Published December, 2017 by Andreas Johannes Schroeder
The buddy and mentor roles
At the beginning of the F15 programme, every trainee is assigned to a buddy, who is usually another F15 who has been working with the company for at least a year and may also still be on a rotation. The buddy is an informal “go-to-person” who will help you on practical and professional questions. In my case my buddy gave me some great tips on practicalities around getting settled (bank account), cool spots in the city and also on social activities. In addition to your buddy, you will also benefit from the Arla mentor scheme. The mentor has a more senior position in Arla and will help you grow personally by sharing his/her knowledge, network and experiences. A mentor can be seen as your direct talent advocate who will help you frame your goals and support you in achieving them.
My mentor is the finance vice president in our Swedish office in Stockholm with whom I have great talks on all various topics. Simon is the perfect sparring partner to reflect on my Arla F15 experience but he also guides me with regard to potential career planning. What really connects us is the fact that he also chose an unconventional career path. Simon is a trained chemist from London who worked in investment banking before. He is the best example that job knowledge can be learned and that you do not need to be a functional specialist to thrive in whatever job. Yet, another great feature of working for Arla and even for being a part of the F15 programme where you will find people with various backgrounds.
Adding interesting perspectives and relevant network to my projects
Besides having a good personal fit, the help provided by him can range from planning how to prioritise projects, or simply connecting me with the relevant people. To give a concrete example: Simon had a spontaneous idea of whom I could talk to in order to obtain crucial information for a project I am working on at the moment. Another learning from my mentor is that often it is just about knowing where to look for information instead of rewriting content from scratch every time. My mentor and I have a very good connection and laugh most of the time when we either skype or meet in person. In our case, I was lucky to be frequently in Stockholm for a project, however, sometimes your mentor may be based in another country or continent. With all the digital ways of communication, Arla is equipping us well to bridge geographical distance.
The mentor as a key resource to personal development, now and going forward
Having a mentor is a great privilege besides the various trainings and other resources that are made available to us as F15 graduates. One thing that I try to remind myself is that Arla makes a substantial upfront investment by blocking a senior’s time for my personal development. My mentor takes this task very seriously and makes himself available on a needs base so that, in essence, I always know that there is someone to fall back on in case I am met with challenges requiring senior guidance. So far, we have talked once a month for half an hour to update each other. In the future, when I am really settled in the programme, I would like to engage with Simon on challenging professional problems that may require more experience, for example how to handle a difficult stakeholder, how my development plan could look like for the upcoming rotations, and last but not least how to celebrate a successful project termination together.
I am still in the very beginning of my F15 journey and can only speak for myself, but if you want to know more about the Arla mentor concept from another F15’s perspective, check out my colleague Elias’ post