Mentoring Month Spotlight: VP of Solutions Design Zoe Weintraub
In honor of National Mentoring Month, we’re sharing employee stories of how mentoring has played a role in their career journeys. We sat down with VP of Solutions Design Zoe Weintraub to learn more about her experiences as a mentee, a mentor, and her thoughts on how mentoring can facilitate growth and learning.
What has been your experience with being a mentee and serving as a mentor throughout your career?
I’ve worked with mentors who were my managers or leaders in the organizations where I’ve worked, and I’ve also sought out outside mentors based on where I was with my career and life. When I founded a company of my own, for example, I needed strategic advisors and called on a variety of different contacts in my network to lean on them for advice and feedback. I like the idea of having a “board of directors for your life” who can serve as peers and mentors to you and offer their perspectives based on what they’re best suited to share. I’ve tried to stick to that mentorship philosophy as much as I can.
I’ve had a number of mentees over the years and they really run the gamut of people I’ve worked with or gone to school with, friends, and now Guild employees. A mentee of mine at Guild and I meet regularly to focus on increasing the opportunities she pursues and developing and pressure testing her management and leadership philosophy and style as she has moved from an individual contributor role to now managing a team. Other mentee relationships I have at Guild are more ad hoc coaching sessions where folks ask questions and I listen to their situations and offer up advice based on my own experiences to hopefully help them see the world in a way that they may not be while they’re in the moment.
Can you tell us about a memorable mentor you had and some advice they shared?
One who sticks out in my mind is a professor who I still consider a mentor to this day. He taught me to think about spending time in an organization or a role as a little like basic training in the military — use it to build out all of your tools and when you no longer feel that you’re acquiring skills at the rate you’d like, move on and do something new. He felt that, especially earlier in your career, the more you learn and the more opportunities you take on will make you more likely to continue to do so throughout your career vs. staying in one role or one organization or one industry for a long period of time.
What qualities make a good mentor?
It’s so important that a mentor is accessible to their mentees to help establish a rapport and build a relationship. A mentor should help connect the dots for their mentees by introducing them to people that could help them on their career paths and advising mentees on how to handle situations based on similar experiences the mentor has been through. I also think an important role for a mentor is to be an advocate for the mentee and to cheer them on as their biggest fan. Any mentor in my life would raise their hand to do anything I ever needed from them, and I think the same should be true for any mentee relationships.
What do you think are some of the benefits of mentoring?
The biggest benefit to me is the ability to have honest and open conversation in which there’s not a lot at risk.
When you’re new to a leadership role or an industry, you don’t know what you don’t know. Mentees can look for advice and seek feedback from someone who has had some of the same challenges and knows what it’s like to see around the corner.
As a mentor, you can shed light on what your mentee should be mindful of or any “watch outs” as well as opportunities to pursue because you’ve been on the other side. There’s a chance to help ease the uncertainty or ambiguity for your mentee as much as you can.
The experience of serving as a mentor also allows you to continue to have a pulse on new talent, new ideas and different ways of thinking about things.
A mentor can also help by writing letters of recommendations, serving as a reference, connecting mentees to people in their network who could enhance or advance their career. At the end of the day, mentors just want to be helpful and provide what a mentee needs to move them forward and help them grow!
What advice would you give to people who are thinking about how to seek out mentoring relationships?
The mentor relationships I’ve had used to be ones I actively sought out and pursued, but mentoring can occur in more informal settings as well with friends, colleagues and other people in your life. It’s important to find ways to open the door to informal mentoring opportunities so it can be more accessible for the mentees who may want and need mentorship, but don’t feel comfortable asking directly for a formal mentor relationship. We also need to have the flexibility to lean on people we may not normally go for advice and feedback depending on the specific situation since different people can offer up help based on their unique experiences.
A mentor should help connect the dots for their mentees by introducing them to people that could help them on their career paths and advising mentees on how to handle situations based on similar experiences the mentor has been through.