Recently, I met 24 influential Black women as part of a professional recognition – I admire each of them for what they’ve accomplished and overcome in their careers and personal lives. Standing next to women whose professional achievements have significantly impacted different industries made me think: What were the key factors that help me get to where I am today?
1. Being Mentored. It’s played a critical role in my professional and personal life. Mrs. Thomas, my high school counselor, was my first mentor. She coached me through scholarship application and mentored me beyond the college application process, she went further to sponsor me which helped me to land a summer job very soon after I graduated from high school.
2. Being Sponsored. A mentor or coach strengthens a mentees ability to take charge of his/her personal and professional journey and concentrates on performance – reinforcing, elevating, developing and correcting. While a sponsor also takes attention on performance, unlike mentorship, sponsorship is done with the expectation of new outcomes, like creating links or networks with influencers or people who can make decisions. The sponsor is willing to advocate with this network with strong conviction, even to the point of risking their credibility. Most importantly, the sponsor will protect you when you are in high risk situations. Together, you will be able to achieve further success. Research shows a combination of mentorship and sponsorship works.
[Source: Barbara Annis, 2017]
3. Modeling This Behavior with Others. Having been mentored and sponsored myself, I feel a strong obligation to pay it forward to others. Last year, I started a mentoring circle with Mosiac. Mosiac is a group of US minority employees within Lenovo who work in different business areas and they have been identified as great pipeline for top leadership positions.
I meet with 8 people in each session, and we talk about various topics related to their growth, challenges and shared experiences I love this approach because it allows me reach more of my mentees, they learn from each other and create a network. I then take matters further to leverage my network within Lenovo to sponsor and accompany my mentees when necessary. As a sponsor, I feel the achievements are mutual. Success doesn’t come alone.
In the spirit of this year’s International Women’s Day theme, we should continue to “press for progress.” Mentorship and sponsorship will help us continue to make a difference in women’s careers.