Uber brought the UberMENTOR program to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area on March 15, 2016, as part of International Women’s History Month. I saw the articles and thought, “Cool,” and went back to work without a second thought.

On March 15th, I received a call from my friend and business partner, Mary “Bumblebee” Pokluda, who served as one of the Uber mentors. This experienced, small-business owner of nine-years had a new light inside her — she was on fire! She said, “I’ve been so weighed down by the day to day running of a mature business I started to lose the passion that got me started. I’ve found it again!”

I had to ask, “May I write a blog post about your experience?” Of course, she said, “Yes,” and I’m sharing her insights with you.

How did the program work?

Women In Networking and Dress For Success Twin Cities worked with the UberMENTOR program to execute this free, three-hour event providing mentees with a 15-minute ride with one of nine women business leaders from the area; featuring a combination of entrepreneurs and corporate professionals. According to an Uber spokesperson, “the goal was to provide Mentors on Demand to connect riders to those who could help them with job advice and to build their network.”

Mentees entered a code, set their pick-up location, and an Uber driver, with a mentor riding in the backseat, drove them around while mentor and mentee shared a conversation. The mentee was returned to the pick-up location while driver and mentor picked up the next eager business leader. Mentees were expected to have a list of questions and goals to ask mentors to make the most of their time together.

Mary “Bumblebee” Pokluda was the Perfect Pollinator

I asked, “Why you, Mary?” Due to her humble nature, I had to ask several times, but she confessed. Teresa Thomas, Director of Women In Networking MN (MN WIN), reached out to her upon hearing about the program. “Teresa said I was one of the first to come to mind,” Many members of MN WIN have worked with Mary; she’s heavily involved in her community, and she has a reputation of lifting people up in their success.

However, one of the downsides of transitioning to running a more mature business is owners find themselves less involved in the teaching and mentoring they enjoyed at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journeys.

“With UberMENTOR,” Mary said, “I was able to mentor four people in one day.”

What Mentees Wanted to Know

Mary shared mentee’s common questions.

  1. How can I be more successful?
  2. How can I further my network?
  3. How can I network better?
  4. What’s your secret to success?
  5. Help! I’m lost; how do I get back on track?

As a successful business owner, Mary could craft answers from her experience and share the same message with each mentee – one stemming from her accomplishments. Not this Queen Bee.

I customized my advice for each mentee. Yes, I gave them guidance from my experience, but it wasn’t all about me. In each case I applied what I learned to what they were going through; I made it about them.

Here’s a specific example Mary shared with me.

Torn between two roles, one mentee had many decisions. She asked Mary’s advice on which road to take, a job with more focus on tech skills vs. one that offered more leadership opportunity but would take her out of the tech industry she loved. Mary suggested researching both options and asking questions.

  • Could the tech role include leadership opportunities down the road?
  • Would the leadership role – the employers – be open to professional development that allowed her to keep her fingers on the pulse of the an ever-changing technology industry?

“Don’t be satisfied with the labels and definitions for your career opportunities the way they are offered to you,” she counseled. “Challenge everything before you make a decision. Keep your eyes on the skills you need and not the money. The money will follow.”

What Did Students Teach the Mentor?

I asked to write this blog post because it was clear that the UberMENTOR experience changed Mary. “I felt such joy being a part of the mentee’s success.” Mary shared.

“I’ve recently come back to manage my business full-time after some health issues, and it’s been overwhelming and draining. The advice I gave about focusing on one thing at a time and carefully exploring options before making a decision – no matter how pressing it may seem – has helped me get back on track.”

The Experience Was More than One and Done.

Mary expressed pride that these (mostly) millennials would reach out for mentoring. “I’ve been on college campuses where the professor brought me in as a mentor for students. Few of these students reached out to me after my presentation.”

This group is different. It’s the last week of March (not more than two weeks later) and Mary’s mentees have sent thank-you notes, emailed her, and invited her to connect on LinkedIn. “I directed one of the mentees to a networking group that might help him. He shared how helpful it was to attend, and we discovered we have some people in common in our networks!”

Clearly, Mary Pokluda understands why young professionals need mentors to support their success.

Is your enthusiasm buried under a pile of work? Try mentoring.

Soma

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