How Mentorship, Networking and Visibility are Changing the Game for Women in Healthcare


    Tired of looking at company board member photos or conference panels and seeing a wall of male faces? One online platform is working to change that with the help of mentorship, networking and visibility.

    A recent Forbes article featured several online female-focused organizations that are changing the professional networking landscape.  They all create a place for women to find authentic personal and professional relationships, away from advertisers, something they aren’t able to find on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

    But is professional networking enough? CSweetener is a holistic female-focused organization that’s changing the game for senior level women in healthcare. Rooted in mentorship, networking and visibility, CSweetener helps propel executive women forward and into the C-Suite. The organization is built around its mentors: hundreds of talented and accomplished healthcare industry veterans who have the desire and wherewithal to give back and help talented women succeed.

    “Our brand promise is that we connect rising stars in healthcare—women already advanced in their careers and on their way to the C-Suite—with talented and experienced healthcare industry leaders who are committed to helping propel women leaders into the C-Suite,” said Anne Bentley, executive director of CSweetener.

    CSweetener was founded by Lisa Suennen and Lisa Serwin, two healthcare C-Suite executives who were challenged in their first roles in the C-Suite and wished they’d had access to mentors. So they pulled together their rolodexes and formed a roster of mentors with the intent to help women accelerate into the C-Suite via mentorship. And CSweetener was born.

    But instead of focusing on helping women find one mentor, Suennen and Serwin wanted to go big. “Not just a mentor,” said Bentley, “but a variety of experienced and accomplished industry veterans who could guide them on their journey to and into the C-Suite, because the journey is rarely linear, and one needs different skills at varying points along the way.

    “It’s rare that one mentor can fit all needs; more likely, a person might need their very own personal advisory board to help navigate the terrain.”

    Today, CSweetener offers mentees the opportunity to build their personal advisory boards for mentorship and networking with the help of the organization’s virtual profile matching service. The algorithmic profile system matches mentees with a series of mentors who have the experience and qualifications she is looking for. From there, she can schedule calls, video-conferences or in-person meetings with her mentor.

    The network utilizes online mentor program technology to help women connect in real-time, giving them access to a community of experts. “CSweetener does vet all our mentors, and our standards are quite high. Our mentors are highly experienced and accomplished industry veterans who are committed to propelling senior level women in healthcare to succeed in and into the C-Suite,” said Bentley.

    CSweetener has received a positive response so far, with over 200 mentors on their platform. “The first session I had with a wonderful mentor, we talked about negotiation skills; she advised me a way to accelerate my career and continue to grow my skill set,” said a CSweetener mentee. “She advised me on various leadership skills that I think will be helpful to me as well.”

    One mentor helped her mentee overcome her insecurities about talking with senior men and board members in her company. “This has been one of my most successful experiences because she came back and said ‘You have given me a way to merge my personal and professional selves and I have never felt more like myself.  Such a win for both of us. My business is thriving. I feel more comfortable in my own skin.’ It has really been such a great experience for both of us. I feel so accomplished because I was able to help her figure out how to help herself and there is nothing better than that in a mentor-mentee relationship.”

    CSweetener has built a community where women and men can empower future female leaders in the healthcare industry in a safe and supportive environment. And this year, CSweetener rolled out its Speaker’s Bureau, a roster of experienced, subject-matter expert female speakers ready and willing to speak at conferences and on panels. “We added the Speaker’s Bureau as part of our offering because women who are experts in their field need to be seen and heard as experts in conferences and on panels,” said Bentley.  “The simple truth is, if you aren’t visible, you aren’t seen as a leader, and it makes it that much harder to ascend to a power position.”

    When asked about the larger issue of fighting gender bias in the workplace, Bentley said “Gender bias can only be conquered by continuing to build awareness, take action and provide services which help women into leadership roles.” And networks like CSweetener are helping to do just that.

    "My Take on Mentoring" with InstaViser's Josh Getz

    Recently, we've been talking with customers and users about how mentoring is changing. It seems like people are changing the way they find mentors, how often they meet with them, and even who they consider a mentor.

    To help us better understand this new view of mentorship, we've set out to interview people about how they think about mentorship. We kickoff the series of interviews with members from our InstaViser team. We sat down with Josh Getz, one of our customer success managers, to talk about who he turns to for advice, if it's true that mentors really need to be older than you, and how to ask the universe for help in finding a mentor.

    What does mentoring mean to you?

    Mentoring means having someone to turn to when you're not sure what to do. Someone that you trust, someone that you respect. Someone who you know has your best interests in mind. Often times it can be hard to find someone like this and when that’s the case, it’s easy to lose confidence in your decision about something big in your life. Mentoring also provides some illumination when doing something completely new because you have the resources of someone who’s already been there and done that.


    Do you think mentors have to be older or can they be the same age/experience level as you or even younger?

    In short, no. Mentors of different ages all have their very useful place. For example, younger mentors may have just gone through the same experience you’re dealing with and may have extremely relevant advice. They’re also likely easier to relate to because of the age similarity. On the other hand, they’re also still in the hunt, hungry for success. They likely haven’t quite made to the top yet and in that case, they’re probably still seeking out mentorship. Older mentors have the advantage of more experience and can provide better long term advice for potentially large career moves or life decisions because they have seen the impact of such decisions over years.

