The first round of the Brilliant Mentors of the Future Program has now come to an end. Joan Chebet and Johan Gunnarsson have participated in the program and learned a lot about cultural differences and how to work together with reversed mentorship. 

The Brilliant Mentors of the Future Program is a program where company leaders and students get to work together in a so-called reversed mentorship program. Usually, the mentor is someone with great experience within a specific area and the mentee wants to gain deeper knowledge. However, this program aims to switch these roles. In this case, the student is the one who mentors a, for example business leader, within a specific topic or area.  

Johan Gunnarsson, CTO at Combitech in Linköping and Joan Chebet, studying MSc in Strategy and Management in International Organization (SMIO) at Linköping University, have been participating in this program and both of them agree on learning a lot from each other due to their cultural differences and from Joan’s study background in strategy.

Can you tell us about the experience of the Brilliant Mentorship Program?

– I didn’t know what to expect in the beginning. It sounded quite interesting with the reversed idea and I really needed this kind of exercise, says Johan and laughs. He continues:

– It was interesting because we have an age gap between us and also cultural differences. The first evening we met, we mostly brainstormed about what topics we both find interesting, which in our case was a wide range of topics within digitalization, sustainability and perspectives on how to work with strategy. Since Joan works for Scania in Kenya with autonomous transport systems, it is very relevant for Combitech and for Joan’s ongoing master thesis work. What also made the reversed mentorship idea to excel was how to improve knowledge sharing within organizations since it fits in with her master thesis work, and that Combitech is a consultant company that focuses a lot on knowledge sharing.   

Being a mentor for someone who’s worked longer than you and having another perspective than you can be a bit intimidating, which Joan agrees upon. However, she enhances the importance of creating an atmosphere where you make sure both the mentor and the mentee are on the same level and that you set the expectations for one another before the project kicks off. Joan also points out that it is essential to keep an open mind and perspective about things when meeting new people due to different backgrounds and culture. 

– Being the mentor yourself, you expect a mentor to have some kind of experience and you look up to that person. With reversed mentorship it is kind of different. It is different because he (Johan) has more experience than me and I have a different perspective of what he thinks about things, says Joan. 

– The tip I would give is to start out with startup-meetings where you set the standards in the first place – agreeing on what to do and how to do things. Setting the schedule during the first meeting is really helpful and it helped us a lot along the way, she continues. 

Application for next round

The application for the next round of the program is set to open up fall 2022 and both of them recommend students and companies to participate. Johanna Kästel, project leader, is happy to see the outcome. She comments:

– Everyone seems to have enjoyed and appreciated it which is very fun to see. It’s interesting because everyone has worked with such different topics. I believe it has been a really successful pilot project!


Joan Chebet

Joan Chebet.

Are you interested in next year’s reversed mentorship program? Read more about it here.