Do you know about Big Sister Boston’s New Girls Network? Open to Big Sister staff and volunteers, the program pairs women who are early in their careers with seasoned professionals in mentoring relationships. The New Girls Network is part of our continuum of mentoring that supports our community of women into adulthood and helps build community among working women. Below is an interview with two recent participants: Aly Bowman, match support specialist at Big Sister Boston, and Deborah Daccord, former Big Sister Board Chair, and member at Mintz.
What appealed to you about the New Girls Network and made you want to participate?
Aly Bowman: As a Big Sister Association employee, I get to see firsthand the impact that a positive mentor relationship can have in someone’s life. I’m also a big believer in the idea that it is through relationships and connections that you can truly learn about yourself and grow as an individual. So, when the opportunity to have a mentor presented itself, I was so excited to participate!
You’ve been a mentor in the New Girls Network more than once. What inspired you to get involved?
Deborah Daccord: I was (and continue to be) excited by the opportunity to mentor women who are interested in pushing their boundaries to develop in their careers and/or who are exploring multiple paths and are interested in pressure testing them with someone who has been at a similar career crossroads.
What was the experience of choosing a mentor like? What were you looking for in a mentor?
AB: I joined New Girls Network with a pretty open mind and was excited to find someone that I could learn from and who could offer a new perspective as I talked about my work and my goals. The incredible women that I met during the kick-off event all brought something different to the table. I remember being so unsure about how to narrow down my choices; I wanted to get to know everyone! In the end, I knew that I couldn’t go wrong because each potential mentor was a successful, multi-faceted, incredible woman, who I would be lucky to get the chance to connect with. I’m so glad that I ended up paired with someone in a career so different than my own path. It was refreshing to get feedback and advice from someone who’s had such varying experiences than my own, and I got exactly the type of supportive relationship I had been hoping for.
Have you had professional or informal mentors before? How was your relationship with Deb different?
AB: I have had people in my life that I would turn to ask questions about career development or for professional advice, but never someone as consistent as Deb. Deb was so intentional about setting up time for us to meet, which made it easy to set goals and track my progress between our conversations. Something I really appreciated about Deb was the extent to which she made me feel heard and valued. She took diligent notes during all our conversations and would frequently remind me of ideas or goals that I had mentioned in prior meetings, even some things I didn’t remember saying myself! She also made sure to check-in about personal goals and situations that weren’t strictly work-based, which was new for me in a mentor relationship. In the past, when I’ve connected with people for a professional development conversation it was exactly that, and only that. With Deb, we had the time to foster a relationship that was more than just work talk. I feel as though this helped Deb provide me with more well-rounded, relevant guidance, because she knew more about me than just my work-life. I found myself always looking forward to our meetings. I enjoyed her company and truly valued her input on all things.
Why is it personally important to you to have women mentors and to be one?
DD: I suspect that like many New Girls Network mentors, I benefited (and still benefit) from having amazing mentors, sponsors and coaches throughout my career. At different points in my career (and life) I have benefited from different types of mentoring relationships. The construct of the New Girls Network mentoring program – a one-year, somewhat concentrated commitment – really appealed to me. I have been able to explore different aspects of growth, development, and decision-making with each of my mentees, suited to where each of them is in their careers.
What is something you learned from or worked on with Deb?
AB: Deb and I covered a variety of topics – both personal and work-related – during our meetings. The timing of our mentor relationship lined up very well with me moving to Boston, and I remember how challenging it was to get adjusted to a new apartment, a new city, and a new (virtual) job all at the same time. My monthly check-ins with Deb helped me stay grounded, provided me with consistent checkpoints to see how I was settling in, and gave me a space to talk about how to adjust, if needed. One of the first things we worked on that really made a difference for me was building relationships with my co-workers in a virtual setting. As someone who was already relatively new to the workforce, it was great to have someone as experienced as Deb to work with me through that. We created goals around setting up time to meet coworkers, getting involved in different projects at work, and she even encouraged me to start going into the office when possible! It was so great to have someone from outside of Big Sister to talk to about these challenges. Her guidance and support really helped me get adjusted and make the most of my first few months working in Boston.
What is something that you have learned from your mentoring relationship with Aly?
DD: I learned how to be what I hope was a productive mentor during the darkest days of the pandemic! Aly and I never actually met in person given what was going on around us, but we kept to our monthly Webex meetings like clockwork. Our focus and time together shifted each month as needed to address what she needed at each given time. Our check-ins (usually on a Monday or Tuesday night) were the highlight of my week!
What might you tell another young woman who is looking for a woman mentor herself?
AB: I would emphasize how important it is to go in with an open mind and lean into the experience! Some of the best discussions I had with Deb weren’t even about topics I had originally planned on bringing up, but ended up being meaningful, fruitful conversations. It doesn’t just have to be resume editing and networking advice – Deb and I chatted about how to build personal hobbies for myself, our favorite ways to explore Boston, and even our best self-care tips. This was a great experience where I was able to create and foster a new relationship and learn even more about myself and my personal goals through the process.