    Is mentorship important to career/personal development? How so?

    Absolutely. Life is an open book. You can chose to do whatever it is that you want to do. Once you’ve made your decision, it’s easy to get lost or confused along the way. Having someone to turn to during both the good times and the bad can help keep you on a path to success. They’re also able to guide you around potential obstacles and prevent you from making some of the mistakes they made.

    A study from the Huffington Post found that 79% of millennials believe “mentorship programs are crucial to their career success.” Why do you think so many people value mentorship?

    I think everyone realizes success is not a solo endeavor and having someone on your team is essential in today’s extremely competitive professional landscape.

    Who do you think of as a mentor in your life?

    I don’t have someone I call “my mentor” but whenever I have a big decision to make or am going through a tough time, I always reach out to as many people as I can to seek advice and guidance. There are some I routinely reach out to such as Major Nate Wood in the Marines. He’s helped guide me in every major decision in my military career, and has provided invaluable advice and reassurance when I encountered roadblocks along the way.

    How did you find your mentors?

    We were connected via the Michigan Rowing alumni network. He’s a few years older than me but we both rowed at Michigan in college and both turned to the military for careers after rowing. We shared a common background and similar goals even though we’re in different branches of the military.

    Have you been a mentor to anyone and how did you know you were ready to be a mentor?

    Yes, I have mentored kindergarten kids, college students, and a few rowers here and there. Anyone is ready to be a mentor if they have valuable information to share about a subject that they intimately understand. All that matters is what you know and your willingness to share it. Age isn't important.

    Any advice for people looking to become a mentor or find a mentor?

    If you’re looking to find a mentor, it’s all about networking. There are so many out there that want to give back because no one is successful all by themselves. But it’s up to you to find them. Throw yourself headfirst into whatever community you’re interested in. Go to events, talk to strangers on the street. It’s your responsibility to put your goals and desires out there. If you don’t tell anyone, they certainly won’t be able to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask the universe for something. More often than not, you’ll find yourself with it, or at least a step closer to getting it.

    If you’re someone looking to teach and coach, the best place to find the people looking for help is in the community itself. There are tons of resources online and in person that enable communities to get together. Start getting involved and letting others know what you know. Nobody will seek your advice if they haven’t a clue who you are or what you’ve done. And nowadays there are many different ways to put yourself out there: Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Meetup, etc. There are 100s of ways to get involved in a community. Join and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!

    Josh is a two-time US National Team rower with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan. He has been with InstaViser for three years working as part of, and to develop the Customer Success team. Currently, he is in the army training to become a Green Beret.

    Meet The Team: Pete Cipollone

    At InstaViser, we’re fueled by an amazing group of people who are dedicated to building communities and helping people forge connections. Outside of the office, our interests vary, with several Olympians, Olympic hopefuls and professional athletes. One key ingredient that brings us together is a passion for mentorship and appreciation for the value that advisors and mentors bring to guiding you along the way on your path to success.

    Meet Pete Cipollone, our founder and CEO of InstaViser.

    "I am now chief cook and bottle washer at InstaViser, working with an incredibly motivated and talented team," said Cipollone. "Going way back, in third grade, I started programming Commodore PETs and Radio Shack TRS-80s and was immediately enthralled. A few years later I got involved in rowing as a coxswain. Those two things led to three Olympics, a gold medal, a couple of software patents, and a wonderful group of friends who joined up along the way."

    USAGold_PeteInstaViserPhoto Credit: Andy Clark

    We sat down with Pete to talk about how he started the company, what he loves about InstaViser and how mentorship has played a role in his life.

    What do you do at InstaViser?

    I still do a bit of everything but my main focus is on ensuring our people have what they need to make our customers successful, and also growing our customer base, of course.


    How did you first get started at IV?

    While I was training for the Olympics, I worked at big companies. It was an extremely valuable experience but I knew that early-stage tech is where my heart lies and I couldn't shake that feeling. InstaViser is the synthesis of my passions: using technology to help people achieve their goals by connecting them to people who have accomplished great things and want to give back. From my experience, I think of it as “world-class coaching” and I know the difference it makes in people’s lives.

    What do you do outside of IV?

    Not much! I try to get a couple workouts in during the week, and like to cook when I have time. I tend to pick a recipe, throw on some Wu-Tang, and then try to perfect my own take on it. The habit of practice-practice-practice until you can’t get it wrong is way too ingrained in me now.

    How does your Olympic background impact your work?


    That gold medal team is still as central to my identity as InstaViser. In going through the Olympic experience, the biggest realization for me was the power of the once-in-a-lifetime team. It’s something I’m always working toward. I also learned that the first step toward being the best at something is being, um, not so good at it. If a goal is worth achieving, then it’s worth fighting through the part where you suck at it.


    Why do you think that mentoring is important?

    Anyone who has tasted even the smallest bite of success can point back to the people who steered them along the way. Maybe it was a teacher or a coach, but just as often, it was someone who stepped in and made the difference, for no reason other than they saw potential and wanted to see it realized. Maybe they saw a bit of themselves in this person and hoped to be a role model. The whys matter less than the fact that they stepped up. Talent is everywhere but opportunity is less so. Technology can and should be doing more to fix this.

