My first role models and mentors were my mother and grandmother, both strong women who taught me that our only limits are those we impose on ourselves. They also taught me the value of hard work and a good education.

My grandmother was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Wisconsin. My mother raised my brother and me by herself, while working and going to college. Their influence is reflected in how I guide others, always looking at what is possible instead of what is not.

Mentors are extremely important to our development, both personally and professionally. I’ve been fortunate to have had many mentors over the years, and they’ve come from a wide variety of places and perspectives. It’s important to realize that mentors don’t have to come from a certain level in an organization.We can gain valuable insight about ourselves and our work through people all around us.

At Qwest, our diversity focus, flat organizational structure and nonhierarchical culture create an ideal environment for mentorship. I advise people in my company and elsewhere to take charge of their career development. Seek mentors who can offer advice and guidance from various viewpoints. With their support, take on new challenges, and volunteer for roles in different areas of the company to gain experience and perspective.

When we take an active role in our own growth and development, we quickly find ourselves in a position to mentor others. In my experience, the best mentoring relationships are born out of a mutual interest or common experience, not a normal program. And they are most rewarding and fruitful when both people make an effort to learn from each other.

Giving and receiving mentorship are the best investments we can make in our careers. And our success is the ultimate compliment to those who’ve invested their time in us.