Around the beginning of this year, Terakeet began looking for individuals who felt they had something to share. They looked for people who wanted to put their communicative skills to use and hone in on their own abilities to listen and provide feedback, as well as help to foster growth within their colleagues. Once they had a pool of mentors, they were connected with people who signed up to be a mentee. But after nearly two short months since the launch of this mentorship program, the office was sent home to work remotely. Somehow six months have already gone by.
I caught up with a pair who have been participating as a mentor and mentee to ask them some questions and see what they had to say about their experiences so far. The following is the conversation I had with mentee Keli Wolf, Digital Marketing Specialist, and mentor Jennie Kim, VP of Enterprise Strategy.
Q1: What made you want to participate in this new mentorship program?
Keli: For me, it was just that I really wanted to connect with someone else at the company who I would otherwise might not get the chance to.
Jennie, same for you. What made you want to participate in the program?
Jennie: One of my favorite things to do professionally and personally is to mentor people, so it was an easy yes for me to try and help build our Terakeet culture.
Q2: Can you describe the first time you guys met each other? Was it a part of the program or did you know each other before?
Keli: So, we were both actually on the same team at the time but we had never really interacted. I would say for the most part, it was part of the program which was really exciting and just exactly what I wanted, to meet with someone new. The first time that we met was technically the first mentorship meeting but then my first meeting together we had at Pastabilities and just got to know more about each other in real life.
Jennie: That’s such a sentimental memory, but yeah that’s exactly it. As Keli said, it was the first time we spoke in the training room and then from there, we haven’t stopped talking.
Q3: The mentorship program was launched in an official capacity earlier this year. How do you think a program like this will impact Terakeet workplace culture as it continues?
Keli: The program has and will continue to enrich the Terakeet Culture by offering an opportunity for cross-department connection. I don’t think that there’s a lot of things that we do besides Circle-up, and now especially being remote, that there’s a lot of opportunity for cross-department connection so that’s really what this program does.
Jennie: So, I have a little twist. I think it will continue to foster collaboration between departments, so your cross-country, cross-department collaboration, but my hope is that in building those new bonds, we create a culture of bravery and creativity. As a result of that, if you know someone, you have us, your safe space to store, share and try out new ideas and to push yourself a little bit more. And that you have more resources for creative brainstorming and hopefully are able to summon that energy. I know personally for me in this remote environment, through the weekly touch base, that has just been so focused around a relationship and moving forward. It has been invaluable, so I would encourage new people just even to bootleg it as a way to get through the pandemic with how important that face to face time is.
Q4: Couldn’t agree more. So what would you guys like to see as part of the future of the mentorship program as it continues to move forward?
Keli: I think it’s really well structured. I felt very supported by the mentorship team but my only feedback is that I feel like maybe they could consider opening it up for people to be mentored who have been here less than a year because right now the cap is just a year. And I think especially being remote to get the newer people acclimated to the culture, opening that would be great.
Jennie: I had a similar answer. I would love to see it extended into new employee onboarding where they’re assigned a mentor just to see how it can work in the beginning in its infancy. Have it serve as like the pre-k mentorship, right, then you can graduate into the full program. But I just think it’s so important we work to give new hires a sense of the opportunity and the people and the culture and how to navigate. It’s important to have mentors that are either outside of your department or don’t have a business relationship with you per se.
Yeah that’s a great point. I mean, I know that in the Outreach department we do get a mentor because Keli was mine and super helpful so I agree it’s important to have one from the start. I could probably see us trying out one outside of your department as well as somebody in it. Just so you have someone to show you the daily ropes versus someone to introduce you to the culture because I’ve never worked in a place that cares more about developing your professional self as much as Terakeet does.
Jennie: And there are people we have hired in the last six months who have never been to Syracuse, have never met their bosses, have never met their teammates– like everything was done online. I was just, wow, like that totally makes sense but that was completely lost on me until you just said that.
Q5: What has your mentor and mentee-ship brought to your professional development? How do you feel it has impacted you personally?
Keli: In all caps for this – so much. She has brought so much to my professional development but I would just say an increase in my overall motivation when working from home. And I know the program was designed, and obviously we started it before we all went full-time remote, but I think I already mentioned this, but having this program while being remote and being away from everyone has just truly been able to help me increase my motivation overall for work because it’s been a big transition. And then, just, she’s giving me an overall boost of confidence.
Jennie: I’m beyond proud of Keli and where she’s come from. As I serve I hope it keeps me relevant, right? As I get to know this organization and learn it better I become more relevant in my career, so it’s helped me professionally in that way. I think that the most important part of having a program like this available is just the opportunities that it gives people so you know first and foremost the opportunity that it gives anyone who might be disconnected in the opportunity to push themselves in their work or professional field. I think the mentorship program fields community first and foremost and identifies this opportunity in terms of understanding where you could or want to fit in and then it opens your eyes and gives a platform for ambition. Right, I think we should all be ambitious in our jobs and in our lives, and that’s not always just advancement. But what are the different routes that you can take to fulfill yourself, your curiosity and your ambition?
Q6: All right, I think we’re down to this last one. What’s one singular story either one of you can point to from your time together, maybe just an example to color out the mentor/mentee relationship if you have one.
Keli: It isn’t necessarily big, but it was very impactful for me. I think like the one thing that Jennie has done for me from the beginning is just to always be there for me. Whether that’s to rejoice when I’ve had a good week or to listen when I had a bad week. About a month ago, I was having a very stressful week or just a lot of things going on and then at the end of the week on Friday. I opened up my door and there was a package from Jennie. It was filled with oils, a diffuser and it was just something that obviously she didn’t have to do, and no mentor needs to go out and send a package. But, just to know that she took the time to think about me outside of our conversations and reflect on the fact that I had a stressful week and send me something made me feel so incredibly valued in my position and so that’s just one thing that stuck out to me.
Aw, that’s awesome. I think that’s a great example of both just the kind of things that I’m sure would come out of the program but also completely reflective of the kinds of people that work here, because I mean honestly, that just sounds so Terakeet
Jennie: I love that. I love that so much that “so Terakeet” gets to be a phrase, right? I would say the same thing for me in terms of, I think that when you are having a bad day or you’re struggling with a particular thing as I was on a presentation that just wasn’t coming together and it was just not a pretty day. We talked about sort of, how do we get over it and then just sometimes talking about bad days together makes your bad day have perspective. We all have those days and I think that just having that sounding board that you don’t have to go into details but you can just share and to say “yeah, this is my day” and “I totally hear you,” that to me has been a lifeline. I think a little bit more vaguely on purpose but I think that it is not to be understated– it’s not a one-way street it’s definitely a two-way street.
Jennie: I remember a specific example! One day in Kelly’s old apartment when she started that adventure, I was having a creative block, and just not expressing myself clearly in a lot of different ways. She took me on a tour of her amazing artwork she does on her own and it just got me unstuck. Just seeing someone putting pen to paper or paint to paper and just being brave in their expression– it just got me out of my own way and got me doing some projects that I had otherwise tabled. And it just unlocked that side of my brain that I needed to not be so wrapped up and intense about.
Keli: I didn’t know that. I’m so glad!
Jennie: She’s an amazing artist.
Editor’s Post-Script: Many companies have experienced the success and benefits that mentorship programs can bring to their business and their employees. Who knew at the start of this program that a majority of the company would be transitioning to an entirely new work situation and environment? What began as an opportunity for personal and professional growth, turned into a lifeline for these two ‘Keeters.