By Yasmin Ranade
Wired Woman Toronto recently convened a panel of senior communicators to share their opinions about “The Vital Role of Mentorship”. The event was held in a packed room at the Sutton Place Hotel.
Mentoring is basic to Wired Woman’s mandate, and our mentoring programs in Toronto and Vancouver are increasingly popular and important.
The panelists impressed us and impressed upon us a rich array of professional and life experience. Their perspectives were diverse, but several consistent threads emerged. As one of the attendees told me, “Most of the panelists spoke about the importance of cultivating a variety of mentors … for personal and professional development. Several of the speakers mentioned the need to set goals and to be accountable for our own development.”
Rula Sharkawi, Vice President (A), Corporate Affairs and Communications with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation shared her personal belief that “mentoring is like a cycle of good karma,” with informal learning and mentoring opportunities in abundance at the workplace.
“People who mentor are more productive, better socialized and less stressed,” Sharkawi described. Her experience was one of informal mentoring where women nurtured others to grow.
Speaking from a more structured experience, Brenda Brown, Senior Vice President Human Resources, Compass Group Canada described her organization’s mentoring program. “We match 200 young female managers with senior managers,” Brown said. “We put their profiles on our website, share best practices, share experiences, bring in internal and external speakers, have group meetings and one-on-one mentoring meetings as well.”
Brown went on to explain that mentorship is all about relationships – a give and take experience that begins with someone asking for advice. “An informal mentor took me under his wing and supported and guided me and we are still in touch after 30 years.”
Perhaps most tactical was Brown’s “5 A’s of Mentorship: Aspiration, Ambition, Adaptability, Assuredness and Authenticity, which gave all of us a good anchor for describing the elements of successful mentorship.
Speaking from a value standpoint, Gillian Howard, Vice President, Public Affairs & Communications with the University Health Network encouraged event attendees to align themselves with mentors who share the same values, and to use negative work interactions as a means to learn not what to do!
Building on Brown’s proposition that mentorship involves a symbiotic relationship, Howard added, “When looking for mentoring, the first question to ask is ‘What’s in it for your mentor?’ Why would they want to mentor you? What’s in it for them? Tell your mentor what value you bring to the table/relationship.”
It’s important to find the right fit. Beatrice Masini, Vice President with KUBOS Transformations Inc., described mentoring in context to a dynamic investment opportunity, in which each person challenges and stretches the other’s views.
Tannis Baldock, Vice President, Corporate Communications with Hill & Knowlton stressed the importance for mentees to take the initiative in a mentoring relationship, “Take the initiative to find leaders who are going the direction you want to go,” she said.
Wynnann Rose, Director, IT Service Management with the Ontario Ministry of Government Services has capitalized on both informal as well as formal mentorship opportunities throughout her outstanding career. Her first mentor helped “in shaping her approach to business and how she interacted with her colleagues,” which helped fast-track her career at a time when there were few women in the IT industry.
The IT Department in the Ministry of Government Services offers a training-based mentoring environment where lateral moves are used to teach diverse skills.
Rose’s “key lessons” were illuminating and helpful:
- Earn your value everyday.
- Do everything to be accountable to your business and your customer.
- Perception is reality
- Measure your work.
- Brag about your work – Get the recognition you deserve.
All in all, it was a great evening – one that will be very useful to me in my own mentoring activities. As another attendee told me: “The speakers you selected achieved so much in their careers yet they were able to share their experiences in such a relatable manner. [And], the panelists provided practical tips to guide anyone who is either a mentor or a mentee.”