Only the learned can mentor the learned — Garuba

October 9, 2020
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Lara Garuba, an attorney with over 15 years combined experience in law, banking, consultancy and the empowerment of young adults for capacity building, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Global Mentoring Club, known for mentorship of young lawyers across Sub-Saharan Africa. In this interview with YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE, she speaks about her passion, challenge of leadership and finance, among other issues.

What is the Global Mentoring Club about?

The Global Mentoring Club (GMC) is the foremost mentoring club for young lawyers across Sub-Saharan Africa.  We empower young lawyers in Africa by creating opportunities for them to learn, network and grow through mentorship, job placement as well as personal and career development. I fully appreciate that having the guidance, encouragement and support of a trusted and experienced mentor can provide a mentee with a broad range of personal and professional benefits which ultimately lead to improved performance in the workplace and in life generally and my mantra is only the learned can mentor the learned.

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When did you start and what was the motive?

My passion for young adults started many years ago and I started writing my thoughts down in my dairy until October 10, 2018 to be precise, it was like a calling from God to do this and help young lawyers excel and thrive in the legal profession.  Every year, Law School centers across Africa produce thousands of lawyers. In 2004, there were just three law school centers in Nigeria, right now there are six law school centers. This has made it increasingly easy for young lawyers to be lost in the crowd without anyone noticing but God noticed and gave me the calling to pursue my passion to do this. GMC became officially registered as a nongovernmental organisation in 2019.

Why lawyers?

At the beginning of my legal career, immediately after law school, things were not quite clear as to what the next step should be. I was in a dilemma on what area of law practice I should focus on. I saw that this was not a ‘me problem’, as many young lawyers graduate from law school with no idea of what next to do. This influenced my vision to create a platform for them to make decisions that will help them and their career.

What effect does the mentorship have on beneficiaries?

Beneficiaries get free mentorship services which can’t be quantified in terms of value to their life and career; they have access to learning and development programmes, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.

 How many beneficiaries have gone through the system?

So far, we have over 100 registered mentees

What feedback have you gotten so far?

Feedback has been amazing and encouraging. There have been lots of amazing feedbacks from mentees and mentors alike. Some mentees have gotten job placement beyond their wildest imagination.

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Will you say your vision has been achieved?

We have just begun and still far away from where we wanted and planned. The vision is to empower 60,000 young lawyers (mentees) yearly.

Will you say you have been able to influence young lawyers?

When a mentee sends you an email and say, ‘your platform has changed my story and my family,’ what more do I want? And when I see quantifiable growth and improvement in the life of my mentees, it gives me great joy.

Which aspect of what you do is most enjoyable to you?

The monthly mentoring sessions are fulfilling and interesting. Even I get mentored by our guest mentors from these sessions.   You should join us one of these days.

How will you describe life as a mentor?

My life as a mentor to over 100 mentees is a life of fulfillment and joy. I see it as an opportunity to build a lasting legacy for posterity and the path to nation building.

What are your thoughts on women striving for financial independence?

I grew up in a home filled with beautiful women and there was never a conversation while growing up that there was limitation because we were girls. We went to the best schools in the city and we had freedom of speech and expression. You can only speak of striving if there was a restriction. However, for women who need to strive so hard, I say the world is your stage, take it.

Are there peculiar challenges faced by mentors?

Yes, there are several but I will mention just one; that is scheduling, working out a convenient time for meetings can be very challenging.

How easy is it for women to create strings of income and market themselves?

Nothing is easy for anyone who wants to succeed. This is not gender – specific. Everyone needs clarity on what they need to do, keep their focus and work hard towards it.

What inspires you?

Seeing young lawyers thrive in the legal profession.

What are the challenges you face?

Lack of funding and sponsorship is a major challenge we are facing right now. I started this platform with my personal savings and family donations.

What is your guiding principle?

Absolute reliance on God

Any advice to other young women with similar vision?

90 per cent of the time, they will not give you a seat at the table. Prepare ahead and take your own seat with you; if your stet then becomes the extra one, give it to another woman.

What in your background prepared you for this?

My story will not be complete without reference to my late mum- Mrs. Abiodun Modupe Ayanniyi (nee Oloko). She was a mentor per excellence. She mentored everyone that came her way and she practically pushed me to study this honourable profession and I have no regret whatsoever.

What future plans do you have for your mentorship brand?

We currently have mentees in Kenya and Cameroon. We plan to open up to other African countries. I believe only Africans can build Africa.

How will you describe yourself?

I am a very creative and intuitive individual and lover of art.  I love to do things differently and love meeting people and learning about their background. I pride myself in making sure people have the right information because it drives better result and I deeply believe in mentorship, I guess I got this from my mum.

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