Everything started with my mother’s recommendation to apply to a program she read
about in an electronic news page that aimed to build bridges between Syrian youth
and business leaders in Turkey. It was the first time I have heard about something
called “reverse mentorship”, and to be honest it did not make any sense to me at the
beginning. “How could a Syrian refugee student give any sort of mentorship to a
business leader in a company as big as Unilever?”, I told myself. Nevertheless, I was
determined to leave the imaginary cage of judgement that I immediately threw upon
the idea of me mentoring an experienced person, who under normal circumstances
would be the mentor.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 pandemic, we had to do all of our meetings
online. At the beginning of our first meeting, I was extremely nervous. I did not know
what to say at all. But thankfully, my dear mentee helped break the ice in no time. I
realized that this was actually going to be a bi-directional mentorship, rather than a
uni-directional one. We started discussing matters relating to being a refugee,
adapting to a new life, identity issues, and the world during and after COVID-19. In the
later meetings, we continued talking about what motivates us to work, the
environmental and social responsibility projects that Unilever has undertaken, our
goals and hobbies, life after graduation, and nanotechnology and its potential
applications in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector.
It has been an eye-opening experience that helped me gain important insights
on working as a leader in a multinational company. It also gave me the opportunity to
learn to be confident when communicating with important business leaders and
people. Additionally, some of our discussions made me question my old perspectives
regarding employment, identity and life goals. I am very thankful for the time my
mentee, Mr. Mustafa Seçkin, has dedicated to our meetings despite his full schedule
as executive vice president, and the effort and care that the Embark team has given
to ensure that our meetings realize despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic.


Kazem Alhariri.