    Little known fact about yourself.

    About six weeks before we won the Olympics, I was diagnosed with melanoma. It took 60 stitches to close the excision. Our team doctor removed the stitches the day before racing started. Being that young and listening to a dermatologist rattling off five-year survival rates was my memento mori. It totally changed how I live my life.

    A New Way to Engage Offline with Your Community: Mentor Walks

    On a warm spring day in Shanghai, I arrived at a neighborhood park with about thirty other women for a mentor walk. It was my first time attending the monthly event, organized by a group of women's communities that wanted to create mentoring opportunities.

    I didn't really know what to expect from a mentor walk but I knew that successful women had mentors to help them and what better way to find a new mentor than at an event named "mentor walks."


    As a mentee, I was able to sign up for the event for free, though spots were limited to the first thirty to sign up. The mentors were invited to join the event by leaders of each of the women's groups. All of the mentors were female, had 10+ years of experience in their field and held some kind of a leadership role.

    On that particular morning, we came together in the center of the park and were separated into mentees and mentors. Each mentor stood in front of the group and presented a quick 30-60 second summary of their career and what career areas or questions they'd be happy to talk about. The organizers reminded us that the mentors were under no obligation to give us their contact details after but could if they wanted to.

    After the introductions, the mentees were given the choice to pick their own mentor. You would just walk up and introduce yourself to your mentor and that was it. Each mentor would end up with two, three, or sometimes four mentees depending on the number of mentors available. We were then told we had an hour to walk around the park or sit in a nearby cafe and talk about anything we wanted to.

    I can't remember exactly what I talked about on that first mentor walk but I remember coming away feeling energized and excited about what I was doing. The mentor walks gave me an easy and low stakes way to network and build mentoring relationships with people farther along in their careers.

    Since that first day two years ago, I’ve gone back monthly and it's one of my favorite networking events. It focuses on building one on one relationships instead of large group or speed dating. Our discussions are always new and different, and I've found people that I'd love to have as long term mentors and others that I just want to listen to for that one hour.

    An interesting trend I noticed over the years has been that some mentors return to the event the next month, but this time as mentees because they also want a chance to talk with the other mentors. You're never too old or experienced to learn something new and it was fun to see these accomplished women with an eagerness to talk with someone new.

    So how can you replicate this easy-going approach to mentoring in your organization?

    The concept of mentor walks can be applied to any community group, especially one that is organized around a shared location. If it’s too hot or cold to walk outside, you could meet at a local mall or coffee shop and start from there. All you need is space for smaller groups to break away and have their own discussions.

    You can also adapt this type of event as a breakout session at your next annual conference or gathering as a low stakes way to have mentors, mentees and leaders meet with each other.

    I'm constantly looking for new mentors and ways to build my network. But one thing I've settled on is that high quality interactions trump large scale ones. I know one Friday a month that I will get the opportunity to talk and listen to a female business leader and other women trying to figure it out just like me. That's not something I can guarantee will happen at my next networking happy hour.

    I’m a millennial and there have been countless studies about how we're navigating our careers differently than older generations. I'm a part of the “79% of millennials who believe “mentorship programs are crucial to their career success.” But I also have learned that mentors can come in all shapes and sizes and even this once a month, for one hour mentor sessions can help me feel like I’m being supported and helped along the way.

    It’s refreshing to hear another person’s perspective and the relaxed environment has led me to bring up questions and challenges I’ve been struggling with the past few weeks. I also love hearing the concerns and questions from other mentees as I’m reminded that I’m not alone in trying “to figure it out” and navigate my way through my career.

    Sustained mentorship programs are more effective in forging long term relationships but don’t discount the short-term mentoring opportunities as well. A mentor walk or similarly structured event could be the perfect complement to your organization’s formal in person or online mentoring program.

    Collaborative Coaching: From LeBron James to Elite Rowing

    When LeBron James announced his decision to depart Cleveland for Los Angeles to join the Lakers, there was plenty of excitement (and despair), accompanied by grand projections for the decision’s impact on the rest of the NBA. A peripheral but intriguing storyline was the fact that James would now be coached by Luke Walton from the same 2003 NBA Draft class. Walton was drafted 31 spots after James, the number one pick that year. Only five years apart in age, they’re practically peers. It’s interesting that the youngest coach in the NBA will be coaching the larger than life, arguably greatest player in the NBA. Can it possibly work?

    Walton is known as a player’s coach, having developed his coaching style under some of the greatest coaches out there, including five-time NBA Champion (as a player) and three-time NBA Champion (as a coach), Warriors Head Coach, Steve Kerr. In a 2016 interview, Walton said of his time under Kerr, “It was the first time I'd been around that type of open relationship between player [and] coach. That's naturally who I am. I like being able to talk to the guys, can include them in decisions and get their feedback. The way [Kerr] did that and the success we had and how much that helped in having players take ownership of what we were doing as a team is something that is a big part of my coaching style now.”

    With a player like LeBron, Walton will have to continue to cultivate a collaborative environment much like the one he learned up in Oakland under Coach Kerr. If Kerr and what he has going on with the Warriors is any indication of the power of collaboration, Walton is on the right track.

