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Why Proactive Mentees Make the Best Mentees

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By Logan Clements

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.

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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.

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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

By Logan Clements

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?

2018 ACE Summit: The Power of Mentors, Networking, and Shared Stories

By Pete Cipollone

I just returned from the 2018 Team USA Athlete Career Education (ACE) Summit, a three-day event held by the US Olympic Committee after each Olympic Games to provide our Olympians and Paralympians with the knowledge and connections they need as they contemplate “what’s next” after having competed on their sports’ biggest stage in the world.

An essential part of the summit is “Networking Practice,” which provides our athletes with the opportunity to have informal, human-to-human chats with people who have walked in their shoes and have gone on to success in life after sport, seemingly without a hitch.

During the Summit, I caught up with ACE Network mentor Lauryn Williams. Lauryn is an athletic all-star: the first female US Olympian to win medals in both summer and winter Olympics, with 2004 Olympic silver medal in the 100m, 2012 Olympic gold medal in the 4x100m relay, and 2014 Olympic silver in the two-woman bobsled at Sochi 2014. She has since gone on to found Worth Winning, a company recreating financial planning for young, busy tech-savvy professionals and athletes.

When asked about her experiences as an ACE Mentor, her reaction was, “At first, I was a bit nervous. Why would anyone want to talk to me? I wasn’t sure I would have anything helpful to add.”

Hearing this was very surprising. Lauryn’s counsel is quite sought after, and her ACE mentees’ results on and off the field demonstrate why. 

But it got me thinking about my own early experiences as a mentor. I had those same qualms: what did I have to share? Enough to make a difference. Would I give them bad advice and screw them up? Absolutely not! In the end, great mentees take ownership of their journeys. We are just here to help with a few useful tips, and a story or two to let them know they are not alone.

Anyone who has ever accomplished anything in their lives (read: “all of us”) has learned lessons along the way. Sharing those lessons–the mistakes, the triumphs, the “if I had it to do over” stories–can help the next generations achieve things we could only dream of.

Think about your own experiences for a moment. What do you have to share?

How an Alumni Network Helped a Cal Student Land a Finance Internship

By Logan Clements

It was a Thursday morning in the middle of the fall semester and Cal student-athlete, Danny Jordan was sitting in his first class of the day, wondering how he was supposed to land his college internship. A rising sophomore and a member of the varsity men’s rowing team at UC-Berkeley, Danny was a first-generation college student with an interest in finance but he didn’t know where to start.

With no existing connections in the industry, he decided to start with LinkedIn. He described this portion of his job search as the “ground and pound” technique, sending countless messages to high school alumni and family connections. He sent a few into the Cal alumni network but overall, he received only a few responses.

“For every 100 messages on LinkedIn, I would get one message back. It was time-consuming and I spent time I probably should have spent learning business just trying to network.”

“I knew I had to start [looking for internships] early. I had a low GPA and I went to a non target school [for investment banking companies], so I knew it was going to be an uphill battle. So I looked at what was ahead of me and said, ‘I better start now.’”

He didn’t seem to be getting any tangible leads until an email caught his eye in class last fall. The Golden Ties Network, a student-athlete alumni network at UC-Berkeley, offers the opportunity for students to connect with alumni via video or audio chat and this month’s newsletter jumped out at Danny because it featured the profile of an alum who worked at a leading wealth management company.

He decided to set up a profile and booked his first session with Kelly Brennan, the month’s featured mentor and a managing director at Goldman Sachs. He scheduled sessions with a few other advisors on the platform who also worked in finance.

Before each session, Danny made an effort to craft a personal message to the advisor ahead of his call. He wanted to stick out to the advisor and save time in case the Golden Ties advisor had a busy schedule.

“I tried to put myself in the shoes of the advisors as much as possible because if I knew what they expected, I could perform to those expectations. I kept thinking, ‘it’s your first impression, you need to prove you are very smart.’ For every one minute I spent on the phone, I probably spent two minutes preparing ahead of time.”

Doing homework before the call and exchanging messages ahead of time helped Danny feel like he was making the most of both his and his advisors’ time. He was able to use the time on the call to network instead of asking basic questions about their company or the industry. When you set the expectations ahead of the call, this takes away the pressure from the mentee and helps the mentor feel that they’re spending their time efficiently.

Through several calls with different Golden Ties advisors, Danny was able to refine his elevator pitch--the quick 30- to 60-second summary of who you are and what you want to do.

“There is a science to networking and it is not as easy as making a friend. Sometimes it comes down to the right place at the right time,” said Jordan. At the Cal Crew banquet, an alum approached Danny and asked him about himself. “It was like I had a script ready,” said Danny. “I had pretty much finely tuned what I wanted to say from all of my calls with Golden Ties advisors.”

