“Make time to make a difference”

Join me, Alzbeta Houzarova, in and interview with Muriel Anton about the plans for the expansion of Odyssey into other CEE, and what’s new for Odyssey Czech Republic.

Is anything going to change with Odyssey now that you’re no longer the Head of Czech Vodafone?

Yes, to begin with, Odyssey was not managed under any formal entity structure within Vodafone. But to ensure that the nature of Odyssey as a non-profit organization is adhered to, I have been working to create a formal structure for Odyssey as a non-profit entity. The structure of Odyssey will be a “civic association“, the members of which will be mentors and mentees. And due to its non-profit status, all donations will be tax deductible, and we will be able to apply for funding from certain grants.

You announced earlier this year that you wanted to also launch Odyssey in other CEE countries. Has that progressed and what are the plans for next year?

That’s true. Now that I have more time to dedicate to Odyssey, we started working with companies in Slovakia. Many organizations had heard of Odyssey from their affiliates in the Czech Republic. We have 22 mentors signed-up, and we will have our first monthly meeting scheduled for the end of October. Companies who are participating in Odyssey Slovakia for our first year are among others: ING, ABB, Slovenská sporitelna, Google, Adidas, Deloitte, Capgemini, ČSOB, Dell, Heineken, or Telekom. Now our aim is to expand further into the CEE region, and we are starting to speak with companies in Hungary.

Is there any process for engaging the Czech companies to help with the expansion into other CEE countries?

To date, we have been speaking with some of the companies that participate in Odyssey Czech Republic. We are looking for what we call “anchor” partners, to help with the recruitment and check the interest of the Hungarian market. I would ask any mentor who has contacts within Hungary to provide an introduction email or contact details.

Odyssey has existed for over five years in the Czech republic. You must have been enormously busy while running Vodafone as CEO, but you always made sure that Odyssey continued to grow, why?

In Canada, I always had mentors both at university and in the workplace who supported my professional development and helped me navigate through difficult situations. So why not have it here? But I don’t think the mystery lies in launching a mentoring program, because I’ve spoken to people in different countries who have done it. The challenge lies in keeping it going for so many years without it dying.

Do you know how many mentors have been supporting Odyssey for the full 5 years?

We have got about twenty core members, who are with us since the beginning. The first year we started small with 12 mentors and 14 mentees, the second year we jumped to 35 mentors and after that, we have been averaging over 45 mentors per year, but we do our best to keep our base, so most mentors have an average of 3 years mentoring now.

Alžběta Houzarová:
ex-Spokesperson, Vodafone Czech republic. Coordinating Odyssey as a Head of Communications and Management, while on maternity with her one-year old. Started organizing activities in Odyssey in 2012 as a personal development activity and hasn’t left ever since. She joined Vodafone in 2008 and worked her way up the PR department to become a Spokesperson. She studied Media and Gender studies at Charles University.


Join us for one of the regular mentee sessions!

They usually take place the last Thursday of the month at Údolní 59, Braník with speakers from our brilliant pool of mentors and moderated by Veronika Bednářová, journalist at Reflex. You are all cordially invited to take part in frutiful discussions and valuable networking! Sign up here for receiving invitations.

Networking for mentors

In November, we have started a series of mentor meetings. One of our mentors, Sanjiv Suri, has graciously offered to host a dinner at Bellevue restaurant, where the first 16 mentors met and lively discussed the pros and cons of working for a multinational corporation or running one’s own business. We plan to continue organizing mentors’ networking events on a regular basis.