Vickram Agarwal is a digital and technology entrepreneur, CMO and Board member. He founded Daddy’s Digest, acquired in 2021, a platform addressing the parenting gap with curated content. Raised in India and the Middle East, educated in the UK, Vickram’s marketing career began with General Motors in Dubai. In 2011, he launched Stroke Consulting, a Strategy & Digital Marketing Agency, working with brands like GMC, Chevrolet, and MasterCard. Relocating to Canada in 2019, Vickram led Black Rock Marketing Group. As the former Chief Marketing Officer at Credit Canada, he received The Globe and Mail’s Changemaker Award in 2023. He actively contributes to Advisory Boards and mentor startups in the EMEA region.
What motivated you to become a mentor with TRIEC Mentoring Partnership and how has that motivation evolved over time?
My wife, daughter and I moved to Canada shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic. Establishing myself in a new country was challenging and took a lot of fortitude. There were days when I questioned if we had made the right decision – but we were here and had to make it work.
I consider myself blessed – I worked hard to meet the right people who were kind enough to extend their networks and expertise to me. They helped introduce me to recruiters, senior decision makers and eventually all the moving parts came together. It was a process, one that I felt obligated to share with other newcomers.
I searched for an established organization through which I could support newcomers and help them make sense of this journey. The TRIEC Mentoring Partnership was the most well-established and structured program in Canada.
I have worked with a few mentees over the last year and a half, and I will continue to support the program in the future.
Can you recall a mentee success story that stands out in your memory, and what role did you play in their achievements?
I can recall a few, but the one that stands out to me is my last mentee, AR. She moved to the GTA a few months before we were matched and had amazing experience in the consumer-packaged goods industry.
AR is super smart, knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. From day one, I was impressed by her and my appreciation of her tenacity and focus only grew over the course of our regular interactions.
I helped guide her thinking around the job search process, we did mock interviews, I introduced her to senior professionals in my network. But the most important part I played in her success, was my unwavering belief in her potential. She had some tough days, a lot of rejection, but she knew that I was a call, text, or email away from dropping everything to give her a pep talk.
My mentees know that I am their biggest champion, and their success is my success. For me, its personal and I do not restrict my interactions to the duration of the program. I continue working with them into the future.
How do you balance providing guidance and allowing your mentees to make their own decisions and learn from their experiences?
It takes some trial and error and constant self-reminders that you are a mentor, not a coach.
As a mentor, you provide guidance, but are not tied to the outcome. The mentee drives the relationship, and you serve as a trusted advisor. Coaches on the other hand are paid to drive success, and that is not our role.
Mentees must feel empowered to contradict and reject advice given by their mentors yet be open to learning from their mistakes. Mentors must recognize that they are dispensing advice that won’t always be taken and that shouldn’t negatively impact the partnership.
What are some valuable lessons you’ve learned through mentoring others, and how have these lessons influenced your own personal and professional growth?
Mentoring has helped me lead with empathy. I have learned that all humans have unique situations and circumstances and that applying a boilerplate approach to people-management is short-sighted.
I have also learned to put my ego aside and recognize that my experiences have helped shape my life, but following my script is not an assured recipe for success. So, I guide with the caveat that there may be a better way, but this is what I know to be true.
Mentoring is an incredibly humbling experience, and it is important not to project yourself onto your mentees or anyone you lead.
What are some common misconceptions about mentorship that you would like to dispel?
One of the most common misconceptions about mentorship is that there needs to be a hierarchy – that the mentor must be senior to the mentee in age, life-stage, and professional experience. This is just not true.
Mentorship is about helping someone gain new skills and is guided by experience not seniority. In my last role as Chief Marketing Officer, I was mentored by my Marketing Coordinator on how to navigate Tik Tok – they had more experience than I did, and I was fortunate to have access to them and their experience.
What advice do you have for individuals who are considering mentoring newcomers or seeking a mentor for themselves?
Mentors – this is your opportunity to make a difference in the life of someone who has taken a bold decision to leave everything behind in search of a better life. You are the lucky one here. Take this partnership seriously, invest in your mentee – you could be the difference between a good immigrant experience and a great one.
Mentees – your mentor is at your service, so focus on taking all the necessary actions that will lead to a successful partnership and help you achieve positive outcomes. You are in the driver’s seat here, so be crystal clear on your objectives and goals and take the wheel. Learn, learn, learn, and learn as much as you can.
Inspired by Vickram’s story and interested in mentoring newcomers to Canada. Find out more about becoming a mentor.