After their initial conversation, Danny followed up with the alum, interviewed for an internship at Merril Lynch and got selected for the position.

“If I hadn’t had the experience through Golden Ties, I don’t think I would have been as prepared because I wouldn’t have as much knowledge about the industry. Through my preparation for all of those alumni calls, I was more confident going into my job interviews.”

“This is exactly the type of outcome we are striving for by building networking and mentorship platforms that work to connect people in meaningful ways,” said Meghan O’Leary, vice president of InstaViser. “Connections like this are life-changing and it’s great to hear that Danny landed a dream internship because of the time he took and lessons he learned speaking to alumni advisors on Golden Ties.”

“I look forward to giving back whenever possible and hopefully later on in my career when I’m working after graduation I’ll also be a Golden Ties advisor,” said Jordan.

Advice from My Mentor: Nothing to Lose and Everything to Gain

By Jeff Butler

Everyone has defining moments in their life. It is at these inflection points that goals, perspective, and motivation will be altered forever.

For some people, these moments are an incredibly positive experience; for others, it’s a wake up call after hitting rock-bottom.  My life changed when I was involved in a severe car accident at the age of 13. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that moment helped set up me up to achieve some pretty cool things.

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When you break your neck the first thing you lose is your independence. I went from a strong young athletic kid to being confined in a hospital bed with round-the-clock care. I couldn’t dress myself, feed myself, or even go to the bathroom without help. With guidance from my parents I recognized the importance of regaining my independence and being able to survive on my own.  I had about 25 life skills I had to master before college and I didn’t know where or how to start.

Thankfully, serendipity intervened and I was connected with someone who had been using a wheelchair for 20 years. From his wealth of experience, he knew what I needed to do and how to begin. With his help, I was able to methodically check off each item on my list and get back to independence.  He was my first true mentor, and was also how I realized the importance of leveraging individuals who have more experience. Now that I was surviving (just barely) I needed to learn how to thrive.

That same mentor introduced me to the sport of wheelchair rugby when I was 15. I began to excel at the game, and set a lofty goal of making Team USA and representing my country at the Paralympics.  A familiar problem stood in my way of achieving this goal-- I had no idea how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be.

I did however know two things. First, I needed to get out of my hometown, and second, if I wanted to be the best I needed to learn from the best.

I saw an opportunity when the head coach of Team USA led a clinic for mid-level athletes.  Toward the end of the clinic, I introduced myself and told him my goals. I asked him what I needed to do to grow as an athlete, and he gave me a lengthy list of feedback and areas for improvement.  I took his critiques and used it as my roadmap.

In 2010 I moved to Austin, Texas to play for his club team and was invited to Team USA tryouts.  I was confident heading in, and was certain that I had what it took to make the next step as an athlete-- after all, I had the list of critiques from my coach and now mentor.  I was cut on the first day. I was completely deflated. My well thought out plan had failed and I felt like I was back at square one. My coach reached out to me after tryouts and helped talk me off the cliff.  His message was, “Yes, this was a disappointment, but no, the world is not ending.” I was young and had plenty of opportunities to tryout ahead of me.

Sure enough I was invited to tryout again in 2011, and the outcome was the same. I wasn’t selected, but I was gaining valuable experience and learning what it was like to play at an elite level. I was invited back again in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and the result was the same each time.  I was told “You’re right there, but not quite ready yet.” I was becoming seriously frustrated and more than once contemplated just throwing in my hat. Something had to change or else my dreams of an international athletic career were over.

Once again I leaned on my coach’s wisdom. He had seen many athletes fail to reach their potential and he implored me to give it one more go. “You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

Finally, on my fifth try at making the team, all the hard work paid off and I heard my name.  Eleven years after setting my goal, I became a medalist at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. The lesson here? Make sure you have someone to lift you up when you’re eyeing defeat.  

Throughout my athletic, personal, and professional pursuits I have put many principles to use.  Among these, there is one simple life hack that can change your trajectory: successful people develop a support system of experienced mentors to help guide their path and ask for advice. It’s absolutely true that no one gets to the top by themselves, and surrounding yourself with smart and knowledgeable people is an easy way to tip the scales in your favor.  

Jeff Butler is a Paralympic silver medalist, professional speaker, and tech entrepreneur. Learn more about his athletic and professional career at jeffpbutler.comTwitter, and Instagram.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Women

By Meghan O'Leary

For as long as I can remember, I have always identified as an athlete. Born in 1984, I was the first generation to truly benefit from Title IX (passed in 1972). As a kid, I didn’t know a world that didn’t have sports for little girls. Women’s sports and athletes were just starting to gain broader coverage on television, though still sparse compared to their male counterparts.

