Meet Ben Ruschin, Managing Director and Co-Founder of WeAreDevelopers GmbH, who will be a mentor with the weXelerate startup program. Ben is also Managing Director of the digital agency Vienna Digital and Founder of Manageers, a network connecting C-suite managers with high potentials. Ben was chosen as a Forbes “30 under 30” highflyer by Forbes Magazine last year. Just a few days after the mega event WeAreDevelopers Conference 2017 here in Vienna, wireX magazine interviewed Ben about his thoughts on mentoring.
wireX magazine: You will be one of the weXelerate mentors. Mentoring is a key part of our program. Why is it important?
Ben Ruschin: I think everybody who wants to have a career in a startup or a large corporation needs a mentor and a sponsor. A mentor is someone you can learn from, someone you select and meet regularly in order to learn from his or her experience. A sponsor can also act as a mentor but goes one step further by recommending you to other people. I have always looked for my mentors and sponsors and this presented me with opportunities that have provided me with huge boosts and benefits for my career.
So you chose your mentors?
Ben Ruschin: Yes, I actively looked for mentors. Very early in my career I was working for a startup in Vienna and I approached Manfred Reichl, who established Roland Berger Strategy Consultant in Austria & CEE and who was at the time Chairman of the startup’s Supervisory Board and an investor. I started working with him on the startup and it was great for me to learn from someone with four decades of management experience. I watched and analysed how he made decisions, how he communicated, and how he managed. From that time on we’ve been meeting regularly and still do.
What is the most valuable advice you were given by a mentor?
Ben Ruschin: Maybe one of the best pieces of advice I got was from the banker Willibald Cernko, who was CEO of Bank Austria and is now Chief Risk Officer of Erste Group, who’s also my mentor. He recommended not spending your free time with people you work with, but to go out and meet other people who do different things. This allows you to learn and make new experiences, to develop and avoid becoming streamlined into a particular role.
What makes a good mentor?
Ben Ruschin: A good mentor is honest. He does not try to make decisions for you, but enables you to find the best decisions for yourself.
So it is about enabling and empowering your mentee …
Ben Ruschin: It is about accelerating. A mentor helps you reach your goals faster.
What makes a good mentee?
Ben Ruschin: A good mentee has to be open with his mentor. A mentee needs to know what he wants from his mentor. So you should think about your goal and the results you want to get from the mentoring relationship. You need to tell him what you need.
Ben Ruschin: Yes, there is one more thing: Don’t be afraid of your mentor. If he is the boss of a large corporation and makes a lot of money, has a lot of power and a large network. This can be intimidating, but this shouldn’t keep you from talking openly and asking questions.
You mean being star-struck and idolizing your mentor can be counterproductive?
Ben Ruschin: I experienced this myself as a mentee. I was so in awe of what my mentors had achieved that I was almost embarrassed to speak. Okay, your mentor will be miles ahead of you, but they become mentors because they want to share their experiences. So be aware of that and just go in there without trying to impress them. You should be honest and open with your mentor.
This leads to the next question. Ben, what motivates you to be a mentor?
Ben Ruschin: I’m looking forward to meeting interesting people and also to learn from my mentees, because mentoring is not a one-way street. I hope to make a contribution and have a positive effect on the mentee’s personal and professional life.
How do you see your role as a mentor for the weXelerate startup program. What kind of mentor do you want to be?
Ben Ruschin: I want to help my mentees avoid the same mistakes I made. I had a lot of ups and downs over the last few years. I experienced a burnout in my first job, something I openly talk about. I want to support people to make better decisions and accelerate them – and to enjoy what they are doing.
weXelerate startup programs