A connector for women in tech
Orange County, California
I RECENTLY READ
Snowball by Alice Shroeder
WOMEN WHO INSPIRE ME
Sheila Lirio Marcelo, the founder of Care.com. It was amazing to see an Asian-American woman ringing the NYSE bell and taking her company public in January 2014.
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Let’s set the scene: You’re a recent graduate, just starting your career. You’re full of ambition and big ideas. You have no idea where to start. You have clear goals, but you need guidance. What you really need is a mentor—someone who can advise you on your short- and long-term goals, connect you with people in your industry and advocate on your behalf.
Angie Chang is the vice president of Hackbright Academy, where she helps women build their skills and provides them with mentors, pointing them toward careers in tech. She also founded Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners and co-founded Women 2.0, both of which are geared toward connecting women in the tech industry. She is passionate about creating a network of women who teach each other and build each other up in their careers.
It’s safe to say Angie is a mentorship pro. She gave us the how-to on finding a mentor, being a mentee and making the most of the relationship.
Be visible in your community.
Go to networking events, happy hours, talks and conferences focused on your industry or the industry you’re interested in joining. Not only will you absorb tons of information, but by having a consistent presence in the community, you’ll make yourself known to potential mentors.
Talk to everyone.
When you’re at an event, talk to people who do all different kinds of things within your area of interest. They’ll expose you to various opportunities and possibilities within your industry, which can help you hone in on your specific goals. A mentor doesn’t have to be the CEO or VP. Some of the best mentors are one level ahead of the mentee. CEOs and VPs can provide a lot of high-level advice, but execution requires tactical skills shared among people in similar situations—people just like yourself or a step or two ahead of you.
Create a network.
Imagine that you are creating a board of three to five advisors to guide you through various things you’re working at—everything from a skill that will further your career to a newfound hobby. Having a group of mentors, as opposed to one mentor, will help you become a more well-rounded person.
Identify a good mentor.
This person should be accomplished, of course, but there’s more to it. A good mentor is someone who is able to identify potential and willing to develop it. They are awesome listeners; they practice active listening and don’t talk too much. Good mentors check in with their mentee regularly, which shows that they care and establishes a strong line of communication.
Take it slow.
You don’t ask a guy to be your boyfriend on the first date. You have to gradually build the relationship before you ask someone to be your mentor. To build rapport, be unfailing. Don’t flake on meetings and be extremely responsive and proactive. Have a standing appointment. Fulfill your obligations, show that you do your research and make sure you demonstrate to your mentor that you are learning and growing because of their advice.
Show that you have a vision for your future.
A mentor wants to see that you have a general direction—you know where you want to go and you have specific goals. It’s expected that you don’t have every little detail figured out, but a mentor needs you to have a goal in mind so that they know how to help you.
As a mentor, there’s nothing more frustrating than a mentee who doesn’t take your advice. Listen to your mentor, show that you’re taking their suggestions and demonstrate how you’re using it. Give regular updates about what you’re specifically doing to implement their ideas.
You manage the relationship.
It’s up to the mentee to take initiative and “manage up.” You have more to gain from the connection, and your mentor’s time tends to be more valuable than yours. It’s your responsibility to check in with your mentor regularly with updates on what you’ve been doing to reach your short-term and long-term goals.
Remember there’s something in it for them, too.
It can be difficult to ask for help, especially from a successful, busy person. Don’t think of yourself as a burden—your mentor has plenty to gain from their connection with you. People at the top of their industry see the importance of developing the next generation of talent, and they take pride in doing so. They’re also expanding their own network by building up a young, talented person. Plus, having an accomplished mentee is the ultimate #humblebrag—when you succeed, your mentor has succeeded, too.