Getty Images - Meghan O'Leary

I was 13 years old when, on the heels of a much-publicized gold medal run by the 1996 USA Basketball Women’s National Team at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the WNBA began its first season in 1997. College basketball enjoyed the UConn vs. Tennessee rivalry as the two of the greatest coaches, Geno Auriemma and Pat Summitt battled for title after title. The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and the “99ers” were America’s sweethearts after winning the World Cup and setting attendance and television viewership records along the way.

I had an ongoing project that I began in middle school, lining the walls just inside the door to my bedroom with magazine articles or pictures that featured female Olympians, professional and college athletes. I called it my “inspiration wall” and every morning as I left my room on my way to school, I was reminded of who I could be and what I could accomplish. I could see it, so I could be it too.

Ironically, or perhaps of my own volition and determination, I grew up and was a two-sport Division I college athlete and I’m now an Olympian and five-time member of the U.S. National Rowing Team. After first beginning a career in sports media (working in Production and Programming at ESPN for five years), I set out on the challenging journey of being an entrepreneur and building a new company, InstaViser.

Nearly two decades after covering my walls with tape and carefully torn out magazine pages (and probably driving my mother crazy “because I was damaging the paint”), I continue to find much of my inspiration by looking up and around at the women who surround me, many of whom who fought to open the doors that I now walk through. Thanks to social media and the endless number of online outlets available today, it is a lot easier to identify and find the trailblazers and leaders in sports, media, and business.

As I did years ago, I gravitate to reading about those who are making waves, challenging the status quo, and breaking through barriers. Who is disrupting the industry or environment around them with innovation or a fresh perspective? How are they doing it? Who is asking “why has it always only been done this way” or “what if” and then taking the difficult steps to explore that and prove it can be done better?

The root to finding inspiration is finding the right people to aspire to be like and even, to be better than. A lifetime in sports taught me that there is nothing wrong with a little competition to help you achieve greater heights.

2018 is quickly becoming the Year of the Woman. From the fuel and fire behind the Time’s Up movement, to Team USA women bringing home more medals than the men for the first time in 20 years at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games (my favorite Olympic moment was watching Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall become the first American cross-country skiers to win an Olympic gold, ending a 42-year drought for the U.S. in the sport!), to Emma Gonzalez, a high school senior epitomizing poise and resilience as she works to pave the way for change, I feel fortunate to live in a time when I have access to an abundance of women role models. It wasn’t that inspirational women didn’t exist before; rather they didn’t have the platform, the power, or the seat at the table to shine and get things done as they are now.

Outside of my professional athletic career, I am the vice president of InstaViser. My work there puts me in front of so many incredible people doing remarkable things. Every day, I get to work with companies, many led by inspiring women, like CSweetener, an organization dedicated to propelling female healthcare leaders forward via mentorship. Or the the United States Olympic Committee and the ACE Mentor Network led by ACE Director, Leslie Klein, that connects Olympic and Paralympic athletes with former athletes and industry experts to help them achieve success in their sport and career. Just a few months ago, during the lead-up to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, one of the ACE Mentor Network users, Carlijn Schoutens connected with four-time Olympian and all-around inspiration, Lauryn Williams via our platform, for advice and guidance as she navigated Olympic Trials and then the Games. Carlijn made the Olympic Team and went on to win an Olympic Bronze medal.

Through my work as a professional athlete, public speaker, and with InstaViser, I hope to inspire the next generation of dreamers, doers, and high-achievers who are changing the world — many of them the next great women business leaders, politicians, and athletes. As one of the great leaders of the Title IX movement, Billie Jean King said,

 

“The way to make real progress in business, in sports, and in society is to lift each other up. You don’t fight each other for the same seat at the table — you make more seats by bringing women with you. It’s up to us. By empowering the women around you, you empower yourself and make our world a better place.”

Meghan O’Leary is a United States Olympian and five-time national team rower, motivational speaker, and Vice President of InstaViser. She currently lives and works in San Francisco, California.

Carlijn Schoutens: An Olympic Speed Skater's Take on Mentorship

Two weeks ago, Carlijn Schoutens, long-track speed skater for the United States of America took the line in Pyeongchang, South Korea at the 2018 Winter Olympics. In that moment, she probably had a number of things running through her mind: the state of the ice, her race strategy and chasing a medal. Years of training, dedication and hard work added up to bring her to that moment. Another important, but perhaps less tangible factor had played a role in helping her get to the starting line of her first Winter Olympics: the power of mentorship. 

