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How to find a mentor and make the most out of the relationship?

Mentoring session between two women

ARTICLE SUMMARY

In this piece, Heelee Kreisler, VP of customer success at Checkmarx, takes a look at how to find a mentor and how you can make the most of the relationship.

Heelee is passionate results-driven leader, with 25 years of experience in leading successful business transformations, strategic business planning and execution, business operations, and financial management and consulting, in fast-paced / high-growth environments.

She has diverse experience in executive leadership roles at tech companies, top financial institutions, and prominent management consulting and financial consulting firms.

Heelee is highly skilled at leading strategic initiatives from the ideation stage to execution while building and developing functional and cross-functional teams.

Her specialization areas are business transformation, business operation, strategic and business planning, financial management, and management consulting

WHENEVER I AM ASKED TO PROVIDE MY POINT OF VIEW ON THE LOW REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN IN MANAGERIAL ROLES IN TECH COMPANIES, AND HOW TO CHANGE THIS, MY ANSWER TO THAT IS ALWAYS THE SAME: ROLE MODELS AND MENTORS.

The one thing women in tech lack the most are role models or mentors to help them navigate through challenging situations, providing advice and feedback, helping frame challenging discussions, managing expectations, and improving confidence.

However, finding a mentor, and the right one, can be challenging.

SEARCHING FOR THE RIGHT FIT

What you need is a person who can motivate you, without being a constant cheerleader. An inspirational mentor who would lead by example and teach you how not to be afraid of putting your best foot forward. Someone that made mistakes, and lived to tell the tale.

I know, easier said than done.

While sometimes the perfect person might naturally come along, other times it may feel daunting to find the right mentor.

Surprisingly, the way to do it is not different then any other goal you want to achieve, professionally or personally. It takes proactive research and patience. You’ll need to define the timeline, assess your resources, build KPIs and set tasks.

Ask yourself – are you looking for a man or a women? Is it someone from your organisation or you prefer someone outside of it? What should be their role? Their organisational level? Their experience?

Once you have all the data, start searching.  No one can do it better than you, and as all things in life, practice makes perfect.

I know….  approaching someone to ask them to be your mentor can feel tricky, but it is a lot easier than you may think. Being asked by someone to take on this role is a huge compliment. Believe me. Once you understand that, it becomes a lot easier.

And don’t feel disheartened if they decline or feel it isn’t the right time for them. Move on to the next person on your list.

However, you must be prepared to answer follow-up questions about why you chose them, what mentorship means to you, or how often you would expect them to support you, and so on.

DEVELOP A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR MENTOR

When successfully entering a mentorship, there should be a defined set of rules of engagement between the two of you. It will be on you to book the meetings and come prepared. Listen carefully to your mentor when they are guiding you, and make sure that you show them that their guidance has made a difference.

Understand that trust brings trust. You must be open and have faith that your mentor is there for your growth.

Mentorships are relationships; despite putting in all the work, some mentorships might fail. It is futile to keep dragging on if it is not working. Thank them for their guidance and move on. There is a strong possibility that your mentor, too, knows the mentorship isn’t working.

BECOME A MENTOR

You, yes, you. I know, you may feel that you have so much more to learn. But believe me, you have already learned so much. Offer yourself as a mentor and provide guidance from your experience as a professional and a mentee.

It will make a difference, for you and your mentee. Continue the chain.

I cannot overstate the importance of role models and support systems. From my experience, many times all it takes is someone that has a practical real-life answer to the question a young female in a tech role will ask: “but how did you do it…?”

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