    Sports fans and athletes alike have been debating the qualities of what makes the best coach for decades. For some, “great players make great coaches” or “the greatest players make awful coaches, because X, Y, Z.” The reality is that there is no right answer and it all depends on the situation, sport, and personnel. 

    As a professional athlete and Olympian, I’ve experienced the gamut of coaching styles and player-coach dynamics throughout my career. For the past few years, my boat partner and two-time Olympian, Ellen Tomek and I have been in perhaps our most nontraditional coaching arrangement, but also our most successful one. 


    (Photo Credit:

    Since Ellen and I teamed up in 2013, we’ve had to bounce around training centers, change coaches, and essentially fend for ourselves. We’ve had to make some big decisions, none of which were accompanied with a $154 million contract and ESPN feature, a la LeBron James.

    Despite the turbulence, we’re now the winningest women’s double in American history. We’ve won four World Cup medals, competed at five World Championships, the 2016 Olympic Games, and in all our years together have only lost one race on U.S. soil. We made history at last year’s World Championships where we took second, the best finish ever for the U.S. in the event. Our silver medal also broke a 27-year medal drought for the U.S. in the event.

    Left without a coach heading into the Olympic year in the fall of 2015, we turned to former teammate and successful U.S. rower, Sarah Trowbridge who had retired after the 2012 Olympics to begin her coaching career. Only a couple years older, Sarah was very much a peer. We had all trained together at the U.S. Rowing Training Center and Ellen and Sarah both rowed at Michigan together.

    So we began what would become a collaboration. We learned from her and she learned from us as we navigated how to build a fast American women’s double. While managing two athletes is very different from managing a full basketball roster, the elements of building a culture in which the athletes have the ability to engage in the process, provide feedback, and take ownership is the same. The atmosphere is fun, but accompanied by a high level of effort and hard work. 

    We were no longer left to fend for ourselves because our team had grown to three. Trust and accountability was woven throughout the threads of this collaborative process.

    It was sometime early last year after the Rio Olympics that I began calling our pursuit, “The Women’s Double Project.” Early on, we learned that if we were going to do something different, we had to go about things differently, revolutionarily even. 

    Last month we won our sixth consecutive U.S. National Team Trials, securing our spots to compete at the upcoming 2018 World Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. This summer we leaned into our unique coaching strategy that we discovered over the past few years.


    Having moved back into collegiate coaching as the head coach of the University of San Diego Women’s Rowing Team last year, Sarah was unable to join us for travel to this summer’s World Cup and World Championships. Knowing that we wanted to hold on to the magic that we had found, we turned to Kate Bertko, another former teammate and Olympian who had recently retired from competition and was coaching at the collegiate level, to help us on the project.

    Our team grew from three to four and with it, an expansion to our arsenal of experience and passion for the women’s double.

    Since 2008, at least one of the four of us have been a member of the U.S. women’s double and/or lightweight women’s double. This wasn’t accidental. Ellen and I sought out the best scullers and students of the sport who also understood the nuance between creating a new path toward success versus stepping onto an already paved path. There was no playbook for what we were doing, so we needed pioneers and trailblazers. We needed collaborators.

    We have yet to achieve King James status in our sport, but I like to think that we’re onto something by breaking from the more traditional coaching mold in rowing.

    No one coaching structure is perfect, but that’s exactly my argument. Whether it’s coaching, mentorship, or a professional working relationship, collaboration is key. Collaboration requires an understanding that both parties are benefitting from working together toward a shared goal and effectively, mutual benefit.

    Athlete or coach, employee or boss, mentee or mentor, you each must be willing to contribute to the process from start to finish, holding each other accountable throughout.

    Meet The Team: Michael Colella

    At InstaViser, we’re fueled by an amazing group of people who are dedicated to building communities and helping people forge connections. Outside of the office, our interests vary, with several Olympians, Olympic hopefuls and professional athletes. One key ingredient that brings us together is a passion for mentorship and appreciation for the value that advisors and mentors bring to guiding you along the way on your path to success.

    Mike Rowing

    Meet Michael Colella, one of our customer success managers at InstaViser. 

    At InstaViser, Michael is responsible for helping launch our customers' individually branded platforms. He's there to make sure our software runs smoothly and our users have a great experience. 

    When he’s not working on InstaViser, he is competing on the US National Rowing Team as he pursues his dream of making the 2020 Summer Olympics. We sat down with Michael to talk about what he loves about InstaViser and how mentorship has played a role in his life.

    What do you do at InstaViser?

    I am member of the Customer Success Team at InstaViser! In this role, I work with our customer service and technology teams to ensure a smooth platform launch and to maximize the impact of our connective platforms. I take pride in understanding our customer’s unique user population and creatively customizing our solution to their specific needs.

    How did you first get started at IV?

    Our vice president, Meghan O’Leary approached me in August of 2017. I had a background in the SaaS industry (Service as a Software) and was looking for a job where I could work while continuing to pursue my Olympic dreams. I was moved by InstaViser’s mission to empower people through connections and knew I wanted to be a member of this team.

    What do you do outside of IV?

    I am currently a member of the Oakland Training Center for Men’s Rowing and I'm pursuing a spot on the 2020 Olympic team. It is absolute dream to train with such a talented group of athletes and a truly inspirational coaching staff.


