They heard from a distinguished panel of four insightful speakers. Sheila Ahler, a retired partner at Cherry Bekaert LLP, moderated the discussion. She opened by explaining the differences between a mentor and a sponsor.
“A mentor is there to advise and a sponsor is there to advocate,” she said.
Ahler then asked Megan West Sherron, assistant dean of external relations at Campbell Law School, to talk about the mentorship program at Campbell Law.
“We have great mentors to come in and talk to our students and our attorneys,” she said. “They are paired up for a year. We have found a huge success in it. Daily, I get feedback from people who meet with their mentor years later.”
West Sherron also said that a good mentee arrives ready to learn. “Show up and be prepared to listen because that’s when you will get the most out of it,” she said.
Nate Spilker, vice president of product management at Citrix, then discussed the new mentorship program at Citrix.
“The program shows leadership in the organization believes this is important,” he said. “Programs like this have to be supported from the top or they will not last. The program also is set up to help people raise their hands. It’s important to our employees now and important to our company for our future.”
Spilker also said it’s important for professionals to find different mentors at different points in their careers.
“Early in your career, look for mentors not based on what they’re doing, but how they’re doing it,” he said.
West Sherron added, “I would encourage you to look and see what it is that you are trying to develop about yourself.”
The conversation then turned to sponsorships. Ahler asked Donna Sylver, chief financial officer and senior vice president for the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, to talk about what she thinks people need to know about sponsorships.
“Sponsors are really, really careful about who they put up front,” said Sylver. “You can pick a sponsor, but it’s probably the other way around because their credibility is on the line.”
Sylver said it’s important to impress sponsors enough that they will want to sponsor you. “You need to make sure that your value proposition gets noticed,” she said.
When discussing what makes a good sponsor, Sylver said, “A sponsor’s job is to put you in the right place at the right time to get you promoted or whatever the next step is for you. You should pick someone who can get you to the next level. You don’t have to like them. But, you want somebody who can open some doors for you.”
Ahler added, “A sponsor can’t give you something, other than an opportunity. But, that opportunity really is a gift.”
The panelists then discussed how to find the right mentor or sponsor.
“It’s important to first do a self-assessment about what you’re trying to get out of the mentorship,” said West Sheron. “Then, ask them about how they got to where they are.”
We want to thank all of our panelists for a great discussion, as well as all of our sponsors.
Our next Chamber Professional Women’s Luncheon will be in November. Please check back on our events page for more information on that event.