Written by Supriya Mimani
Ruth Frank, Vice President, Client & User Experience was interviewed by Diane Quick, Vice President, Human Resources in an interesting exchange on the topic “Maximizing a Mentor/Mentee Relationship to Navigate your Career Path”. In this insightful conversation, Ruth shared her experiences as both mentor and mentee, how she has approached and benefitted from these relationships throughout her career, the mistakes she has made and her observations about women in technology. Some interesting take-aways from the conversation are summarized below:
- Success is only an ask away. People want to see you succeed!:
As a graduate student, Ruth reveals that her earliest mentor helped her — via a series of introspective questions — process three very different career opportunities and identify the best choice at the time. Her biggest learning from the relationship was to never second-guess herself. This experience helped her build confidence that she has relied on throughout career decisions that followed.
- Mentors can be found both within or outside of a structured mentoring program :
Mentoring can happen when you least expect it. Receiving advice from peers or from colleagues on different teams internally or from leaders who are in similar roles outside of the organization can help you to pursue best practices in your field. Over time, relates Ruth, these types of relationships often evolve to powerful and important informal mentorships. As well, however, Ruth reveals that a formal mentoring program can get you aligned with a mentor who is trained at mentoring and the pairing process can be aligned towards your career goals and development objectives. Ruth continues to benefit from the longstanding successful mentorship program at Pitney Bowes and this has reinforced her insight that multiple mentors provide meaningful impact throughout one’s career.
- Discover the narrative in someone else’s career path.
Be aspirational, advises Ruth, by seeking mentors who are further down a path or career you are interested in and seek to understand their journey, the challenges they faced, and the decisions they made that resulted in their progress. Be willing to share your own challenges, progress, and developmental needs, and seek clarity from your mentor in helping you to identify the appropriate strategy and platform for your own forward path.
- Be your Brand.
Ruth’s three keys for Women in Tech: Self-Promote. Identify opportunities for branding. Connect with the right stakeholders. Pitney Bowes is an organization that has a plethora of such opportunities such as our “Early In Career” leadership program and our “Technical Ladder” program.
- Step out of your comfort zone.
Just as with any relationship, the right fit and chemistry is critical to build trust and successful outcome. On top of fit, consider a mentor who will stretch your thinking. Ruth shared her experience in changing from a mentor with a very similar view of the world to one with a very different style and approach. She found that the learning and growth was significantly greater when her thought processes and assumptions were challenged with the different perspective this mentor brought to the relationship.
- And One More. You’re ready. Step up. One of the biggest differences in working with male and female mentees is women’s reluctance to take on tasks that may seem risky. Ruth’s advice: Be confident and take that next step, and an effective mentor can help you gain clarity and confidence to get there!
While interviewing Ruth, Diane also sheds light on the current mentoring opportunities we have at Pitney Bowes and where women at PB can start if they feel they could benefit from a mentor. They also touch upon the ‘Check-in’ process at Pitney Bowes which is part of our new ‘Performance Enablement Program’ and is centered around quarterly feedback on goals and development plans that managers and peers provide employees.