At Twomentor, we like to share thought leadership from phenomenal executives and social entrepreneurs focused on: a diverse skilled workforce, social impact entrepreneurship, mentoring cultures, sponsorship and elevating women in STEM careers.
Continuing our series of discussions with women in STEM careers, I connected with three women at global technology leader TE Connectivity to get their perspectives on mentorship and sponsorship (a sponsor serves as an internal champion or advocate). TE makes highly engineered sensors and connectors that are used to detect and transmit power, data, and signals in connected cars, smart buildings and homes, next generation factories, medical devices, power grids and more. The company employs 75,000 people, including 7,000 engineers.
Erin Byrne, is Director of Internal Interconnect Engineering; Victoria Judd is Senior Quality & Reliability Engineer; and Claudia Anderson is Vice President of Quality and Customer Experience.
Julie@Twomentor: How did you first become interested in the technology/engineering industry? Were you supported and positively challenged early on in your career?
Erin: I enjoyed science and technology from a very early age. For my 8th birthday, I dreamed big and asked my parents for a microscope, a telescope, and a chemistry set. Somehow, they made it all happen and when I look back on it, this represented an amazing gift. I’ve always had an idea where I wanted to go and have been fortunate to find supporters along the way.
Victoria: Growing up I was always curious about how things worked and spent a lot of time helping my dad fix things in the garage. In high school I took a technology class with a very inspirational teacher, and that’s when I knew I wanted to study engineering. There is so much to learn that it can be overwhelming. I learned very early on that asking questions is essential to the learning process.
Claudia: My dad is a retired biomedical engineer. He is the wisest and kindest person I know and was definitely a role model for me. As I progressed through college and my early career, I realized that more senior engineers would gladly share their knowledge if you really wanted to learn. I developed the ability to connect with people through these learning opportunities which enabled me to solve problems faster than those colleagues who were less comfortable asking for help.
Twomentor: Research shows that women are more hesitant to seek mentorship opportunities because they don’t want to be seen asking for help. How and why did you pursue a mentorship opportunity?
Claudia: Most of my relationships with mentors have developed as a result of working with a leader on a project. I would observe a talent or capability a certain leader possessed that I really respected and wanted to learn. Although it was uncomfortable at the time, I now realize that asking a mentor to share their experience and insights is one of the highest compliments you can give someone.
Erin: While I have an advanced degree in a technical discipline, I’ve taken on many roles that required different expertise and I’ve often had to ask for help. My mentors and sponsors have helped me understand company culture, how my behavior impacts others, and just generally what is really important as separate from the daily fray.
Twomentor: Do you think it matters if your mentor/sponsor is male or female? Why?
Erin: I think it’s important to have both male and female perspectives, so why limit yourself? The brave men will want to understand more about how to motivate and inspire their female colleagues, while senior women have an incredible depth of experience and wisdom to share.
Victoria: I have had both male and female mentors leave an impact on me. I believe that each mentor is unique and brings with them a different perspective on things, therefore it is important to have a number of mentors throughout your career.
Claudia: More important to me than the gender of a mentor/sponsor is who they are. I recommend you look for a person who you respect, is respected in the organization, has skills or capabilities you can learn from and is interested in sharing their insights.
Twomentor: Especially in male-dominated industries, it’s important for companies to incorporate diversity and inclusion into the culture. In what ways has your organization helped foster/support a culture of inclusion?
Claudia: Creating a diverse and inclusive environment is not just nice to have, it is good for business. At TE, we have multiple employee resource groups including a Women’s Network, ALIGN (a group for LGBT employees and allies), Young Professionals, African Heritage and the TE Veterans group. These groups are focused on professional development, networking, and community engagement. They also create opportunities for individuals to demonstrate their leadership capabilities. In addition, TE has a sponsorship program for emerging women in leadership, which I am proud to be a part of. It has been inspirational to spend time with the next generation of female leaders for our company.