Had you asked me 20 years ago where I would be today,I would have described a career on Wall Street rather than merchandising, purchasing, and retail operations. Now as a senior vice president responsible for overseeing operations for 272 stores in five states, I can trace my steps back to early lessons from mentors who showed me the value of taking risks and seeing opportunities in unlikely places.

After college, a mentor convinced me to apply for a regional sales position with BEHR Paint. I remember telling him, “I don’t know anything about selling paint! ” But I took a chance. As I progressed through different roles, I learned how to think on my feet and to learn the total business.

Later, I had an opportunity to move into a regional operations management role with The Home Depot. I didn’t know operations, but a mentor urged me to do more and to apply my skills and experience in a different setting. So I took a risk. That choice led me to my current role in Walmart store operations. Looking back, I see the pivotal role that mentors played in helping me navigate my career path. I’m delighted to give back now to others, applying and sharing what I learned.

I learned that a mentor:

Provides perspective. A mentor is someone who, in an honest and supportive way, helps others gain a different perspective on their own abilities and career choices. A mentor helps mentees see their strengths and weaknesses, and assists them in developing their own career plans of action.

Challenges. A mentor challenges her mentees to do things they might not know they are capable of, and helps them to see their own potential.

Takes risks. A mentor is willing to invest in someone based on a glimpse of potential that is not yet realized.

I think as women, we can be confident in our knowledge and abilities, yet we sometimes have a hard time letting go of what we know. When we step out we realize, “Wow, I can do this!” In most of my career decisions, mentors have helped me to see why the risk was worth taking. Thanks to the mentors in my life who have helped to guide and shape my career, today I am incredibly fortunate to be in a job I love with a company I believe in. I have no regrets, and I see no limitations