    How does your National team background impact your work?

    Rowing is truly a team sport. It takes every athlete in the boat to get across the finish line first. A huge part of achieving success is understanding how you best help the team reach peak performance when it matter most. I take this approach in my work by identifying our biggest opportunities and understanding the role I can play in creating a solution.

    Why do you think that mentoring is important?

    I am self proclaimed mentorship nerd. Through academics, athletics, and my career I have been lucky to have amazing role models and mentors that have dramatically impacted my professional and athletic career. I believe that mentors show you that success is possible, provide invaluable feedback, and help you pick up the pieces when you lose your way. 


    Little known fact about yourself.

    Before I began rowing, I was determined to become an executive chef. I have since traded in my knife for an oar, but you can still catch me impressing a crowd with my mise en place skills and I am always ready for a Top Chef QuickFire Challenge.


    Lessons from the Army: 4 Tips for Being A Better Leader at Work

    In January of 2018, at 28 years old with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a great job in a great city, I decided to do a complete 180 and serve with the men and women who defend our country. I recently completed basic training and airborne school in the Army.


    The purpose of basic training is, in essence, to create a team - Team USA if you will. To do so, they (being ‘the military’) must take what are primarily young, immature kids, many of whom have no concept of a team, and get them to a place where they put the needs of others - their battle buddies - ahead of their own. The Army’s method for doing this involves healthy doses of screaming in your face, crawling in mud/sand, pushups, sit-ups, and the list goes on but the common denominator is negative reinforcement.

    When I was in basic training, I was the leader of my platoon and it was my job to manage the 30 other guys in the platoon and pass down information from the drill sergeants. I found that managing this group of people was comparable to herding cats. There were constantly arguments to be put out, bad attitudes to be dealt with, and changes in circumstances to adapt to.

    But as time went on, I learned a few valuable lessons about how to be a good leader and manager. From resolving conflict and managing underperforming teammates, I’ve put together a list of lessons you can apply to your own lifestyle and leadership opportunities.

    Resolving Conflict: Empathy vs. Aggression

    I found that the best way to deal with any sort of conflict is first to understand both sides. Sometimes this isn’t possible, especially in the heat of the moment; I can’t tell you how many times in basic training I decided to yell at someone to get them moving, or to stop talking, or to pack up their gear, but once things calmed down a little, I always made an effort to reach out and see if I could understand the other person's point of view, and also explained why I did what I did. Sometimes this ended up being an apology on my end, but the biggest benefit was that it kept the team together.

    If the person I was arguing with understands my point of view, even if he/she doesn't agree with it, they’ll still respect me, and if they respect me as a leader, I can still lead. I found that yelling at someone, shunning them, or belittling them didn’t motivate them to perform at their highest level. Being a firm but empathetic leader can help you get the most out of your team and help you all focus on achieving your main goal.

    Small Details Make a Big Difference

    In the military, the price of failure could very well be death, which is why attention to detail was drilled into our skulls at basic training. I had a drill sergeant who oversaw our pre-combat checks (PCCs) and pre-combat inspections (PCIs). We would go over every detail: checking the logistics, checking our equipment, checking our battle buddy, making sure that everything is ready to go well ahead of time so that when (not if) things go sideways, you’re able to react to it quickly and effectively.

    There is a massive amount of planning that goes on, but the motto is that once the first shot is fired, any and all plans go out the window, and you have to react to the situation at hand, accomplishing the mission using any method necessary (with certain exceptions). You always have to be prepared for plans B, C, D, etc.

    I've found this is similar in running a business, launching a project, or getting through your work day. Having a plan, double-checking that you’re prepared, and then having contingency plans for what to do if something goes wrong is the key to running an effective and efficient team.

    Discipline is Freedom

    This is a quote from Jocko Willink, a heavily awarded SEAL commander who fought in the battle of Ramadi during the Iraq war. It may seem a bit at odds with itself, but if you think about it, this is something that is true in almost every aspect of life. In the military, if you are disciplined in being on time, having your gear squared away, being physically and mentally prepared at all times, you will actually have more freedom because your peers and commanders will trust you more, and you will ultimately gain more respect from those around you.

    In life, if you disciplined and eat healthy and exercise, you’ll literally be more free to explore the world because you’ll have fewer health issues that might otherwise keep you at home or in a hospital. If you are more disciplined at work, you might get promoted and instead of having to do what someone else wants you to do, you’d be able to start solving the problems you want to solve the way you want to solve them.

    Your team is only as good as the people in it.

    It may seem as though you need to go out and find all of the best people, which you should, but one big thing I took out of my bootcamp experience is how much a leader is able to sculpt and build a team. As hard as it was working with a group of teenagers, the team my platoon leader and I created was actually pretty good. We were the only platoon to graduate all of it’s members, we won almost every inter-platoon competition, and we had the highest fitness scores by far.

    Part of this may very well have been luck of the draw, but I think a lot of it can be attributed to the emphasis on team building that we had. Everyone, no matter the circumstance, is able to contribute in one way or another. I found that it was imperative that everyone felt like a contributor to the team, even if in a small way. This originally surprised me because you often hear of groups where a few people sort of do it all while the others don’t do anything. This creates a divide in the team because the people doing the work think the others are worthless and the ones not doing anything could care less about the success of the group because they’re not invested.

