My heart is full of gratitude for being able to speak and to share the mentoring journey of our mentee Laura Kressmann, the Global Ad Operations Manager at PlayStation, with her mentor Sherry Bennett, the Founder and Executive Director at Sherry Bennett Media Services. The unique connection and mutual respect these two have is beyond inspiring. They are a living example that mentoring can change lives and prove that, if I could borrow Laura’s words, ‘the best thing you can do for yourself is to connect with a mentor.’
What inspired you to join the mentoring program?
L: I started exploring options around mentoring in the middle of the second wave of lockdown in London. I was feeling stuck - literally - and I knew I had all this additional time that I could use to grow and do what I didn’t have time for before. I sought a connection not only because of my career path but also because of working remotely. Mentoring was a good format to help me challenge my inner dialog, beat the analysis paralysis, and get a new perspective.
S: I’ve always had a passion and interest to work with women to promote excellence and growth. Throughout my career, I’ve mentored and coached many interns and leaders, grooming them to pursue their career interests. It’s been very rewarding to share my professional journey and experiences with the intention to help others learn from my successes and failures and to help others forge their own path to reach their goals. I was delighted when I learned about Femme Palette. Their well-structured program made the mentoring process straightforward – they matched me with the perfect mentee and offered a wide variety of resources and networking opportunities to support a successful outcome.
Did the program meet your expectations?
S. Absolutely. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but once I discovered the depth of support offered by Femme Palette, I was confident I could deliver Laura the best possible mentoring experience. Having access to the mentee portal helped me to better understand Laura’s expectations, interests, and goals so I could tailor my mentoring approach to fit her needs. I also enjoy reading the useful content on the site and participating in their networking events. It provided me the opportunity to finetune my mentoring skills and stay connected to the mentoring community.
L: Space, perspective, and reassurance - that is what I expected and have received from the program. Thanks to the organization, we have been able to create and commit to a safe space and build momentum. And that really made a difference as it also holds me accountable for achieving my objectives - professional and life goals alike. Having browsed through the website, I also discovered that Femme Palette offers reassurance and mutual support not only through the mentor but also through the entire community, which is great.
Are the personal and professional goals interlinked then?
S: Yes, personal and professional goals are very connected. That said, it’s important to build trust and a sense of safety before you can bridge the two. Having a strong rapport with Laura has been key to our successful mentee/mentor relationship. When you have a connection built on reliance, you can share your vulnerability and true self. The best work comes when you both bring your whole self to the sessions, personally and professionally and are open to new possibilities. Mentoring Laura has opened my eyes to discover some of my own aspirations - this has been very exciting.
L: Hearing and absorbing all the information from Sherry as well as her energy, dedication, and commitment to the program and how she’s supporting my journey as a cheerleader, encouraged me to think about how I want to show up for myself - as a leader and as a person. And mentoring taps into both - career and identity alike, so it is inevitably connected.
What topics do you cover in your mentoring sessions?
L: The question is what we haven’t talked about yet. Sherry has been very generous in keeping that conversation going also beyond our sessions through the follow-up messages. So far, we have talked about personal branding, creating a business, building a business plan, fears and confidence, pitching strategic ideas, leadership, team management, and, in particular, what is the difference between a good and great manager. Sherry also shared plenty of useful references, such as books and articles.
What surprised you the most about your mentee?
S: What surprised me the most about Laura is her drive and energy. On day one, Laura was prepared to roll up her sleeves and work hard to map out her professional and personal career path. At every session she brings enthusiasm, excitement, and dedication to move her personal and professional interests forward. She does an amazing job at thinking through complex problems and challenges, coming up with ideas and solutions to stay focused and keep on track. Laura asks challenging questions that aren’t always easy to answer.
To give the mentee my best, I often dig deep into my experience and update my knowledge when needed to provide thoughtful and insightful support.
How do you make mentoring a priority despite your busy schedules?
L: I made a personal contract with myself because those six months can go by really fast and I don’t want to waste it. And when I met Sherry, I realized I have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and must make the maximum out of it. So I commit to preparing well, creating a clear agenda, and approaching our mentoring systematically.
S: Laura has made it easy to fit mentoring into my schedule. Because she prepares a great agenda and platform of discussion for every session, we can be hyper-focused on her needs and aspirations. Having frequent check-ins between our sessions allows us to keep the information flowing and tackle ongoing questions. And that has been fabulous!
What has been the biggest contribution to your career so far?
L: Think bigger! As I was working on my vision statement, I remember Sherry saying - how about you think bigger - and that really pushed me. So now, I try to always keep that in mind.
And in terms of direct impact, since I’ve started the program I’m now in a much clearer space when it comes to my leadership style, but also my long term goals, such as creating my own business. Having Sherry as a mentor has been a game changer step in my professional journey, and held me accountable to do the leap of faith to create my coaching practice Aspirationelles.
S: Confidence. We all have hesitations at one time or another, and thanks to Laura’s engagement, I’ve been able to build upon my communications skills and strengthen my confidence as a leader who can influence others to advance their careers. It’s been very rewarding to see Laura grow. She has done some amazing work. For example, when she created her personal brand, she came back with a detailed five-page reflection. And for her business plan, she prepared a 40-page proposal. The level of detail and thought she puts into her mentoring sessions has been truly remarkable. I have no doubt that Laura will be successful at whatever she decides to do. And I really mean it from my heart.
What was your favorite mentoring moment?
L: It was the moment when I was presenting my business plan to Sherry. As a solo entrepreneur, you rarely have the opportunity to present, but Sherry was my board of directors.
Talking about my idea to my mentor made it feel so real and created a wonderful opportunity to bring my idea to life.
S: My favorite mentoring moment was the same. Laura’s business plan checked off all of the boxes. Her business strategy was sound and her tactical executions were solid – her plan reflected ‘big thinking’. I was so impressed that when she presented her revenue projections, I said ‘Laura, I believe your plan can deliver greater returns. Everything you outlined in your business plan sets you up for higher success. I’m confident you can generate more revenue than what you’ve forecasted.’ I was blown away and very impressed.
Is there something you would recommend to mentors & mentees?
S. I would encourage mentees to set realistic goals for what they want to achieve. The objectives may change along the way, but starting a mentorship program grounded with a vision of what you want to get out of it is extremely important. Laura’s expression of her goals allowed me to structure my approach so I could offer Laura my best thinking.
It’s also helpful to:
- Have a specific agenda for each session, so the mentor knows what to focus on.
- Keep the dialog going throughout the mentorship, sharing questions, documenting answers, offering resources and suggesting reading material.
- Show your vulnerability and acknowledge when you don’t know something.
- Put in the hard work - the more effort you put into it, the more you and your mentee will get out of it.
L: Remember that in your mentor, you have the best board of directors and cheerleaders dedicated to you, so think about how you can show up for them. Prepare well, organize your thoughts, ask questions, try to be vulnerable, open-minded, and ready to stretch. Be the leader you aspire to be when connecting with your mentor. The sweet spot is beyond the session, beyond the program, it is the connection that you create that can last much longer.
Anything else you would like to add?
S: Thank you for connecting me with Laura. It’s been a pleasure to work with her.
L: Lots of gratitude for being matched with Sherry.
Thank you to both of our wonderful participants. If you’d like to join the program, apply here.