It is true: women are still often limited in their career growth due to male dominance in the workplace; however, stories of triumph are becoming more prevalent. In the book, Pressing ON As a Tech Mom: How Tech Industry Mothers Set Goals, Define Boundaries & Raise The Bar for Success, there is a common theme from the twelve women that we interviewed, and the over 300 that we surveyed from around the globe. Not only were they successful moms working in technology, but they all had mentors. Additionally, the women had sponsors. It is commonly surmised that those supporting roles are one in the same, and they are often used interchangeably. It was Jennie Ibrahim of Google who reminded us otherwise:
“Mentors can empathize with you, sympathize with you, and they can give you advice that can help you in the field. Sponsors, on the other hand, advocate for you and help you move up. They are in the room where others decide your future when you are not in the room. Those sponsors advocate for you and let others know about your accomplishments.” In other words, it is important to have both mentorship and sponsorship.
If mentors and sponsors are helpful advocates for one’s career, how does one obtain these allies? Below are three tips that you can use to find a mentor and a sponsor.
Have the courage to make your professional accomplishments and interests known. This is naturally uncomfortable for most women as we are conditioned to be humble with our head down and expect that our efforts will be noticed. Unfortunately, that is uncommonly the case. Therefore, capture data for the work that you do and, in an appropriate setting, boldly share the impact of your business outcomes.
When your accomplishments are known, it is more likely that you will be able to secure a sponsor. For example, earlier in my career when I was interested in moving to a new division, I had the opportunity to work on the periphery of a project with that other division’s leader. When I felt that the time was right, I made sure that she had the data that spoke to my performance. Then I told her that I was interested in joining her team. Within two months, she had arranged for my transfer with a promotion to Director and a significant pay increase. I had found my sponsor.
Employees of mine have said, “Asking for a mentor is like asking someone out on a date” and I wholeheartedly agree with that. The fear of rejection reigns king in vulnerable situations and being brave is the way to cut through that internal resistance. You must squash down that fear and ask the question anyway. Follow this script to make it easier:
- “I admire how you ______ and have accomplished _______. “
- “I am working on enhancing my skills in these areas _______ in order to _____.”
- “Would you be willing to spend 25 minutes with me each month via Zoom to serve as my mentor?”
I used this approach in 2018 when I found a crucial mentor in my life. Spoiler alert: the person I asked was my now business partner and book co-author Emilia D’Anzica. Emilia was hired by my then employer to educate my team on best-in-class customer success strategies and tactics. I was fond of her teaching style, her career successes, and the fact that she’s also a mom. I mustered up the courage to ask her to be my mentor. Fortunately, she said “yes” and years later, we are now friends, colleagues, and co-authors.
Our accomplishments are the result of our own efforts and merits, but they are often bolstered by the support of others in some way. For example, I had a colleague politely, and privately, tell me that I used the phrase “intents and purposes” incorrectly in an email to half of our company. I was 25 years old and had been saying “intensive purposes” all along. While I was embarrassed, mortified really, I was more so grateful. This small gesture was helpful for me. Pause and take note of the allies on your path to greatness. Now ask yourself, “how can I enable others to reach her or his maximum potential?” Your benevolence can be a small-scale act and still be meaningful.
As a working mom, regardless of the industry to which you belong, you are faced with challenges, obstacles, and uncertainties in your quest to grow your career. Just like with child rearing – it is significantly better when you have a team of people from which you can draw advice, courage, strength, and a good old fashioned helping hand. Seek to find your mentor and your sponsor. And then offer to play the same part for another mom in need.
This guest post was authored by Sabina M. Pons
Sabina M. Pons is a management consultant whose focus is on driving revenue protection and growth for technology companies. In her 20+ year career, she has led global corporate teams, managed multi-million-dollar P&Ls, and built teams from the ground up. Now, she serves as the Managing Director of the emerging management consulting company, Growth Molecules.
With a master’s degree in Communication, Leadership & Organizational Behavior from Gonzaga University and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Southern California, Sabina is passionate about igniting corporate transformational change. She also sits on several boards, participates in many mentorship programs, and recently obtained a First-Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. Sabina resides in Orange County in Southern California with her husband, two young children, and Goldendoodle dog, Riley. Pressing ON as a Tech Mom: How Tech Industry Mothers Set Goals, Define Boundaries & Raise the Bar for Success is Sabina’s first book.