Mentoring to Close the Generation Gap

November 15, 2017

By Raja Rajamannar



The pace at which technology continues to change our behavior and consumption is astonishing. We have so many new tools and channels to explore, but do we have the right skill set and know-how to compete and create in this new era of marketing?

The millennials, or younger generation, have a lot of expertise and agility in all things digital, and are great at test-and-learn, experimentation, and digital and social media. But there is a generation gap between new hires and senior managers. The younger generation craves one-on-one time and the ability to speak freely, although they are sometimes shy given their lack of experience. Having said that, they are the ones who will bring new thinking to Mastercard, so we needed a way to connect and enroll them into future development plans.

As an executive with more than 30 years of experience, one of my personal missions is to stay current and close to the gap in areas such as tech, analytics, and social media. I invest time in attending the right events. I study new developments such as AI. I even learned how to tweet! But it was "Speak Easy," the mentoring program we established at Mastercard that gave me a direct way of connecting to the younger generation. What started as informal discussions with a handful of folks has become a consistent practice. Every time I visit an office, I set up an hour with about 10 individuals I haven't met. I share my passion around talent development and marketing and invite them to ask me questions or offer their ideas.

We learn from each other, capture the ideas, and also observe the way in which they provide those ideas. Agility in answering a question on demand is a great characteristic, but equally important are the more analytic answers that come from having a problem talked through beginning to end. A healthy mix is just what we need at Mastercard, so there is no judgment. To ensure an open dialogue, we purposely do not invite their managers or HR into the room.

The most immediate benefit has been the incubation of a number of great ideas from employees I never would have met otherwise. And I've started to identify future leaders. Along the way, I've learned three major lessons, which would be useful for CMOs looking to reap the rewards of mentorship programs:

  • Prepping yourself to be a mentor is as important as being a mentor. Stay current.
  • Understand you just can't upgrade your organization overnight. You need to be in the trenches.
  • Inspiring a culture that keeps your team hungry to grow means authentically embracing new ideas.


Raja Rajamannar is the chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard. To read more about the mentorship program at the company, download the ANA CMO Talent Challenge Playbook. The playbook features case studies from more than two dozen CMOs from the ANA Masters Circle who are redefining the rules of what it takes to be a great CMO. Learn more about the ANA Masters Circle.

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