I was recently asked to find myself a mentor at work, which raised the following question: “who do you see as a potential mentor in your workplace?”. While there are people I look up to at work, my mentors don’t actually work with me. In fact, they don’t even know they’re my mentors. Well, unless they’re reading this. (In which case – hey, this is awkward, but…coffee sometime?)

Back in my first ever job role, working for the local government, my manager was also my role model and my mentor, and that was awesome – 1-2-1s weren’t meetings to solely discuss what my weekly tasks were, but they were also meeting to discuss my career, opportunities, areas of improvement, as well as “wins and fails”. My manager took me under his wing, coached me without taking away my freedom to develop on my own, and he certainly didn’t discourage me from developing outside of work. (He was basically my personal Dumbledore.)

That was years ago, and while I’ve moved on, I’ve learnt that one of the best things you could do to yourself professionally is having one person (or more) to look up to, as a target, as a mentor – someone who regularly inspires you, someone you’re striving to be like, someone whose actions push you to do more and more, someone who indirectly advises you through his/her actions, because I would never take advice from someone who isn’t doing or (hasn’t done) what I’m trying to accomplish.

Well, I have not one, not two, but three “mentors”. I regularly follow what they’re doing, what they’re saying, their achievements and yes, their shortcomings too and how they deal with them.

Here’s how I came up with three mentors:

  1. First, I plotted where I see myself going 12 months, 5 years and 10 years from now;
  2. I then looked at people who inspire me AND who are also in those 12 month/5-10 year-positions.
  3. Bingo!

Now, before I reveal the identities of these three mentors, here’s a disclaimer: I’m in no way saying that in 1, 5 or 10 years I’m going to be just like these 3 gentlemen, nor am I trying to undermine all of their great achievements. These three have achieved a lot and it’s taken them years and years to get them where they are. Having said that, they all have one thing in common: they started from 0 and they’ve moved relentlessly from there – that’s what I’m doing, hence why they’re my targets.

So, here we go.

Where I see myself in 1 yearJames Whatley.


James is definitely one of the most hard-working, dynamic and diverse people I know (although I’m using the word “know” very loosely here). He’s the type of guy who has hands in several pots, and he actually excels in all of them. He’s currently the social media director for Ogilvy & Mather Advertising in London. That aside,He regularly writes for The Drum and the Social@Ogilvy blog;

  • He co-hosts The Voicemail, a weekly podcast that covers the mobile industry and general pieces of technology (gadgets, gizmos, you name it);
  • He’s the creator of one of my favourite visual/photography projects, called the #EmptyUnderground, which featured on several sites, including The Daily Mail, Buzzfeed and It’s Nice That;
  • He’s also the organiser of the London ‘Not at’ events (e.g. Not at MWC, Not at SXSW);
  • He’s an awesome speaker and he is actually informational (none of that fluffy-talk): I saw him last at Social Media World Forum, where he spoke on a panel about social trends, platforms and tools to be aware of in 2014. I have to say, it’s refreshing to see someone telling it like it is, someone who’s in the know and on top of what’s going on in digital marketing.

He does a lot more, but you can try and keep up with his current projects on his blog and on Twitter.

James is my target for the next 12 months – while I too dabble in various areas (some related to marketing, some that aren’t), I realise that there’s a difference between “doing many things” and “doing many things well” – and this is one of the many areas where James excels. Another quality I’m currently learning from James is speaking in public – well. Yes I’ve spoken in public before, but for someone who has a slight stammer and someone whose first language isn’t English (third actually), public speaking can feel daunting at times. That said, I definitely do want to improve my public speaking skills. One way I’m doing this is by studying public speaking – enunciation to begin with – e-nun-ci-a-tion. While I’ve only seen James speak publicly once, I do study and pick up on essential public speaking qualities every week through his (and Stefan Constantinescu‘s) podcast.

Sidenote: Stefan has a great website called Tab Dump, where he posts interesting links. You should definitely check it out.

Where I see myself in 5 yearsJeremy Waite.

Jeremy has been my personal mentor for quite some time, as I’ve been following his work and achievements for the past 2-3 years. He was recently named Head of Digital Strategy at Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud, and I couldn’t be happier for him. Besides that, he’s an excellent digital polymath:

  • He talks and writes about current events and thoughts about social media and leadership. He doesn’t take things at face value but instead he takes a step back and comes up with something great that’s always a step forward. I admire him for that, as well as his impeccable fashion sense.
  • Jeremy is a great example of someone who puts their word into practice – like having a social strategy around what he shares on Tumblr, and being an adopter of new technologies and platforms (e.g. Medium, Ideapod).
  • He has an extensive book collection, and my inner librarian lives vicariously through him and his Instagram pictures where he shows off what’s new on his reading list. There’s a large number of books in my (digital) bookshelf that I bought after seeing them in his pictures, mostly on the topics of public speaking, digital innovation and leadership.
  • Speaking of books, he did write one called “Sex, brands and rock’n’roll” a few years ago (2010 if I’m not mistaken), although finding a copy online is a rarity, unfortunately. I’m currently anticipating his next book, “80 Rules of Social Media”, which you can read more about here.

Jeremy’s creativity is definitely one of the things that I find inspiring, and it seems to be at the basis of all his posts, be they about typography, design, leadership, social media or analytics. On top of that, he’s the author of my life/work mantra:

(It’s) funny where life takes you when you stop making decisions based on money.

Where I see myself in 10 yearsGary Vaynerchuk:

Gary is not your conventional marketer. In fact, I’m sure he doesn’t even like being called a marketer. He’s a businessman: he’s a wine-enthusiast/seller at heart, but that doesn’t stop him from dipping into other various areas -technology, social media, marketing, everything online-related. I could go on and on about his life/work/business philosophy, but I think this video will help.

Granted, those 5 minutes and 47 seconds alone don’t do him justice, but you can see what he’s up to on Twitter and his projects on his website. Gary’s been online since the 90s, where he put up his wine business, Wine Library TV; from being the youngest recipient ever of the Market Watch Leader award in 2003, to writing his latest book “Jab, Jab, Jab Right Hook” in 2013, he’s accomplished a lot, and at the moment he’s in charge of a 300-person social media agency called Vaynermedia. I’m seriously grateful for people like Gary who aren’t afraid to slap you in the face with the hard truth. His charisma and that unconventional drive are definitely two of his many qualities that give me that steer and extra-boost whenever I’m in my “what the hell am I doing?” moments. Here’s one thing about Gary’s philosophy: stop being a marketer who asks people for stuff, be someone who gives. That is not fluffy talk, especially since he puts it in practice, and that is exactly where his energy comes from: gratitude (if you follow him on Twitter, then you know exactly what I mean).

Inspiration and Beyond

Besides James, Jeremy and Gary, I do have a few more people who inspire me in several ways, like:

I’m sure that years from now my top 3 mentors will change, but so far they’re my top influencers, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have them as my personal mentors. So, if you’re reading this, from me to you: thank you – stay awesome.