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Exec Spin: The Power of Mentorship

Thursday, August 24, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Julia Kanouse, CEO, ITA |
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Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with several organizations that are focused on building and improving mentorship models, in particular for women. I was lucky enough to be paired with an outstanding mentee through Chicago Innovation’s Women’s Mentoring Co-op. I also participated on a panel recently about mentorship as part of a 50 Action 50 workshop.

These recent experiences left me reflecting on my past mentors and the role they have each played in shaping my life and my career. At the heart of each of my relationships and each discussion I’ve been a part of, it’s abundantly clear that no one can do it on their own.

Much as been written about the benefit and power of mentorship. My purpose here is not to convince you of the merits of membership (although I’m happy to share a bunch of research with you on the subject if so desired). My goal is to remind you, the senior leaders of Chicago, to invest your time and energy in this critical activity. Don’t wait for an enterprising, up-and-comer to come to you seeking your advice and expertise. Find the diamond in the rough - the young woman or minority project lead who just killed it - and invest in his or her future.

We all talk about our desire to diversify our teams, our leaders, our boards. We know that doing so results in greater success – that gender and ethnically diverse groups are more likely to outperform. Unfortunately, we are often at a loss as to where to start. The problem seems so big and so insurmountable that it’s tempting to call “uncle.”

Mentorship, however, is an easy place to start. Yes, it takes time, but it doesn’t require a monetary investment. Most of today’s business leaders attribute their leadership skills to one or more influential mentors. It’s a skill that’s tough to learn from a book. Helping a young professional, especially from the populations we are trying to elevate, cultivate her leadership abilities and work toward her goals, puts us one step closer to the businesses and community we all want to build.


At ITA we see mentorship not only as a way for you to strengthen your business but as a way for us, collectively, to spur the next evolution of the Chi-tech ecosystem. Growth is only part of the equation. Creating a climate that fosters talent regardless of difference provides a change and momentum with which dollars cannot compete. By investing in the next generation of diverse leaders and entrepreneurs, we can create a new paradigm; Chicago tech businesses identify, support and elevate a colorful range of talent. This new standard would create a snowball effect. Young graduates would look to Chicago first as a place that cultivates diverse talent and our businesses would grow from contemporary collaboration, driving additional investment, exits, etc. with divergent ideas and promising new ventures. Mentorship provides the groundwork for all of this and more. Because, after all, we’re stronger, together.

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