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Reverse Mentoring – Old Learns From Young

Genealogy of Mentoring

When Homer’s Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, entrusted his son Telemachus to his old friend Mentor as he left for the Trojan War, he did not know that this act would help give birth to a powerful intervention for personal and professional growth of young people.

Nowadays, about 2500 years after Homer, we call this intervention Mentoring.

Reverse Mentoring

Mentoring stands for the guidance, influence and direction given by a mentor.  A mentor is someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.

Reverse mentoring pairs younger professionals with senior, often older staff to mentor them on various topics of professional and personal relevance.

Here is a personal encounter of reverse mentoring by Amy BC Tan.

Being Under Reverse Mentoring

As I embarked on my PhD research at the University of Twente in the field of Organisational Behaviour, Change Management and Consultancy, I had two promoters, Prof. dr. Celeste Wilderom and Dr. Desirée Van Dun.

Both promoters had a deep impact on my research and my life.

Reverse Mentoring

I wish to share about my special relationship with Desirée Van Dun. I found myself incredibly fortunate to be guided by someone as talented and dedicated as Desirée.

She is about 20 years younger than me, and I had the great opportunity to undergo her mentoring as my co-promoter. She exuded wisdom and patience, making my learning journey both inspiring and transformative.

Throughout my research, Desirée not only shared her extensive knowledge. She also exhibited a remarkable level of patience, understanding, and willingness to empower me with her insights. She went above and beyond, ensuring that I felt valued, motivated, and most importantly, special throughout the process.

One of the most beautiful aspects of reverse mentoring is the ability to break traditional hierarchical barriers.

Desirée embraced this concept wholeheartedly. She fostered an environment where I felt comfortable asking questions, challenging ideas, and exploring innovative solutions.

Reverse Mentoring

Reverse Mentoring – Beyond Knowledge and Skills

Her mentorship was not just about imparting knowledge but also about nurturing my curiosity, creativity, and confidence. Under her guidance, I learned not only about the intricacies of my research field. I also learned about leadership, resilience, and the importance of fostering a supportive academic community.

I am deeply grateful for this unique mentoring experience. It has not only shaped my academic journey but also instilled in me a deep appreciation for the power of mentorship, regardless of age or experience. Today, as I proudly hold my PhD, I know that this achievement is not mine alone; it is a testament to the incredible mentorship I received.

I encourage everyone to embrace the concept of reverse mentoring and recognise the immense value it brings to both mentors and mentees.

It’s not just about passing down knowledge; it’s about fostering meaningful connections, breaking down barriers, and creating a culture of continuous learning and mutual respect.

Reverse Mentoring

Thank you, Desirée Van Dun, for making my PhD journey unforgettable and for reminding me of the profound impact mentorship can have on one’s life.

Here’s to more inspiring mentorship stories and the incredible people who make them possible!


In conclusion, here are some personal take-aways after having gone through reverse mentoring:

Firstly, when you are older don’t assume you cannot learn from younger generations. They have strengths that might be beyond of what you can bring to the table. Be humble and learn.

Secondly, opening up to the young professionals sends a strong message to them about their value and their contribution. This might just be what they need to hear to make them stick around.

Reverse Mentoring

Thirdly, due to the new age of continuous learning through media that go beyond organisation-led interventions, self-development is more important and easier than ever. As a result, some young professionals will pick up skills we never offered to them, skills we don’t have ourselves. Reverse mentoring might be just the way of making use of such skills.

Finally, I would like to encourage every professional in any organisation to use the power of mentoring – be it reverse or not, as mentor or mentee – to strengthen the workforce for the benefit of customers, employees and yourself.

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Amy BC Tan

Amy is the Executive Director at the Centre of Organisational Effectiveness (COE Pte Ltd). She has more than 20 years of experience in human resource management and organisational development in various industries.

She has held senior leadership positions with Nokia, Aon, Ministry of Manpower and Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee. She has led the transformation of the HR functions and several organisational development initiatives for multiple organisations.

Amy is also trained in Creative Problem Solving and certified as Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, an accredited practitioner in executive coaching and psychological instruments such as MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator®), DiSC, Harrison Assessment and Belbin Team Roles.

Amy can be reached via

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