Schoutens is a member of the ACE Mentor Network, one of our customer platforms. The United States Olympic Committee Athlete Career and Education Program (ACE) provides current and retired Team USA athletes with career, education and life skills resources to support their athletic performance goals, facilitate a successful transition to post-elite competition careers and inspire long-term positive engagement with the Olympic/Paralympic movement. The ACE Mentor Network is one of the many great resources offered to Team USA athletes. 

As an ACE mentee, Carlijn Schoutens was matched up with Lauryn Williams, Olympian and and founder of Worth Winning, her own financial planning company, dedicated to helping other athletes manage their careers and lives after sport. In between Schoutens training sessions leading up to the Games, we had a chance to ask her a few questions about her experience talking with Williams and the role that mentors played in her Olympic journey.

When asked about how she was first matched with Williams, Schoutens responded, “Lauryn was recommended as a mentor for me by Elana [Meyers Taylor], because she also did a time trial sport and has been very successful athletically and professionally.”

Williams’ impressive Olympic resume includes four Olympic Games, three Olympic medals, and being the first American woman to medal at both the Winter and Summer Games. To learn more about Williams and her passion for financial planning, read her interview with the Women’s Sports Foundation.

“We first talked [before Olympic Trials] when I realized that I was going to do things this year that I had never done before,” said Schoutens. “I was interested to learn about the added challenges at Olympic Trials compared to normal racing, and how best to deal with those. Lauryn told me about her many Olympic Trials experiences and how she was able to race as well there as at a regular competition.”

“We talked about preparing for each challenge by making mental plans and practical arrangements. It made me feel more in control of my competition and I was able to perform well and have a lot of fun. Lauryn was available in the week of my Trials and we called and texted back and forth a lot. Thanks Lauryn!”

Schoutens and Williams’ mentorship relationship helped create a support system for her to lean up during the lead-up to the Olympic Trials and continued throughout her preparation for the Winter Games.

 

 

Schoutens was particularly impressed by the different type of mentorship she experienced with fellow Olympian Lauryn. “I’ve mostly had coaches, teachers and parents as mentors in my career, but having a fellow athlete by my side was different and awesome.”

 

 

Congratulations to Carlijn Schoutens and the rest of Team USA at last month’s Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. To keep up with Carlijn on her Olympic journey and see what’s next, follow her on Twitter and Instagram. We look forward to cheering on the U.S. Paralympic Team which will start competing in South Korea this weekend.

Are you a company, university, or professional group looking to foster stronger advisor ties in your network? We can help you do that through our unique 1-on-1 video software. Fill out the form on our “Contact Us” page or send us an email at coach@instaviser.com and start learning how you can build relationships in your community, one connection at a time.

2017: A Year in Review

It’s been quite a year for InstaViser. During the past 12 months, we have worked to create engaged learning communities with clients that range from professional networks to non-profits and university groups. Over countless Slack conversations and cups of coffee, our team worked tirelessly to improve our software, helping our online communities connect easier and faster. We are proud to offer a private networking platform for learning institutions and empowerment organizations to better serve their members.

In 2017, our diverse span of customer networks included top brand companies and organizations such as the University of California-Berkeley Athletics, the Culinary Institute of America, the United States Olympic Committee Athlete Career and Education Program and CSweetener. Collectively, we powered communities that served hundreds of mentors and thousands of mentees, creating authentic connections and forging stronger ties for professional growth, mentorship, and lifelong learning.

“My mentor was very patient, kind, understanding and relatable,” said an ACE Mentor Network user. “I instantly knew that this time was valuable not only to me but her as well! After speaking with her, I felt confident that each answer to my questions was filled with practical advice that I could immediately begin to implement. I am truly grateful and inspired to continue dreaming, reaching and pursuing at great lengths. It is awesome to see successful women encouraging younger women like me.”

From one of our Cal Golden Ties Network Advisors: “I think our session went really well (it was the first for both of us). The student had good questions and was prepared. I have a number of contacts to share with her to assist her with her career options. Terrific platform. Very easy to navigate the session.”

We also welcomed several new clients to our InstaViser family including CSweetener and Food Venture Lab. CSweetener is a non-profit organization dedicated to matching emerging female healthcare leaders new and near to the C-Suite, with those who have successfully navigated the terrain for mentorship in an effort to increase the ratio of women in executive positions. Food Venture Lab provides students with one-on-one sessions with top food experts, restaurant executives, and culinary artists.

