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From Paris to Uganda: pitching for success and lifelong learning as a youth mentee

 

Daphne and her mentor Peace

This blogpost originally appeared on the Global Landscapes Forum blog

I first met my mentor, Peace Sasha Musonge, in Paris during the Global Landscapes Forum in 2015. Last week, after numerous online discussions, we finally met again in our home country of Uganda.

Once again, I saw how a right choice of mentor had been made for me. Peace’s eloquence, confidence, smartness, wit, seriousness, ambition, fast thinking, positivity and social concern were all apparent at once just by meeting her. And once again, her spark reminded me of what it should be like to create positive social impact.

When I applied for the Youth in Landscapes Initiative long-term mentorship program at the GLF, it was these aspects that I looked forward to learning and improving within the organisation I work for – Tree Adoption Uganda – and myself. Being in a similar field of work to Peace and also coming from the same country, we found ourselves understanding what we were saying to each other without needing much explanation.

Considering that the conditions, situations and environment where we worked were in many ways so similar, we shared a lot of common opinions, have faced similar challenges and have had the same questions at some point in time. This made these topics and issues easy to discuss but also, just by interacting with Peace, there were often unspoken lessons I would learn. 

When we met in Paris Peace and I discussed a great deal in such a short time, and one of the most helpful tips she gave me was to learn how to segment my message to various audiences.

Being in the entrepreneurship field, we usually are so excited with what we do that in most cases when we meet someone we want to tell them everything about everything all at once. One fact that was brought to my attention by the Youth in Landscapes Initiative workshop, and emphasised by Peace, was that during pitching or networking, at times just opening up avenues for further discussion is worth more than trying to explain everything at once in a short time span, and thereby risking not being understood at all or making your audience lose interest.

This lesson greatly improved my pitching skills and from the positive responses I got from practicing what I had learnt, my confidence was boosted. So much so that I found people genuinely paying attention and then asking “do you have a card, how can I get in touch with you?” It made networking a much more pleasant experience – eliminating the pressures of trying to impress – and made me prouder of my organisation and what it does.

This experience networking and pitching at the GLF, and learning from my mentor Peace, enabled me when I came back to Uganda to successfully represent our CEO for a presentation when he couldn’t make it on short notice. 

In our discussions, Peace also tasked me to identify the challenges we face in our organisation. I was then able to create action points and a direction to overcome these and achieve our goals. However these are not just lessons for me; I’ve been able to share our discussions with my teammates at Tree Adoption Uganda for us to benefit together from this opportunity.

A major aspect of the long-term mentorship is the fact it is open and ongoing; it opens up a conversation that can continue infinitely.

“The long term mentoring program…continues to motivate me to do more, and to do it better”

The long-term mentorship is an awesome program; its benefits far exceed what I anticipated and it continues to motivate me to do more, and to do it better. It opens up avenues for further discussion, prompts you to be questioned for improvement, and provides opportunities to practice skills like pitching and get feedback and advice. 

It is the difference between being told to do something in a certain desired way and being held and guided on how to actually do it. 

There is always more to learn, but the door has been opened and learning is even more possible thanks to the long-term mentorship program.

Photo courtesy: Global Landscapes Forum