mentoring (where you are receiving as much value from the experience as the mentee is?)

Yes absolutely, reverse mentoring this is one of the huge benefits you get – call it self-therapy in a way. At the most basic level for example, when your mentee is talking through a scenario you can relate to, you tend ask yourself – would I have honestly taken the same approach faced with the same thing?  Mentoring is a vehicle not only to grow others self-awareness, but your own too.

How do you see mentoring helping young professionals?

Understanding where you want to get to and navigating your career journey isn’t easy. Just having that opportunity to sanitise your own decision making, or take on board those golden nuggets of advice from someone else, is immeasurable when it comes to getting to where you want to be. It’s also worth noting that as I mentor I don’t profess to know all the answers either; my opinion or advice is purely advisory – it is up to the individual to put the pieces where they feel they fit. Reflecting on the times with my own mentors, there has been occasions where I’ve honestly not known where to start with a particular problem. Talking it through with my mentor, their opinion has then sparked a new train of thought which I wouldn’t have found without talking it through out loud.   

What advice would you give your peers who may be considering mentoring?

My advice would be actually, why wouldn’t you want to mentor?

Think about all those interactions you’ve had with people over the years, either formally or informally, which you have walked away from feeling valuable and benefited you. Now ask yourself, why wouldn’t you want to be mentor and help someone else?

Anthony Vincent is Service Partner Delivery Manager at Openreach and the winner of the ITP’s Mentor of the Year Award 2016, which recognises outstanding contribution made to the industry. 

Why mentoring is good for your business

Richard Branson, Larry Page and Steve Jobs have all acknowledged the mentors who supported and advised them in their early days. Providing guidance to younger professionals offers the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping a young professional take their first steps onto the career ladder, and who knows where that ladder may lead to. During our busy working lives, taking the time out to mentor can seem hard to justify in terms of ROI, particularly if you are an SME with limited time and resource.

Mentoring doesn’t have to be hugely time consuming however, and it’s much more than simply helping a junior professional to progress their career. A  study by Gartner revealed that:

  • Employees who mentored were promoted six times more often than their peers who didn’t mentor
  • Mentees were promoted five times more
  • Employees involved in a mentoring scheme had a 20% higher retention rate than those who didn’t.

So whilst there may be many reasons to justify why you shouldn’t mentor, there are even more to justify why you should:

  • Improve your own learning

Flipped on its edge, ‘reverse mentoring’ allows you, the mentor, to gain something from your mentee. Young professionals are often up to speed on emerging technologies, social media and the latest communications tools. In many cases, the mentor can benefit from the mentee’s insight and the relationship then becomes a mutual learning exercise.

What’s more, offering advice and insight to others can sometimes lead to a re-evaluation of your own business strategy. Dave Davis, Senior Systems Engineer, iDirect and the ITP’s Mentor of the Year 2015 agrees, “Without doubt mentoring also helps me. Many a time have I given a piece of advice, or pointed out a different perspective only to think “maybe I should heed my own advice”. It makes you question the norm and constantly look for ways of improving yourself.”

  • Broaden your Network

Tracy Costa, a Manager at BT, took part as a mentee. She said: “The ITP mentoring programme gave me access to someone outside of my own network of contacts with the skills and knowledge to help me develop and to think about things in a different way.  It’s been really good having someone else there to ask the difficult questions, to make me think about my own values and opinions, but also to have the knowledge to point me in different directions to go and find the answers myself.”

  • Develop your own skills

Mentoring requires a set of skills to run a session, engage with the mentee and effectively organise and review his or her development. Some potential mentors may feel they don’t have the experience to be able to guide someone else, but every relationship can open up opportunities and imparting guidance on lessons you’ve learned, or mistakes you’ve made, can be immensely valuable to a mentee. Mentoring brings a new dimension to the skills you’ve acquired and no doubt have been using for some time.

  • Build professional networks

The ITP’s mentoring scheme is cross-industry, meaning mentors meet mentees from different businesses. Not only is this mutually beneficial for gaining insights into how other organisations work, but it can build powerful relationships between one company and another where traditionally there may have been little interaction.

Dave Davis concludes “I firmly believe that we have a responsibility to make sure those following up the ladder are supported, encouraged and inspired to be professionals we can be proud of. It’s not a case of ‘why should I mentor’ – it’s a case of ‘why not?”

The ITP has been running a successful mentoring scheme since 2007. To find out more and read case studies visit our website