    For example, there was guy named John who never did anything to help. Never cleaned, never carried anything extra, never volunteered unless he thought it would directly benefit him. Well, one day he volunteered for “chow squad” because you often got more food if you were the one serving it. And every time our platoon had chow squad, John would volunteer so he could get extra food.

    So, I asked him to start sneaking more food for everyone, not just our platoon, and what that did for us is make everyone, even those from the other platoons like our platoon. This helped a great deal down the road during exercises when we had to work with the other platoons, because the other groups respected our platoon.

    Even though John initially volunteered for chow squad only to benefit himself, by encouraging him in the right direction, he developed a reputation as the best server in the entire company and in-turn contributed to the success of the team. The only caveat being he got caught giving extra scoops a few times and consequently had to do a large amount of pushups, but it was all in good fun.

    Building and leading a team can look different for everyone, whether you’re leading a platoon in the Army or preparing your team at work for their next big pitch or presentation. It’s rare to be a natural leader and I found that there is always something that you can do to improve your leadership style.

    Think about being firm but empathetic in your next workplace conflict. Don’t forget about the little things as those details can create bigger problems down the road. Be disciplined, whether it’s coming to work on time, hitting deadlines, or your own personal workout routine. The consistency will pay off and you’ll find yourself with more freedom because of it. And lastly, you don’t need a team of all stars to make a great team. Learn how you can motivate and develop the people around you to make the team as a whole better.

    Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and to this day, I’m still surprised at the number of lessons I learned at basic training that I can apply to life outside of the Army.

    Josh is a two-time US National Team rower with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan. He has been with InstaViser for three years working with and developing the Customer Success team. Currently, he is in the Army training to become a Green Beret.


    Why Proactive Mentees Make the Best Mentees


    At first, I’d thought the mentors would come find me. That by signing up for an official mentor program and telling people in my network that I was looking for a mentor, someone would step up and reach out to me. That was not the case.

    For starters, I’ve learned that mentors come in all shapes and sizes and very rarely do you find one when you’re explicitly looking for a mentor. It’s like the common belief around finding a romantic partner, you’ll find it when you’re least expecting it. The same can be said for finding a mentor.

    My current list of mentors include friends, alumni, former coworkers, and even a few clients. They are people that I know because of a common interest or experience and based on how often we kept in touch, our personalities, and our current situations, we grew into a mentor/mentee relationship.

    One of my mentors is a good friend who has taught me how to grow into myself and embrace the parts of me that make me unique (and a little weird). I have another former colleague who is my go-to sounding board for career questions and challenges. I’ve also relied heavily on my university’s alumni network for advice when moving to a new city, changing jobs, and meeting new people.

    It’s kind of funny how that mentors can organically appear but there is one common thread throughout my mentor relationships: I was proactive.

    In most of those examples, I reached out to them and I’ve put the effort into following up with them.

    It’s rare to find someone who has “wants to be a mentor” listed on their LinkedIn profile or is openly offering to be a mentor at a networking event. A mentor-mentee relationship takes time and energy on both sides, but it is a transactional relationship.

    On one side, the mentor brings their experience and advice to the relationship, however, their time is limited as they’re farther along in their career or busy with family. On the other side, the mentee is looking to learn and has time to give and invest in the relationship.

    Time is the common link, one person has plenty of it and the other has limited time. I’ve learned to use that to my advantage and invest my time into my mentor relationships.

    I was proactive in sending emails to potential mentors, thanking them for connecting and following up with them every few weeks or months, and constantly looking for new mentors.

    As you start your mentor search or are you’re looking to find new mentors, here are three habits  you can apply to become a more proactive mentee:

    Don’t be afraid of the cold email/message - I really struggled with this when I first got started, as I felt awkward and weird reaching out to people I didn’t know. But through a lot of trial and error, I found that there most people are happy to answer your emails, questions, and messages when they can tell you’ve taken the time to do you research.

    Look the person up online before reaching out, identify a common interest or something that you think will be of interest to them, and highlight that in your email. This will help you stand out from the rest of the random emails they receive and is the first step to showing them that you are serious.

    It takes time to figure out exactly how to introduce yourself in a cold email. I usually use 2-3 sentences and focus on why they should keep reading in those first few sentences. I’ll add in the common interest from my research and finish off with a question or request to have a quick call or invite them for coffee. Your cold email might look a little different from this but there’s no way to know until you start sending them.

    Thank them and set a reminder to follow-up in a month - A well-crafted thank you email never goes out of style. You want to show your potential new mentor that you’re grateful for their time and follow-up on any ideas or comments that have come up since your last email, call, or meeting.

    This is also a time when you can schedule a follow-up call or meeting to keep the conversation going. If there doesn’t seem to be any organic next step, I usually set a reminder to follow-up with them in a month from now on my phone or computer.

    Letting some time pass will give you the opportunity to update them on what you’ve been up to or find an article that’s interesting to them. I’ve loved using calendar or reminder tools to stay on top of your mentor relationships, as it’s very easy to forget about your follow-up note until several months have passed and you’ve missed out on building that relationship.

