Finding a mentor: When, where, and how

In this third blog in our mentoring women in technology blog series, we’ll talk about the different types of mentors, where to find them, and how to create a mentorship relationship that works for you.

A mentoring relationship can help technology professionals at any stage identify new growth opportunities, gain perspective on the challenges they face, and build a network of support as they advance. That’s especially important for women and other underrepresented groups in tech, who often face structural disadvantages and lack a sense of belonging at work. But these same factors can make it harder for these individuals to make connections with potential mentors, sponsors, coaches, and other candidates for their personal board of directors.  

In our previous blogs, we talked about why mentoring matters and how to get the most from it. Now we’ll get into the most important question of all: how to get started. 

Taking the initiative

While formal programs such as the Tech Women @ Intuit (TWI) Mentorship program make it simple for tech professionals to pair up with a mentor, they’re not the only way to do so. In fact, making the connection can be as simple as keeping your eyes out for a prospect and asking them. “During town halls or bigger meetings, I would observe leaders and look for someone who I thought would challenge me or point me in the right direction,” says Justyna Yung, analytics leader at Intuit. “It was as simple as sending an email saying: ‘I’m interested in finding a mentor—would you be willing to spend just an hour a month with me, point me to literature or any webinars I should be attending, or anything that you think would help me?’”

Crystal Robinson-Pipersburgh, group manager for data engineering at Intuit, reached out to a potential advisor with a specific mentoring need:  

“When I moved to Intuit’s TurboTax team, I started working in a matrixed organization where I had engineers working on initiatives that I was managing and in charge of, but they didn’t report to me. It was something that was really different for me, so I found someone who worked in a matrixed organization and did it well, reached out to her, and asked her to give me some pointers.” 

Crystal Robinson-Pipersburgh

Kimbra Brookstein, global leader, Tech Women @ Intuit and staff program leader, DEI in Tech, took a similar approach. “When we think of a formal structured mentorship program or pairing, it does not have to be that. It can be casual. There’s no right or wrong way to invest in yourself or others. When I was looking to grow my career as part of Intuit’s People and Places organization, I wanted to develop my skills within some of our technology rubric systems for program management. I strategically sought out a mentor who was a technical program manager leader so I could get insight on how she viewed me, my programs, and my experiences. I used that feedback to build an impactful career within our tech ecosystem.” 

Finding the right kinds of relationships for your needs

Each mentorship relationship is unique, but broadly speaking they can be grouped by the intensity and duration of the connection. “There are really three buckets when we talk about how we can learn from others,” explains Kimbra Brookstein.

“Mentors give guidance and advice based on their own personal journey and experience. Sponsorship goes further, taking action by advocating. Coaching is more about short-term insights.” 

Kimbra Brookstein

While coaching is by nature shorter-term, it can still be highly valuable, says Kimbra. “You can coach a team member through a specific program or sprint with a clear start and end. That’s something else to keep in mind when we talk about progression—how could you interact with teammates or people you look up to that you might seek out specific feedback, advice, or insight from?” 

Bridget Kimball, former vice president of technology at Intuit, has experienced sponsorship on both ends of the relationship. “The sponsor is someone who will put themselves on the line to advocate for you,” she says. “A mentor might say, ‘I heard there’s a role in this other group you might want to look at.’ A sponsor will say, ‘I know about this role—let me introduce you to the leader, put in a good word for you, and tell you more about what’s important to them.’ I once had a sponsor who put me up for a role that was quite a large jump for me at the time and accelerated my career. Without that, I would not be where I am today in my career.”

Bridget now gives back by being a sponsor for others. “I’ve had women who are qualified and should have been promoted but didn’t quite get there, and I’ve said, ‘We need to put this person in the promotion cycle, or we need to give her this bigger assignment.’ It’s a little bit of my personal capital. But if people, particularly women, feel like they can move up and there’s support for them, we’re all better for it.” 

In our next blog, we’ll offer more advice for growing your mentoring network—including industry organizations and programs dedicated to connecting, inspiring, and supporting women and other underrepresented groups in tech.

If you’re interested in exploring opportunities for mentorship as part of the Intuit organization, visit our Careers at Intuit site to find out how you can join our team.

Intuit

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