You Don't Have to Have All the Answers

Current Video: Mentorship (05:29)
Darrell Nimchuk, MBA, CMA
VP Finance and CFO, Flexpipe Systems

Video editing: Rachel Singh and Gunnar Blodgett

You Don’t Have to Have All the Answers: Darrell Nimchuk, VP of Finance and CFO for Flexpipe Systems, on the Value of Mentorship

Darrell Nimchuk was born and raised in Winnipeg, where he attended the University of Manitoba and subsequently achieved his Certified Management Accountant designation (CMA). Before joining Flexpipe Systems in late 2002, his experience included mergers and acquisitions, internal auditing, investor relations and business development for companies varying in size from $10 MM to $4.3 BB. Darrell attained his Masters of Business and Administration from Athabasca University.

My name is Darrell Nimchuk. I’m currently the VP of finance and CFO for Flexpipe Systems.

Where I got to today? There was an opportunity back in 2001 to get joined up with a startup company. I’m an entrepreneur at heart and I liked being involved with an organization where we started from the ground up. When I got involved with Flexpipe, there were five of us. Through that initiative and doing my MBA at the same time, I was able to take my career to another level in that I was able to help the company strategize, develop cultures, price-setting points, markets… things of that nature, which is where I really wanted to be from day one.

Unfortunately I was mentorless for much of my career. It wasn’t until I came to Flexpipe where I had my first real mentor. I’ve had some great bosses along the way, but I would hazard to say that it was my lack of patience and not staying with the company long enough that didn’t allow me to explore the mentorship that was there for me at the time. But at Flexpipe I had a mentor that taught me a lot of things. He taught me patience, he taught me sometimes it’s good to listen rather than have all the answers, he taught me about public reporting, he taught me about evaluations, he taught me about things I had no knowledge base or experience in prior to. So, I looked at that as an opportunity to take his knowledge base and expand mine because I came to a point where I realized what I didn’t know – and that’s a hard thing for people to understand, to realize what you don’t know. And, I think when you get to that point in time, where you have that realization, the mentorship idea becomes very easy for you to accept, that you don’t have to have all the answers.

Mentorship Defined
A mentorship formally, or historically, has always been a relationship between two people. One is the more experienced individual that teaches and advises the mentee on situations and helps with the career aspirations of that individual. I think over time it transcends over to other areas of life. It use to be, as I mentioned, career-based related activities, but with personal coaching and things of that nature a mentor really can affect all areas of a person’s life. So, I guess the definition of it is being able to avoid reinventing the wheel by taking someone else’s experiences and knowledge base to help guide you along the way to what you are aspiring to become.

Keys to Being a Good Mentor
I think a good mentor is patient and listens and doesn’t necessarily jump in when they see something is going awry. I think it’s key that the mentor actually pauses and waits for the mentee to ask for advice. To jump in too soon, I think you short-circuit the learning process.

The Roles and Responsibilities of a Mentor
I think it really is the mentor’s responsibility to set a safe environment. The mentee is coming to this person for knowledge and because they want to learn more. I think the benefit of the mentor, one of the main keys, is to keep that environment safe – to be there, to not be judgmental, to provide that mentee the opportunity to talk about their ideas, their challenges, their issues openly.

Fostering a Good Mentorship
One of the key parts of being a mentor and a mentee is that you have to have that comfort with each other. If you try and put a mentee and a mentor together that don’t have that relationship built, or don’t have common goals in mind, you’re going to be very stagnant in the relationship. There’s going to be no accountability. You’re not going to enjoy going to them. You’re not going to have that open dialogue because you’re not going to feel safe with the person. But you shouldn’t make the mistake of selecting a mentor who shares all your common goals and interests because you’re not going to grow as a person if you have all the same views.

You need to broaden your horizon by listening to what other people have as ideas and that’s where you’re going to grow as a person. Sometimes what they say to you may be in opposition to what you say, but sometimes you need time to reflect on it, mull it over, chew on it if you will, let it resonate within you before you understand their perspective.

Creativity, the Essential Ingredient to Mentorship
You’ve got to realize you’ve got two people here working together. The mentor has to realize the mentee’s personality traits, their learning process, their skills, all that kind of stuff. And the mentor has to be creative in understanding how to get their viewpoint across to this individual. You need to be able to speak to people on varying levels on different topics and you have to show creative ways to share your knowledge and what you’re trying to get across to them.


Rachel Singh is unlimited’s web editor. She sat down with Darrell Nimchuk in October 2008 in Calgary.

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