Mentorship is a critical topic for women to consider for all aspects of growth. When asked about this topic, the panelists all shared different experiences of who their mentors are, what kind of mentors they want to be, and what kinds of mentor relationships make for the best outcomes.
The most notable theme was one about knowing what you want in a mentorship. Tableau’s Senior Director of Product Marketing, Stephanie Richardson said, “When you reach out to someone for a mentorship, make sure you own the conversation. Figure out what it is you want to learn, and be specific when asking for help.”
Stephanie continued saying that one of the best pieces of advice she ever got from a mentor was about the learning opportunities hiding in every situation—not just within the confines of a mentorship: “When you’re going through these really hard projects, or you’re working on something that is not the way you want it to be, every interaction is an opportunity for learning. It’s not always optimal and beautiful, but there will always be something you can gain from it. It taught me how to tear away the crazy and chaos and take what I can get from each specific instance,” she said.
Emily expanded on this idea saying, “I have a one-to-many relationship. I have a mentor for overall career development, I have one for communication skills, and I have one specific technical skills as well, because everybody has their thing. So I try to leverage their things, and hopefully people can leverage my things.”
Echoing the one-to-many mentors, panelist Katherine Mathews, a database manager at the Entomological Society of America said, “getting involved in a community, or getting involved in a whole group of people who were all about the same stuff really opened a lot for me.”
Stephanie agreed by citing one of Tableau’s own customers who said, “The community will never let you fail.”
As for Dr. Williams, while she looked up to Dwayne Wayne on the early 1990s TV show “A Different World,” because he was the first person of color she saw doing mathematics, her first real push to be her best came from someone very different than herself.
She said, “I challenge the men in the room. Because when I think about the person who really got me excited about math and numbers, it was my AP calculus teacher, Mr. Dorman, an older white man. Mr. Dorman was the one who pulled me to the side and said, ‘you know, you’re very talented in math, have you thought about majoring in it when you go to college?’ And what he said to me in that moment meant more to me than anything my parents had ever said. I thought, who is this older white man who thinks I can do math? And you think I can go to college? It meant more to me than any of the deaconesses at my church who would say to me, ‘baby, you’re so smart,’ and I would think—you have to say that. For me, hearing it from someone so different made it even more of an impact. So yes, women and women of color, you’re going to be an example, but often hearing affirmation from a source you don’t expect it to come from is going to make it really stick. I had validation from someone in the eyes of someone who didn’t have to validate me.”
Dr. Williams finished with this: “My challenge to us is to do what we love, live out our passion. Whether it’s data or whatever it is. We need to live our passion so we can leave a legacy for those people coming after us.”
To learn more, watch the full TC17 Data + Women session here.