22 February 2024

Why mentoring matters

Manish, our Global IT Director for Infrastructure & Operations spoke to us about how mentoring has played a role in his career trajectory, and why sharing his experiences with work experience students enables him to pay that support forward to the next generation of IT leaders. 

Manish, let’s start with you would describe yourself to someone for the first time outside of a work setting?

I’d describe myself as family orientated and community focused. I come from a working-class background; my parents immigrated to the UK from India and Africa and worked hard to provide for me. Their example has inspired me to give back to society and contribute positively to my community. My dad has a particularly strong community spirit, dedicating 25 years of his life to serving the local and national community, and I’ve tried to follow in his footsteps for the last 30 years and do my best to make a difference.

Where did you grow up, and what was your education like?

I grew up in Houghton Regis, a village on the outskirts of Luton, not far from London. It’s a deprived area, and I’ve always lived in Luton. I’m passionate about showing that one’s background or location shouldn’t limit their opportunities. My dad encouraged me to pursue higher education for a successful future and after some indecision, I chose a degree – business information systems – that combined my interest in business studies with my enjoyment of working with computers, like building PCs and playing computer games. My choice of degree was somewhat serendipitous; I initially didn’t know what career path I wanted to pursue. It wasn’t until later in my education, during a work placement at Kodak, that I discovered my interest in IT. This experience led me to a career in IT, and I gradually transitioned from a technical role to a more strategic and managerial one, thanks to the guidance of a mentor.

Can you share more about your career journey and the role that mentors have had? 

After my work placement at Kodak, I joined the company as an IT service desk engineer after graduating. Over time, I realized my passion for both technical aspects and customer service. However, a conversation with a mentor, Alex Rammal, Group IT Director at OCI, prompted a significant shift in my career focus. Alex encouraged me to consider whether I wanted to remain purely technical or become a leader who could influence and transform how businesses operate. I chose the latter path, which required me to develop not only my technical skills but also my managerial and business acumen. This transition eventually led me to where I am today, having held senior leadership roles and successfully growing teams and investments in major organizations, including EasyJet which was my job before OCI.

What made you want to join OCI?

The decision stemmed from the strong relationship I developed with Alex as my mentor. He played a significant role in my career development and provided valuable guidance during challenging times. When an opportunity came up in Alex’s team at OCI, he thought it would be a good fit for me. And after seeing the exciting growth and innovation journey OCI was on, and the positive impact that I personally could have, I decided to make the move!

Are you a mentor yourself?

Yes, absolutely. I believe in the power of giving back through mentoring. As I’ve grown in my career and developed high-performing teams, I’ve stayed in touch with key individuals and built trusted networks. I consider these individuals as friends, and while we may not meet every day, we support each other in various ways. I find immense satisfaction in helping others develop and thrive, whether it’s coaching, offering guidance, or providing support through challenges. It’s a way of giving back and contributing to other people’s growth. 

You helped organize a virtual work experience for students earlier this year, how did it come about? 

In my previous role at EasyJet, I participated in the Enterprise Advisor scheme, a program that helps students acquire the right skills for the job market. When I made the move to OCI, I continued my relationship with the scheme as part of my desire to give back to the community. I wanted to offer the students from Stockwood Park Academy in Luton a unique experience bringing together IT with remote work, showcasing the evolving nature of careers and the workplace today. 

Manish and Alex Rammal with the work experience students
What was the most memorable thing about the work experience students?

Witnessing their enthusiasm and curiosity. These students embraced the virtual work environment and actively participated in introductory meetings with my team, which includes members from Europe, the UK, and the US. It was heartening to see them engage with professionals from different cultures and gain insights into global collaboration. Additionally, setting them projects to work on allowed them to apply their skills and problem-solving abilities, giving them confidence and fostering a sense of all the possibilities a career in IT can open up. 

To find out more about how you could have an impact in a career at OCI, visit our careers site here.

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