84.51° peer mentorship spotlight: Sharing experiences and perspectives
84.51°’s Women in Tech (WiT) peer mentoring program goes beyond traditional mentoring relationships to bring together employees from a variety of different experience levels, departments and disciplines. In fact, it’s not even limited to women!
To celebrate National Mentoring Month this January, we talked to Engineering Manager Tony Gast and Casey Samagalsky, Senior Data Scientist, about their experiences in the peer mentorship program and how their current pairing is enhancing their work.
Why did you join the peer mentorship program at 84.51°?
Tony: Having five daughters and having worked in the technical field for 35 years, I know a lot of times, women in tech don’t always take advantage of what’s available to them professionally. Part of my motivation is to make sure women at 84.51° know all of the great things available to them from this company, and how to get it – whether that’s this program or a career opportunity or something else. There are people who bring a lot to this company and maybe with just some small advice from me, they might get more from the company. And I can say I was a very small part of that. But also, for me, I like meeting new people elsewhere in the organization, and I like to know what's going on, and these pairings are a good way to create those connections.
I have 35 years in the industry, and I've been at 84.51° for 17 years, and I’ve done several of these pairings. But even with all my experience, I'm still learning. This is not a program where I’m going to give you a list of ‘here's my eight things I've learned in 35 years.’ It’s more dynamic, more interactive, and in my experience, the mentors all come in ready to learn a lot. I keep coming back because I learn a lot, too.
Casey: I'm relatively new to Women in Tech and when I saw there was a peer mentorship opportunity I jumped in because I had never been a part of anything like it. I was really hesitant to join because I had never done it before, and I didn't really know what peer mentorship looked like. What do you talk about? What are the questions that you ask, how in depth do you go with your work? Those sorts of things were intimidating at first.
I decided to be very transparent in our first meeting where we talked about ourselves and what we’ve been working on. I kind of left it all on the table and said like I've never been in a peer mentorship pair before, I don't know what this relationship looks like but I'm excited to learn about it. Tony has been great with leading me down the road of what mentorship looks like and what you can get out of it.
Can you share an example of how the mentorship shows up in the workday?
Tony: Despite Casey never having done this, I have to say she’s been really great because she’s very clear about what she needs from me on a given day, or what she wants to talk about when we meet. It’s what you might consider a more classic kind of mentoring situation, and Casey’s been really direct, which I love.
Casey: One thing Tony has brought me a lot of perspective about is project management. I was recently promoted, and I was in a little bit more of a leadership position on a project, so I was given new responsibilities that I hadn't had before. We had very tight timelines and the project was much larger than anyone anticipated. We kept going in circles of reviewing work, making small changes, and reviewing again. I was trying to get everything to 100% and it was really slowing us down. Tony gave me his perspective that if it's going to take that long, I needed to focus on producing wonderful output instead. That I should look at the terms laid out before the project, and then shoot to complete all of those terms. Then, if you have additional time, you can always go back and perfect it or make it better. That was such a relief for someone to say in a workplace, and it’s my favorite thing I've learned in this mentorship: You can have a wonderful product and it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Has anything surprised you about your mentorships?
Casey: Well, I was pleasantly surprised to see that we have men involved in WiT. But I think it’s wonderful to see how he wants to be involved in making sure that women are getting the same opportunities. Also, I think when you're working solely with your own team and your own stakeholders, you tend to get the same thoughts and your ideations tend to be very similar. When you get these different perspectives in a peer mentorship relationship, you get differing perspectives that you may not think are applicable to your current work, but they really do translate well. And that's something that I did not realize would happen.
I’m on the Enterprise Price and Promotion team, so I'm pretty merchandising-focused and haven't been too involved with the rest of 84.51 yet. Hearing Tony's perspective on the way things are being done across the company, whether it's with his team or with other teams, and the way things have been done in the past, is always enlightening.
Tony: It’s not a surprise, but the peer mentoring program gives me the reassurance that 84.51° continues to bring in driven, talented people. It’s really great to see that through these pairings time and time again.
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