I meant to share this earlier, but time has flown by since DIG SOUTH. My apologies on not getting around to this faster.
I was one of the few (perhaps 4) men that attended the Women In Tech panel during DIG SOUTH. First, let me say the panel was fantastic. I was happy to see that the venue was packed for the session, but disappointed by the lack of male turn out. It is always good to hear and experience different perspectives.
Michelle Van Jura of Intersect Communications did a fantastic job moderating the Women In Tech panel session. Also of note on the panel was Titania Jordan host of Atlanta Tech Edge. The panel did a wonderful job address a variety different situations from the female perspective.
However, one topic resurfaced multiple times, mentorship. I think this is an important topic in general but the female perspective was interesting. Several panelists made comments about how mentoring "falls short". I believe what they meant by that comment was that either there are not enough female (or male) mentors giving back into the community and/or not enough people are seeking mentors.
Perhaps there is a misalignment of expectations. It was mentioned that shooting for that really well known industry mentor may be unrealistic or at least a long shot. So don't wait indefinitely for the perfect mentor. Take steps now to connect with a mentor.
Panelists reinforced that mentoring opportunities are all around each one of us, we just have to take the time to notice and the effort to do something about it. "Think Incremental" was vocalized by one or more of the panelists. What does this mean? Target mentors that can assist you with the questions you currently have and potentially questions you may have in the near future (don't overwhelm a potential mentor will too many questions).
Be specific with potential mentors about your current needs. They will appreciate your laser focus and it will give them enough detail to think and provide you with appropriate answers and information.
Also, look for a mentor you can potentially cross-train. Is there something you can teach your mentor in return? Above all ensure that your personality and your mentor's mesh. That doesn't mean you have to agree on everything, but you should enjoy spending time with them. When at all possible, spend time with your mentor face-to-face. Somethings just don't translate as well without facial expressions and in-person encouragement.
At the end of the Women In Tech panel I was lucky to connect with Nina Magnesson of BoomTown!. She vocalized how women in the area are coming together for Charleston Women In Tech and the tremendous growth they've seen for their meetup events.
That panel discussion was great. But if that weren't enough, I was lucky enough to make it to Startup Grind Charleston this past week at Launch Pad to hear Christina Lock of Catch Talent talk about her journey of being a female founder. She also mentioned Charleston Women In Tech and how their membership has rapidly grown. I think it is great to hear that the female tech ecosystem is growing and fostering itself.
However, I can help feel that more progress must still be made. I think it is great that women now have more access to resources and local mentors to further their own professional and business journeys. But at the end of the Women In Tech panel at Dig South I asked Michelle a question. Simply, "how do we make approaching a female professional or entrepreneur for mentorship more accessible for male professionals and entrepreneurs?"
Michelle seemed a bit puzzled, but thought it was an interesting question. Why did I ask her that specific question? I believe men often don't want to vocalize that they need help or mentorship to get beyond a current struggle. Perhaps it is an ego problem or just a lack of confidence. Maybe we just naturally ask people we are already more comfortable around?
But I think that needs to change. I think female mentors for aspiring women is a great thing. But I also believe that men could benefit from a different perspective in mentorship as well. Perhaps a female perspective to see business challenges in a new light. I'm also speculating that men mentored by women would be more likely to mentor a women in the future and continue the cycle of perspective swapping.
Look for a mentor that
- can assist you with the skills you want to build "Now" (aka short term)
- understands your business industry
- challenges you (you don't want the status quo)
- isn't a reflection of your image (age, gender, race, etc.) new perspectives help
When approaching a mentor be
- Specific about what you need and how you best learn (examples, action, whiteboarding, etc.)
- Honest about areas of weakness and why you want to be mentored
- Teachable at all times (remember you asked for their time and help)
- Thankful for their input and advice
Do you have something to add? Let me know on Twitter at @StartChucktown and use #CHSmentor