Several new members joined the InstaViser team in 2017. We’re thrilled to have Meghan O’Leary come on board full-time in the role of Vice President, overseeing our customer success and marketing departments. Prior to InstaViser, Meghan worked for five years at ESPN in Content Production and Programming and currently competes as an Olympic rower for Team USA. We’re also excited to welcome Michael Colella as our newest customer success manager. Michael graduated from Cornell University and has been training and competing on the U.S. Men’s Rowing team for the past two years.

Other InstaViser team members in the news include Elana Meyers-Taylor, our customer success manager, who will be representing the United States on the Olympic Bobsled team and software developer Kyle Tress who will be coaching the Japanese Olympic Skeleton team at the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

As we look ahead to another year, we are welcoming several new community platforms to the InstaViser family that will be launching throughout the next quarter.

“To be able to work with so many great organizations and to help them leverage the power of their networks is a profound experience,” said InstaViser CEO and co-founder, Pete Cipollone. “Our team did great things in 2017 and we look forward to doing even more, better and faster in 2018 as we continue to expand and provide a great product, doing our part to change lives, one connection at a time.”

Thank you,

The Team at InstaViser

About InstaViser

Founded in 2015 by a team of Olympians, InstaViser empowers a new world of global connection and learning for people of all ages and walks of life. For learning institutions and empowerment organizations who serve talented strivers aspiring to reach their potential, InstaViser creates private networking platforms that seamlessly create engaged learning communities. InstaViser helps our customers create authentic connections, leveraging their brands to realize the power of their networks. We are in the business of changing lives, one connection at a time. For more information please visit: www.instaviser.com.


 

Featured in the News: How CSweetener is helping women healthcare leaders succeed

Article originally posted on MedCity News

A 2017 study of 177 publicly-listed biotech companies found women hold just 1 in 10 board seats. And 2012 research from Rock Health showed women make up 4 percent of healthcare company CEOs.

CSweetener, a Mill Valley, California-based nonprofit company, wants to change that.

The organization, which launched in September 2016, was founded by Lisa Suennen and Lisa Serwin, the latter of whom will be speaking on a diversity in healthcare panel at MedCity INVEST in May.

In a recent phone interview, Suennen explained the impetus behind the business. As part of her Aspen Institute Health Innovators Fellowship, she was tasked with creating something that advanced the field of healthcare.

While brainstorming and catching up on emails, Suennen noticed that she typically gets between 10 and 20 requests for advice from women each week. Wouldn’t it be nice, she thought, if there were a Match.com for healthcare that would pair women with established male and female mentors?

So that’s what she and Serwin developed with CSweetener.

As part of the matchmaking process, female mentees sign up and must be approved to join. Candidates have to be C-suite or in an equivalent role (such as vice president). Once accepted, they pay a $250 fee and are matched with a mentor based on their personality and availability. With their membership, mentees gain 12 sessions per year, which can be with the same mentor or different mentors.

Mentors have to be experienced healthcare executives who are talented at giving advice. They don’t pay a fee, but must commit at least one hour per month to speaking with mentees.

Pairings can contact each other through the phone and video capabilities in the app so they don’t have to exchange personal information if they don’t want to. They can also meet in person if desired.

After the initial sessions, mentors and mentees can decide if they’re the right fit for each other before moving forward with additional meetings.

Suennen said CSweetener currently has a couple hundred mentees and a couple hundred mentors. Some companies have even started to sponsor mentees and pay the $250 fee.

“It’s beginning to pick up and spread,” Suennen said. “People have been loving it and really enjoying the connections.”

Chicago-based ExplORer Surgical cofounder and CEO Jennifer Fried is one such mentee. Through CSweetener, she met Ned Scheetz, managing partner of Aphelion Capital and now ExplORer Surgical’s lead investor. He has also joined the startup’s board of directors.

“It’s been hugely helpful,” Fried said in a phone conversation.

The primary benefit of the program, Fried added, is access to experts in the field.

“They have an interesting set of senior folks who have signed up for this,” she said. “When it’s structured like this, it doesn’t feel as high stakes as ‘I’m coming in to pitch you my company.'”

For Suennen, part of what sets CSweetener apart is that it’s focused on women executives rather than young women who are new to the field. It’s also crucial that the organization pairs mentees with both female and male mentors.

“Our general view of the world is that women talking to women is an echo chamber,” Suennen said. It’s challenging to make progress if all stakeholders (regardless of gender) aren’t involved.

The ultimate goal of CSweetener isn’t to create a monster company. Instead, it’s fairly straightforward.

“I think my goal is pretty simple: just to help women succeed faster and better,” Suennen said.