Conventional wisdom is that a woman should have mentors and role models who look like her and can relate to her. This is true, but I’ve also thought it was critical to branch out and build relationships with people whose experiences were very different than mine. I’ve been lucky to have had a rich montage of mentors, varying widely in age and background.
My mentoring relationships serve different purposes. Some of them are strictly professional in nature. Others enrich me intellectually, culturally or emotionally. I highly recommend building a “Personal Board of Directors”—a collection of mentors, advisors and coaches to fulfill different needs.
Earlier in my career, I, like many women, didn’t have a natural way to network with people who had the ability to develop me. Fortunately, Deloitte has a mentoring culture with lots of people who were willing to take me under their wing. From them, I learned how to navigate our organization and get the advice, leadership training and other resources I needed to advance and become partner. A few of them were so committed that they put their reputations on the line to support me. Deloitte also has a Diversity Initiative and a Women’s Initiative to support and develop our talent.
In addition, I’ve received excellent career development outside of Deloitte. Some of my best mentors have been professionals I met through my long association with the National Association of Black Accountants. I highly recommend professional associations as a resource for professional and career development.
I enjoy using what I’ve learned from my mentors to help others. Mentoring is a lot of work, but it can be very fulfilling. Also, it helps me connect with the next generation. I’m one of the younger partners at Deloitte, but that’s not how I’m perceived by our Generation Y professionals. To them, anyone north of 30 is old! Many of the young people I come across in the profession ask for advice on how to acquire it all—career, family, advancement—as soon as possible. They don’t want to wait. I encourage them to pursue their dreams, but I try to keep them grounded at the same time. I’ve had the privilege of coaching and mentoring some very talented people, both inside and outside my organization. It’s very satisfying to develop people with lots of potential and see them move up in their careers.