    Constantly look for new mentors - Just like any relationship, not every mentor relationship will work out. Your goals change, you move cities, or you get busy and lose touch. That’s ok, but to mitigate against that, it’s good to avoid investing all of your time in one mentor and staying on the lookout for new ones.

    There is no rule that you can only have one mentor at a time. I’ve found at different parts of my life I’ve relied on some mentors more and then others a little less. Your challenges will change and evolve on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis and so can your mentors.

    I’ve utilized coffee dates as my main point for starting a relationship with anyone, whether it’s a friend, potential job lead, or mentor. It’s a low stakes way to meet the other person and I love the person-to-person interaction that sometimes is lost in an email or on a phone call. It’s easy to tell if your personalities match up and if you enjoy talking with the person. In-person meetings have strengthened my mentor relationships, even if the meeting comes weeks or months after I’ve started an email-based relationship.

    You won’t get very far in your mentor relationships if you think that the hard part is finding them. Once you have a potential mentor, you need to put in the work throughout and respect your mentor’s time and energy. Block off time each month to invest in following up with current mentors, looking up new ones, and taking time to think about your own goals. Just one or two hours a month can pay off in the long run.

    Don’t be afraid to take charge of your next mentor relationship and be proactive. Reach out to new contacts, continue to follow-up with old ones, and always be on the lookout for new mentors. You never know where you’ll meet the next one but you can be sure you’ll know how to grow the relationship.

    Meet The Team: Meghan O'Leary

    At InstaViser, we’re fueled by an amazing group of people who are dedicated to building communities and helping people forge connections. Outside of the office, our interests vary, with several Olympians, Olympic hopefuls and professional athletes. One key ingredient that brings us together is a passion for mentorship and appreciation for the value that advisors and mentors bring to guiding you along the way on your path to success.

    Meet Meghan O’Leary, the Vice President at InstaViser. 


    At InstaViser, Meghan is responsible for our marketing, sales, business development and customer success departments. (She's busy!) She serves as the lead on making sure that our customer networks are running smoothly and especially loves hearing from users who’ve had life-changing conversations with mentors they met on our platforms.

    When she’s not working on InstaViser, she can be found competing for Team USA around the world as a professional athlete for the United States Rowing Team. We asked Meghan what she likes about InstaViser and how her professional athletic career plays a part in her day-to-day.

    What do you do at InstaViser?

    Basically, a little bit of everything! As Vice President, I spend most of our time leading our Customer Success, Marketing, Sales and Business Development efforts. Pete Cipollone (CEO) is the lead on the Product and Technology side of things, and so I primarily manage the “other” which involves selling our product and ensuring our customers have the most optimal experience possible with our platforms. In the early stages of any startup, everybody has to inevitably wear many hats. This suits me well, as I pride myself on my ability to multi-task and truly enjoy learning different parts of building and managing a business.

    Meghan O'Leary Work 

    How did you first get started at IV?

    I literally ran into Pete in the Atlanta airport during the fall of 2014. We are both Olympic rowers (though at different times) and had served on the USRowing Board of Directors together for a brief period. We got to catching up and told me about InstaViser. The company was still in its very early stages of launching and he was looking for someone to help with some content and UI improvements. I was intrigued so came on part-time for what I thought would be about a month or two of contract work, and here I am three and half years later, helping build and lead the company!

    What do you do outside of IV?

    Outside of my time with InstaViser, I spend most of my time training and competing with the United States National Rowing Team.  Additionally, I travel as a motivational speaker, serve on the USRowing Board of Directors, and “walking the InstaViser walk,” I take the time to mentor student-athletes as they are preparing for life after college athletics. In my other, though limited free time, I love going on hikes and exploring the San Francisco Bay Area (Marin Highlands, Half Moon Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains are some of my favorites).

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    How does your Olympic background impact your work?

    All elite athletes have to be a bit entrepreneurial in their pursuit of career success. Throughout my journey to the Rio 2016 Olympics and continued road to Tokyo 2020, I am constantly innovating, self-reflecting, and analyzing what works and what doesn’t about my training, nutrition and recovery. As you need to do with any startup in order to grow and become profitable, I’m always learning from the successes and failures I face as an athlete. Perhaps my best preparation for working at InstaViser has been having to manage my own athletic success and the problem-solving, strategy, and logistics that goes into it.


    Why do you think that mentoring is important?

    Mentorship, coaching, advising, teaching, or whatever term you use for it is the way of progress and making our world a better place. Mentorship is essentially sharing wisdom from experiences, and passing on the lessons learned from successes and failures in hopes to improve the lives of the next generation so that they can start a few rungs higher on the ladder (or skip a few steps even!) and achieve great things. Especially as a woman in today’s socioeconomic climate and for those who have paved new paths and achieved success, it is so important to put your hand out to lift young girls up and bring other women with you. No one does it alone and mentorship is the key to keeping that positive feedback loop of progress and positive change in motion.

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    Little known fact about yourself.

    I have a twin brother, Jon who is way cooler than I’ll ever be.


    Keep up with Meghan on Twitter and Instagram

    How to Improve Your Alumni Directory in Three Steps

    Everywhere you look, you can read articles about “How to Find a Mentor,” enjoy quotes about how inspiring mentors can be and join organizations that advertise their connections with industry leaders. Each article and group has a different promise but they all serve the same need: that many of us feel like we don’t have a mentor, with only 61% of millenials reporting that they have a mentor, according to a study from Deloitte.

