Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors

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FountainBlue’s May 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors. Below are notes from the conversation. Our mentors represented a range of tech companies, with leaders from many backgrounds and roles, all with experience at many different levels within and outside tech organizations and start-ups and consultancies. They have worked with a range of mentees and mentors and generously shared their wisdom and advice. Know what you want

  • A mentor is different than a coach, who focuses more on mostly your business goals. It’s different than an executive sponsor, who may have the influence and authority to help you advance in your career, open doors and navigate the politics. It’s different than a boss, who focuses more on your job performance and goals. A mentor goes beyond that and is generally a longer term (beyond a task/project), more inclusive (beyond work) relationship.
  • A mentor stretches your perspective and horizons – first listening deeply to you, and then offering information and perspectives that stretch your comfort zone and the range of possibilities for you, in work and in life.

Follow a process for selecting and working with a mentor

  • Know what you want to do and why before you reach out to identify a mentor.
  • Be worthy of mentoring – show intelligence, trustworthiness, integrity, competence, promise.
  • Consider the task you need help you, the time you need for support, and the scope of support you need before reaching out to identify a mentor.
  • Select a mentor/mentee you respect who is competent and trustworthy. The relationship will be longer term and will cover work as well as life issues, so you want someone competent and trustworthy on both sides of the mentoring table.
  • Mentees need to take ownership and drive the process and relationship, embracing opportunities to learn and grow, especially when it’s uncomfortable.
  • Be organized, on top of things, punctual, respectful of the mentor’s time and advice and connections.

Make the relationship rewarding for both sides

  • Everyone’s time is valuable – make the mentoring experience a positive, thought-provoking experience for both sides.
  • A mentoring session is not a gripe session. Find others for that type of support.
  • Embrace the opportunity to learn and grow in areas you want to focus on, but also take advantage of serendipitous opportunities to learn and stretch.
  • Celebrate your relationship, your progress.

The bottom line is that mentoring is a two-way street. Make sure that both parties benefit and grow from the relationship and interactions.


Please join us in thanking our speakers for  FountainBlue’s May 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors, and to our gracious hosts at Aruba. Facilitator Pat Obuchowski, MBA, CPCC, PCC, CEO, inVisionaria Panelist Marta Beckwith, Vice President of Legal, Aruba Networks Panelist Karen Borden, Senior Director of HR, Lam Research Panelist Laura Danckwerth, Director of Social Engineering, Stub Hub, President of eBay Women In Technology Panelist Martha Galley, Vice President, salesforce.com, Advisor, ASTIA

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