Celebrating National Mentoring Month with a spotlight on 84.51° peer mentorships
January is National Mentoring Month, and at 84.51°, our Women’s EDGE: Women in Tech peer mentoring program continues to gain steam as a valuable resource for our employees to get to know each other, develop skills, and learn about the business.
In honor of the occasion, we talked to Johnnalee Kutzke, Data Scientist, and two women she’s been paired with in the program – Amber Martini, Manager, Data Science, and Data Scientist Livia Bedwell – about the value of professional mentorships and how the 84.51° program has enhanced their work and experience.
What drew you to participate in 84.51°’s peer mentoring program?
Amber: When I first joined the peer mentor program, I was a brand new employee at the company. I thought it would be a good way to learn what I needed to know about how the company works, and where to get that information. As I moved forward, I looked to the program for learning new topics – like reading a book with someone on new technology or trying to learn a new coding language. It was also a way to have an accountability partner as I was setting goals. Then, in the last couple of years, I've kind of transitioned again into kind more of an advisory role, with peer mentors who have been newer to the company. It’s been an amazing experience to participate and get comfortable in mentoring in all these different settings.
How do different pairings benefit employees?
Johnnalee: The flexibility and range of pairings is really cool. You can have an advisory relationship or more of a peer-to-peer dynamic. When I started my mentorship with Amber, I was new to the company and she had been here awhile, so it was kind of an advisory role. I could come to her with questions about how things worked and it was so helpful to get her perspective as an experienced employee. A lot of times I’d find myself in a situation thinking, ‘This is something I want to talk through with Amber,’ to see how she might deal with something. So it was a great way to get a more senior perspective from someone who's been at the company longer and has more experience. Today, I’m paired with Livia and it’s a great but different dynamic. We actually started at 84.51° on the same day. She has a very different team than me, so learning about the projects she's working on is very different from my day-to-day and gives me visibility into other areas of business. It helps me know what another team and their day might look like, so I get more overall knowledge and understanding of the business and culture. Those different types of visibility are very valuable.
What other benefits do the program and pairings provide?
Amber: There are so many things you can get out of it. It’s great to have someone who’s not on your team to get advice about your day-to-day work and see how someone else might approach a challenge or situation. It’s also great for learning about other parts of the business. Typically you're kind of silo-ed to your own team in your day-to-day work – at least I am. A mentorship is a good way to see other parts of the business that I've never worked with before. It can also be a way to explore a new area I’m interested in. I've read books with my mentor before – on a topic we wanted to learn about or just a fun book about technology we wanted to read. You can make it what you want it to be and there are lots of ways to make it work.
Johnnalee: Having outside perspective from someone who is not working closely with you or on your projects, but also understands our workplace, is extremely valuable.
Has anything surprised you?
Amber: I’ve found that I, as a mentor, also like being a mentee to the same people. I’ve learned a lot from Johnnalee in the way that she carries herself and her work/life balance. And we’ve had a lot of really good discussions about putting yourself first and thinking about what you need to be successful in work and life. Each individual pairing shows me things I hadn’t thought about before.
What would you tell someone considering joining this or any other kind of mentoring relationship?
Livia: Some people might be hesitant to participate because they're more introverted. I’d consider myself to be one of those people. But this has been a very helpful way to get me to meet different people and learn new things. It can be intimidating to try and find a mentor, but this program takes some of the work out of it for you. If you're on the fence, just give it a try. I'd be really shocked to find you don't get anything out of it. It might not be what you’re expecting, but it will probably be very valuable.
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