    Alumni Mentor

    In the same study, researchers drew a line between employee retention and mentorship, with data showing that millennials intending to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%). So mentorship is great for both companies and employees and yet there’s still almost 40% of young professionals without mentors.

    Personally, I’ve tried all kinds of ways to find a mentor, from paying membership fees for professional groups to attempting to work with my manager to cold-emailing people in my industry to ask questions and maybe schedule a call or a coffee meeting. Despite all of my efforts, I still feel like I haven’t found “the one,” that perfect mentor who will work with you throughout your career.

    Now, I wouldn’t consider myself in the category of “without a mentor,” but instead someone who has a series of mentors. Some have helped me just by responding to my questions via email and some I’ve developed a more sustained relationship with, fueled by plenty of coffee and phone calls.

    Most of these mentors I’ve met have been through my university, the University of Virginia (UVA), and they’ve proven to be an invaluable resource. However, none of them have been matched with me through a formal mentoring program.

    Out with the Old

    When I first realized that I couldn’t be a student forever, and one day would need to join the working world, I decided to reach out to as many UVA alumni as possible. I don’t remember why my first thought was alumni, but I’m pretty sure it stemmed from my father’s countless stories of when his friends and fraternity brothers helped him along his career.

    I also can’t remember who was the first person to point me to Hoos Online, (add link) an endless database with contact information for alumni including their industry, what they studied at UVA, and where they live now. As a student, I had access to the database and could message the alumni through the system, which would go straight to the alum’s email (but I didn’t have their personal email address, just through the system).

    At the time, I was first interested in working in sports media and so I did a massive search and email blast  to anyone working in and around sports media. I would craft individual emails to each alum I found, trying to pull from advice I had gotten along the way to make sure to introduce myself, list a reason of why I was relevant, and then ask a question or two.

    I had about a 60% response rate, with several alumni confused on how I had gotten their contact. Clearly, they hadn’t heard about Hoos Online when they were a student. Others said the information I had was out of date since they had moved on from sports media and were now working in a different industry. But about 30% of the responses were helpful and I was very thankful for those as they helped me navigate my final year of college and learn more about what I wanted in my first job out of college.

    My story with Hoos Online had a happy ending, but there were many problems with the system.

    1. The learners (students) didn’t know about the resource. Really, I have since gone around promoting the database to other UVA alumni and students who all have never heard of it. Clearly, it was not adequately promoted by our career center or advisors.
    2. The advisors (alumni) didn’t know they were even in the system. This led to some awkward email exchanges, very few of them where the alumni was angry that I reached out, but it did take some explaining on my part to say that I saw their information on Hoos Online, something they also had not heard of.
    3. No promotion from the University. This awesome tool is something that you would think the school would want to promote that connects students and alumni, one of their main sells when recruiting new students, and yet you can’t find information as a student or an alum unless you knew where to look.
    4. Outdated technology. Not only is some of the alumni’s information out of date, but the system itself is difficult to navigate and doesn’t seem to have been updated in years. Basic search functions are for an alumni’s last name or place, which is limiting.

    In with the New

    We are in the age of AIexas, virtual assistants, and mobile payments, yet mentoring and advising networks haven’t seemed to catch up. With an increased number of things that require our attention, mentoring and advising is listed as a priority for many and yet few are willing to invest the time in manually searching for a mentor and and then painstakingly build a relationship with them.

    If I had the power to update my school’s Hoos Online system or any school’s alumni database, I would wish for three simple things:

    • An easy to navigate list of alumni particularly interested in helping other alumni or current students. This list should include information about where they work, their expertise, and what they want to help students with. This can be a box that students check when they graduate, asking that they’re added to the alumni database. Annual emails can ask if the alumni would like to update their contact information in the system and can give them a chance to opt out if they change their mind. It would also remind alumni that they can give back to current students by engaging on the platform.
    • Use a system that quickly integrates with email so I don’t need to have another platform that I need to keep logging into check. The more seamless the technology, the better. I do like that Hoos Online goes right to the alum’s email so they don’t need to open a new window and log into a different system. Keeping a function like this will make it easier on the mentor to be engaged. Also, monthly emails to students would help to promote the system and let them know what kind of alumni they can email or chat with as they figure out more about what they want to do after graduation.
    • Backend tracking for the university so they can see that it actually works. This is huge because for universities and any large organization, you want to see return on your investment. You want to know how many people are active in your database, and how many of them are actually connecting. You might see a trend in the types of people who are talking more or you might realize that no one is using your system and you need to promote it more effectively to your students.

    Any university can implement a system that helps make alumni more accessible without overcomplicating the process. A simple interface would do the trick and would be light years ahead of manually sifting through an endless list of names and emails.

    You might be surprised by the interactions that come with having a clear, concise alumni directory that protects the alumni’s personal data but allows people to connect over common experiences.

    There’s nothing as powerful as an alumni connection when you are trying to build a professional network, and having a system that empowers you as a student or even as an alum to reach out to other alumni, the better.

    What do you wish that you had in an alumni mentoring/connection software for your University? Do you have any success stories of reaching out to fellow alumni for business or personal connections?