On September 16, 2020, SobelCo hosted its bi-monthly Executive Women’s Leadership session. Along with powerful networking and a focus on spotlighting nonprofits in the state, three panelists addressed the critical topic of mentoring and the influence of a mentor on the professional and personal life of the mentee.

Amy Valentine, CFO at Component Hardware Group (previously CFO at Sferra) was joined by Ivette Feijoo, from Sferra and Jennifer Huffman, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Together they presented a complete picture of the full experience brought about through mentoring. 

When Amy Valentine graduated and started at her first job after college, she was hoping to gain guidance and wisdom from a seasoned professional at the company. Unfortunately, she met with hostility instead and did not have the opportunity to learn on the job as she had anticipated. That lesson stuck with her and she was determined to be a help to others, to serve as a role model and a mentor, offering advice that would enable others to be their best and pursue exciting careers.

Over the years, she did have the good fortune to have other mentors who, unlike her initial encounter, created positive experiences that provided many lessons that she is still drawing on today. Some of the key points that Amy raised reflect her own personal experiences:

  • Provide constructive criticism privately
  • Be authentic in your advice, showing a genuine regard for your mentee
  • Allow others the opportunity to make mistakes without dwelling on errors. Instead, instill in them to learn from the slip up and quickly re over and move on      
  • Delegate, empower and give others a voice; this is how employees grow and expand their competencies
  • Help shape someone’s career and increase their earning potential with hands-on, practical advice
  • Remember that others may see you as a mentor even if you don’t have formal responsibilities or an official title
  • Always be available; listen carefully and make suggestions thoughtfully

At this session, two of Amy’s mentees, Ivette Feijoo and Jen Huffman, candidly shared their experience through their own perspectives as mentees.  They offered many insights as well that served to augment the suggestions Amy had offered from the viewpoint of a mentor.

While other similar events often focus on the role of a mentor and on giving advice on how to mentor effectively, having mentees as a part of the program brought a unique dimension to the dialogue. With the fresh perspective of the mentee, Ivette and Jen were able to address their side of the relationship, exploring what they contributed to building a successful mentoring situation. 

Both mentees agreed that the best mentors provide essential guidance across many different levels that can ignite passion and success in others. Here are some of their ideas:

  • Approach every conversation with your mentor as a learning opportunity
  • Before asking your mentor a question, prepare some solutions of your own to present as well
  • Remember that your mentor and you are a team, each with an important responsibility to make this a valuable venture
  • Look to your mentor for a big picture vision, for advice on cultivating emotional intelligence, and ultimately for helping with basic tactics that can be as simple as excel spread sheet tips

The three panelists shared their real world experiences and enriched the participants with their familiarities with the process.