Recently, I saw a post on LinkedIn with this lede:
Women don’t need ‘mentors,’ they need promotions.
“Whoa,” I thought to myself, “this is probably some form of click/engagement bait.”
But it was real...
I don’t personally know the woman who wrote the post, but she’s legit — a Ph.D. with multiple patents for design and technology innovations, an author, an entrepreneur and most recently a GM and Director at one of the top tech companies in the world.
Which is why I was filled with disappointment as I read the rest of the post.
According to research, up to 95 percent of mentoring relationships are informal — and so much more than just formal mentorship or something a company pushes for good PR.
MarTechExec’s 50 Women You Need to Know recently shared their thoughts on mentorship, and they offered a vastly different perspective from that LinkedIn post.
Strong, driven and successful in their own right, their views negate the idea that mentorship is a just corporate ruse to dismiss equality and aid with PR efforts.
All great mentors share common characteristics, like:
- They treat you as their equal, advising without being belittling.
- They recognize that they have just as much to learn as they do to teach.
- They practice what they preach because they know the best way to learn is by example.
- They prioritize the relationship over the mentorship, thus planting the seed that will help the mentee forge their own professional relationships throughout their career.
- They give honest feedback, expressed in a constructive way in order to provide valuable and personalized guidance.
- They open doors to new opportunities that will help the mentee continue down the right path in their career.
And we’re not just saying that. It’s an experience shared among the women we interviewed for the Women in Martech Series.
All in all, the many benefits of mentorship that they listed can be summed up in three points.
1. Mentorship leads to unique experiences that push you forward
Sometimes we can dig ourselves too deeply into a problem. We begin to cave ourselves in. We can’t see the forest for the trees.
A good mentor sees the telltale sign of someone spinning their wheels and knows how to help you step back. Their experience gives them the insight to help guide you through the process.
Seeta Hariharan, General Manager and Group Head at Tata Consultancy Services Digital Software & Solutions Group
“I had mentors that helped me wade through the maze of complex organizations; mentors that have helped me in the advancement of my career; and advisors that have helped me see through some of my shortcomings. Some of the best critics and advisors can be your immediate family as well.”
“The marketing team at Unica was filled with rock stars, and I learned from all of them, particularly Carol Meyers, Carol Wolicki, Megan Harrigan, and Lauren Cramer.
I was young and inexperienced, and they all, in their own ways, helped me carve out my future in marketing… they each helped me develop the skills that I’ve used throughout my career.”
“I like to refer to my mentors as ‘my personal board of directors,’ largely because I have a handful of people I go to depending on the question at hand, and typically these relationships are not just a linear one-way relationship. They give me advice, sometimes I give them advice, but there's always a mutual respect, admiration and support. They’ve all helped me succeed in different ways.”
2. Mentors help elevate you in all aspects
Even the most successful people you can think of had mentors.
- Steve Jobs cites Bill Campbell.
- Mark Zuckerberg cites Steve Jobs.
- And Bill Gates cites Warren Buffett.
Having others help lift you up is crucial when you’re starting out in your chosen career field. They’ll help you grow and challenge you to be better than you are currently.
They know what it's like to start from the bottom, and they know what it takes to get to the top.
“My mentors have been trusted advisors who have helped me problem-solve and navigate the businesses I’ve worked in.
My sponsors have been just as valuable, if not more so, in that they were committed to my development and pushed me to do more. Laura Ipsen has been an amazing sponsor for me.”
“I had the wonderful fortune of having a number of excellent and supportive managers throughout my career who often stretched me to try new things or took a chance on me when I wanted to do more.
I aim to give promising talent the same kind of opportunities for development and growth when I recognize the same passion.”
“My mentor was the COO of the first adtech company where I worked. He held the entire organization to the highest standards and fostered a customer-first culture, which permeated everything we did.
When I stepped into my first management role, he was deliberate in ensuring my primary focus was always on people, the team and that my foremost responsibility was to make sure my team was taken care of, mentored and had open, transparent lines of communication.”
“I'm exposed to the UK market predominantly and I was lucky enough to be in a mentoring group with Karen Blackett, Mediacom Chairwoman. She was really inspiring and despite being in an incredibly senior role, she was very empathetic and quintessentially 'female.'
It was invaluable learning that, as a woman, you don't have to change who you are, or curtail your natural instincts to be a good leader.”
3. Mentorship by women, to women, can move mountains in our industry
Making a difference starts by looking outward, at ways we can help other women in the industry, rather than focusing inward on our own promotions.
The number of women in tech positions is relatively small. Studies show that they only hold about 25 percent of computing jobs. That makes it harder for women to find experienced mentors amongst themselves.
The best thing we can do is to advocate for ourselves, so we can show other women what women in tech are capable of.
“Women in martech need to come together to share their knowledge and support one another. At Time Inc., we have a Women at Time Inc. (W@TI) program which gives women within the company, across all offices, an opportunity to come together and get acquainted, make connections, discuss what’s on our collective minds and, most importantly, learn from each other.
Support, mentorship and unity are, and will continue to be, the backbone of women in this industry.”
"We can help more women see themselves in martech. That’s why I decided to participate in this Women in Martech call for submissions.
We can show up for career day at the local high school and talk about how the job we have today didn’t even exist when we were attending career day in our own high school. We can write to school principals and recommend programs like ‘Hour of Code.’
We can also talk with friends who have stagnated in a career in marketing or communications about the tremendous opportunity in tech."
"Women need female role models and mentors. I’m a huge believer in 'you need to see it to be it.'
Women at senior levels in martech need to recognize the role we all play in developing that next generation."
"I’m fortunate enough to work for a technology company that provides a great community for women — one that has led to women representing 40 percent of its leadership positions and being named among Best Workplaces for Women. We need to continue to support each other, mentor each other and encourage each other in the workplace."