Mentorship helps younger workers build confidence and skills. That’s true for women working in the channel who can benefit from an experienced peer's guidance and support.
As powerful as mentorship is, the time commitment and follow-through required for a successful relationship can be difficult for some folks.
That’s especially true in tumultuous times like these, where it’s difficult to connect and time pressures are heightened. Perhaps this is why only 37 percent of professionals have a mentor, shedding new light on the need to make mentorship a priority.
For women like Tina Gravel, SVP of Global Channels and Alliances at AppGate, mentorship can be a gamechanger. As a young sales executive in another company, it was a mentor who made Gravel aware that she might want to change her management style. “When I first became a manager, I micromanaged my sales team, which led to some unhappy people,” she says. Her mentor's feedback led her to adjust how she managed to be more people-focused and take less of a one-size-fits-all approach.
So how can women in the channel make mentorship work for them?
Engage in Communities
For those looking for a mentor, Gravel says women should look around their company for a role model or someone who has a skill they want. “I had a mentor when I was 25. She was a CIO who could command a room, and I wanted to know how to do that,” says Gravel. There are many women’s groups in the channel and many of those have mentorship programs, events and opportunities for women to connect with mentors and peers. And your mentor doesn’t have to be a woman. Women can have male mentors and vice versa, says Gravel, who says women might need a male mentor to gain access to sponsorships.
Take A Proactive Approach
Once you engage in mentorship, both mentors and mentees should set expectations for the relationship, so each party knows what the other hopes to get out of it. Letting your mentor know your goals, putting in the work and proactively reaching out for advice are great ways to signal to your mentor that you’re taking the relationship seriously. “Mentors are very busy. If you don’t think being mentored is a priority, then your mentor won’t think it is either,” says Gravel. Gravel looks for mentors who show real desire and says she spends the most time with those who earn it by showing up prepared.
Seek Out Formal Programs
Good intentions aren’t a mentorship plan, and with the fast-paced demands of channel life, it’s easy for women to put mentorship on the back burner. Formalizing a mentorship program can make it easier for mentors and mentees to connect. As many as 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs. While working for a previous employer, Gravel sat on a mentorship committee, where she and her colleagues signed mentorship contracts. It set guidelines for engagement, meetings and ensuring that parties were being accountable. “We all had to write down what we wanted from the mentorship,” says Gravel, who feels the ground rules and structure made the mentoring more productive for all parties.
Mentorship Matters, But So Does Sponsorship
Mentorships provide the guidance and support women need to navigate channel relationships and careers, but Gravel says sponsorship is what’s needed most to help women advance. “We’re not just giving advice at that point. As a sponsor, I can recommend someone for a higher-level role,” explains Gravel, who says sponsorship isn’t happening enough. “We can mentor and advise all day long, but it’s the sponsorship that moves women ahead.”
While Gravel admits that sponsorship comes with risk, it’s rewarding to see women advance and succeed in their new roles. “I always try to take those calls and be there for people.”
And for women who haven’t taken the time to put mentorship on their priority list, Gravel says there are benefits to be gained for all parties involved, particularly the gratification of knowing you helped someone and building a network of people who will be there if you need help one day.