Conversations with the IACT Community: Timothy McKay, on mentorship and finding your Dumbledore

Vicki Stanley from the IACT19 Committee sat down with Timothy McKay, IACT17 alumnus and Founder & CEO of OK RDY, to chat about the role of a good mentor.

Think Yoda to Luke Skywalker. Mr Mijagi to Daniel-san. Dumbledore to Harry Potter. Just like some of the classic mentor-mentee partnerships that we’ve all seen in the movies, we could all benefit from a wise, trusted individual to help guide us along our journeys.

Someone who deeply and intimately understands the value of mentors is Timothy McKay, Founder and CEO of OK RDY and IACT17 alumnus (and IACT grant recipient!). Timothy is a self-proclaimed ‘country boy’ from Wagga and, growing up in a remote regional town, “there were no IBMs, Microsofts or other big corporates around”, so he felt a little lost, not having that direct access to the role models that he felt he needed for his career development. “I’m a big believer in ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’”, explains Tim, “and it helps a lot if you have a role model, whether that be from a professional sense, personal sense, gender, cultural, or something else entirely.”

By the time Timothy made it into the professional world, he saw there was often a great disconnect between what was being taught in schools and tertiary institutions, to what was expected from industry. “I just felt that there had to be a better way for people – regardless of their socioeconomic status, their background or their location – if they’re interested in a particular career or profession, that should be freely accessible.”

Tim, as part of his OK RDY team at an IACT17 workshop.

And thus, OK RDY, a matchmaking tool for connecting mentors and mentees, was born.

Reflecting on mentors who have had a big influence on his own career and personal development, Timothy shared that they had typically been people in industry that he’s had the opportunity to work with directly, that have been a good guide, have had a positive influence on him over a long period of time and have been able to share valuable insights with him. Timothy recommended finding a wide range of experience and backgrounds when seeking out mentors. When establishing OK RDY, his advisory board was made up of a combination of senior executive with experience spanning academic, government, law and more. “As a group, they’re just exceptional, and individually, they could each help guide me through particular areas of need.”

However, although they’re very experienced and knowledgeable, Timothy stressed that you shouldn’t always agree with your mentor. In fact, it’s almost more important that you don’t agree. “That’s one of the big things with mentoring as opposed to coaching. From a coaching perspective, you might be wanting to build up a particular skill, and you generally just take their advice and you work with it”. Mentors, on the other hand, are there to act as your sounding board and to ask you some of those big questions that you may not have considered for yourself. In the case of entrepreneurs working on a startup, a mentor may prompt you with questions about your venture that you may not have considered, or help you to identify potential challenges or risks on the horizon. “You’re still in the driver’s seat,” Timothy explains, “They’re just giving you some advice based on their personal experience, and can help you see around corners so you know what you’re coming up against.”

OK RDY announced grant recipients at IACT19 Awards Night.

When asked what his biggest tip was for up-and-coming entrepreneurs seeking out their own mentors, Timothy stressed that you don’t just want people in your corner. “If you just find people who will say ‘Yes, you’re doing a great job’, you’re never going to validate anything”.

A mentor is NOT your personal cheer squad. While that’s also nice to have, and can be just as important when the going gets tough, a mentor is there to challenge you. As Tim says, “a mentor is someone that can hold up a bit of a mirror to you and question you on the ‘why’ you’re doing this.”

So go seek out and engage with mentors. Find those individuals who can question you, challenge you and bring you back to reality when your head is off in the clouds.

As the wise Yoda said, “Much to learn you still have my old padawan. This is just the beginning.”

You can find Timothy on LinkedIn, or hard at work connecting individuals with amazing mentors through OK RDY.

We’re very lucky to have OK RDY on board as IACT19 Silver Partners. OK RDY have given our IACT19 teams special access to their award-winning mentor matching platform to help them reach out to a larger network of experts.