Tech executive Jaime Leverton shares what she’s learned mentoring young women in the industry
Why are you a mentor?
I firmly believe it’s the responsibility of people in senior positions, in particular women, because there are so few of us in senior executive roles in the technology industry. Role modeling is such a critical component in allowing more young girls to picture their futures in tech. We have to be part of the solution that changes the statistics going forward. This has been a passion of mine for the better part of a decade, especially as a mother of two young girls myself.
What have you learned from being a mentor?
Being a mentor to women in early- to mid-career keeps me in touch with what’s happening in a generation that I otherwise wouldn’t have direct access to. That’s proven to be incredibly valuable; it’s given me insight into the millennial mind and how I engage with that demographic. I get a ton of new fresh ideas and perspectives from the people that I mentor. I really see it as a relationship that gives value in both directions. It keeps me curious and I love making connections with new people; I find it really inspiring. It gives me hope for the generations to come.
What’s your approach to mentoring?
For me, a formal mentoring structure didn’t ever feel right. I felt like I wasn’t delivering enough value, so I’ve evolved how I work with my mentees to a much more informal style. I really encourage them to reach out when they need something specific rather than a regular cadence of meetings. I have what I call the Red Phone approach: If they need to talk, put “Red Phone” in the subject line and I’ll call them back and talk them through whatever help they needs as soon as I can make myself available. That pays dividends to them and to me because I feel like I’m adding true tangible value.
Did you have a mentor?
I’ve been very blessed to have many mentors over the years. The one that has been with me the longest is [AppDirect general manager] Joe Mardini. We were first introduced when I started at IBM in 2001. I think it probably started with an informal type of executive interview where he would reach out and get to know people in junior staff. We just hit it off and it evolved. Originally I would say he was a mentor, and over time that evolved into him becoming a sponsor, and really today it’s a friendship. I work with five to 10 women in any given year and my hope is that those kinds of relationships will never expire as long as there continues to be a positive chemistry and exchange of value.
What topics come up most often with your mentees?
Questions I get most often are around work-life balance: how to think about planning your career and planning your family in parallel, how to manage the juggling act of kids in day care, nannies, sick kids, all those kinds of conversations where they’re really looking for strategies and options on how to manage it all. I find they are asking questions that they don’t have anyone else to ask, and that tends to be dealing with situations that only another female in the industry who has tackled the same issues would understand how to navigate. There is also a lot of conversation about how to handle specific situations, often with male-dominant personalities and situations.
What’s one of the most important things you try to help your mentees with?
Confidence! Trusting themselves, trusting their instincts and bringing that swagger to work. Young women tend to struggle with swagger more than young men. So I really like to focus on reminding them how good they are. They’ve earned the right to be there, they bring a voice to the table and they have a responsibility to use that voice. That’s absolutely critical.
Jaime Leverton, Toronto, Chief Commercial Officer, SVP at eStruxture Data Centers