iMantri Matches Experts with Individuals Seeking Mentoring

This new social networking website takes advantage of AJAX, Flash, Flex and other Web 2.0 technologies and aims to become the Facebook of mentoring.

Have you ever wanted a mentor to guide you through a particular project or thorny leadership issue but didn't know where to turn? Enter iMantri, a new social networking website designed to connect mentors with the people seeking experienced advice that officially launches today.

iMantri provides what co-founder and CEO Satya Iluri calls competency-driven mentoring—that is, mentoring in a particular area such as time management, communication, leadership or project management. It also offers goal-driven mentoring, so users who aspire to, for example, become CIO, start their own business, shatter a glass ceiling in their organization or reenter the workforce after a long hiatus, can find a mentor with experience in those areas.

The name iMantri is derived from the Sanskrit word mantri, which translates to trusted advisor, according to Iluri.

"We wanted to develop a framework and process that would help participants facilitate online mentoring interactions," says Iluri. "iMantri combines the need for mentoring with the concept of social networking."

Users can find mentors by searching or browsing profiles of individuals who have registered with the site. They can also use iMantri's proprietary matching engine to find a mentor who's right for them.

The matching engine hinges on a 70 question competency assessment. It also incorporates the user's Myers Briggs personality type to identify a mentor who'll work effectively with the mentee. If a user doesn't know his Myers Briggs personality type, iMantri directs him to an online test administrator, or the user can select the personality type listed on the iMantri site that best describes him. Finally, the matching engine factors in various user preferences, including the mentor's geographical location (in case the mentor/mentee wish to meet in person) and the mentor's rating on the site (e.g. "I only want mentors with five star ratings").

The competency assessment, which can take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour to complete depending on the consideration a user gives each question, is not a mandatory requirement for the site. However, some mentors require it to get a better understanding of the individual with whom they might be working and of the individual's needs.

Individuals seeking mentoring set the frequency of their interactions with their mentor. They can measure their progress toward their goals against a plan, maintain a mentoring journal on the site (which they can share with their mentor or keep private), message their mentor directly through the platform (and vice versa) and keep tabs on tasks their mentors assign prior to meetings.

Iluri notes that not all mentoring on the site is free. Some professional coaches who register with the site may charge a fee. Anyone can register to provide mentoring, even people who are seeking mentors. Everyone has knowledge to share.

Iluri says iMantri's goal is to offer the platform, which is based on XML, AJAX, RPC, Flash and Flex technologies, to enterprises that wish to use it for mentoring internally. He says the iMantri platform, which has been tested by 375 beta users, supports internationalization. It can also connect with other corporate applications, such as an intranet, through API-based web services.

"Eventually we'll be able to get users' profiles from other social networking sites, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, once the data portability group initiative comes along," says Iluri. He expects that to happen in two or three months.

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