The value of workplace mentorships

This blog was guest written by Sonia Lewis, director of Performance Solutions at Intel Corporation.

I can’t believe I’m coming up on my 13th year with Intel. Time does fly! My current role is leading Intel’s Performance Solutions function where we’re focused on improving the year-round performance management experience for all employees.

My education (MS in Business from Johns Hopkins and BA in Economics-Business from UCLA) was a great foundation and led to a variety of career opportunities. In addition to my Intel career, I’ve also worked as an investment banker, federal regulator, strategy management consultant, non-profit leader and entrepreneur.

Along the way, many people played an important part in my academic and professional growth. Paying it forward has been an important way to show my gratitude to them.

I started mentoring early in my career, helping new hires integrate into the company and settle into their roles. I didn’t realize it was mentoring at the time, but in hindsight, that’s exactly what it was. It typically started with someone else saying, “You should talk to Sonia…”

Now I keep an eye out for folks who might need someone to discuss their work, aspirations, or frustrations with instead of waiting for them to come to me.

My mentees are both technical and non-technical women and men from many different backgrounds. I enjoy mentoring people who work in a variety of business units, from product engineering and manufacturing to HR, Sales, IT, and Finance. It helps me learn more about the company and the people who bring our products, services, and culture to life.

Mentoring other African Americans is particularly important to me because there aren’t as many of us in the tech industry as we’d expect or like to see. We’re truly more alike than we’re different, but it’s sometimes easiest initially to trust and connect with those we’re most like. So it’s important that we create more visible communities, expand networks, and help connect, sponsor, and advocate for one another. Doing so helps combat feelings of isolation and fosters long-term success.

Through my mentoring relationships, I’ve witnessed the positive impact that a mentor can have on someone’s career. For example, I’ve been mentoring a technical female for a few years. When we first met, she was having trouble connecting with her manager and was concerned that her work was suffering. To her credit, she was open with me from day one, and that allowed us to quickly establish trust and dig into real issues right away. We ended each session with a few specific actions for her to take, and she always followed through. As a result, both her performance and job satisfaction increased.

At the end of one of our meetings, she said, “You’ve given me my confidence back!” That simple statement was, and continues to be, powerful for both of us. Not only does it reflect how far she’s come, but it serves as a reminder of what a positive difference it makes when we rely on, support and learn from each other. So be thoughtful and deliberate in your mentoring relationships– take the time and effort to truly “see”, listen to, and be available to others. I know from experience that when done well, mentoring is mutually beneficial and has lasting impact.

 

2 thoughts on “The value of workplace mentorships

  1. Your an inspiration Sonia. I hope to run into you one day and chat about this amazing mentor/mentee experience and see if you have room for 1 more. Keep inspiring all!

  2. I am very much in favour of using tests during the interview process to determine a candidate’s workplace values. As mentioned in the article, clashing values may lead to conflict, disruptive behaviour and disharmony. In my experience it’s also easier to teach someone skills than to teach them a different attitude or set of values.

    I’ve also experienced that people with radically different values looked for other opportunities at companies where they felt more at home. I know it isn’t always the case, but it does happen. Even though the person saves you the time and trouble of getting rid of them, it is still costly to the company in terms of training, lost man hours and lost knowledge.

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