Often around the conversation around mentors it’s usually how to find a mentor or what makes a good mentor. For entrepreneurs mentors can be just as valuable or more than an investment. I’ve had various mentors in my tech career who have gave me good advice, bad advice, encouragement and sometimes that hard parenting style advice. In each case to have someone to bounce ideas off of or learn about their journey can provide priceless nuggets you need to push your career to the next level.
When I get a chance to mentor/give back it’s always a humbling opportunity but I love it. I know what it’s like to have questions, doubt and feel like others have some secret power or “force” that had led to their success. When most of the time it’s hard work, luck or the age-old saying it’s not what you know but who you know.
What’s not talked about enough is how to process the advice of a mentor. Do you take action or do you use some of the advice or how do you keep the mentor updated on your status or do you do nothing.
Last week I received a tag notification in LinkedIn from Sheena Allen. Sheena is a mobile app developer and known as one of the first woman, African-American women app developers who launched a mobile app company ( Sheena Allen Apps ) in which her apps have been downloaded over two million times.
Sheena wrote an article titled “How One Year and Three Conversations with Innovative Men Fueled My Journey“. In her article she shared how both of us were mentors during the Lean Startup Conference in 2014 and she asked me a question about how to bring more awareness to African-American women in tech.
Here’s Sheena’s story”
In December 2014 I was asked to speak at the Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco. In addition to speaking, I also volunteered to be a mentor. While waiting for the mentor sessions to begin, another mentor in the room caught my eye. It was none other than Wayne Sutton. As an African-American in tech, Wayne is a household name. While I was there to mentor, I found I had become more interested in being mentored by Wayne. I made my way over to his table and asked to speak with him briefly, which he welcomed me to sit and talk. There was one question that I wanted to ask him. “With all your years of being in the tech field, I know you’ve seen some amazing African-American women in this space, but no one really knows who they are. In your opinion, how can that change? How can an African-American female tech geek become a household name?” In short, he told me to be different from the other minorities in tech. He said I had an option of interning at various large tech companies and growing my network that way or I could take an entirely different route. I walked away from that table feeling like a new person with new challenges, in a positive way. Even though I am actually a pretty shy person, that conversation convinced to step outside of my comfort zone. After that conversation and over the next few months, I found myself shooting for a documentary (She Started It), doing interviews, and speaking at numerous conferences and universities.
You never know how a mentorship session can go or a pre-mentor session in this case can go. It says a lot that Sheena was there to mentor too and I’m glad she was able to get value from our conversation. This leads back to how do you process the advice from a mentor or anyone. You can do nothing or take action. Sheena had enough self-awareness that she was shy but she also had enough courage and motivation just as she did with her app company to keep building. The She Started It documentary is going to “highlight successful role models for young women, to encourage more girls to develop technical and entrepreneurial skills” and Change The World!. Sheena is one of the featured entrepreneurs.