AMA Baltimore’s Mentor Connections program is an industry specific program that pairs established marketing experts (Mentors) with early and mid-level marketing professionals (Protégés) for one-on-one mentoring. Like most programs last year, our 2020 Mentor Connections program shifted to a virtual setting, but that did not stop our participants from having a fulfilling mentorship experience.
This post will feature a Q&A interview with a mentor-protégé pairing that proves the right match, along with a solid plan and preparation, are keys to a fruitful experience. Meet Mentor Joy Levin, President, Allium Research and Analytics and her Protégé Justina Simmons, Marketing Coordinator at Dominion National.
AMA: Can you start by telling us about your professional background?
Joy: I have been an independent marketing research consultant for more than 20 years. Prior to that, I worked in market research for both suppliers, and companies. I decided to go into the field after getting my MBA, because I loved exploring data and drawing conclusions for strategic planning and marketing.
Justina: I am a 2017 University of Maryland Journalism program graduate with a focus on marketing communications. Over the years, I have worked several internships and jobs focusing on digital marketing, social media, and event planning. Currently, I am working as a marketing coordinator at an insurance company in Arlington, VA.
AMA: What made you decide to participate in the Mentor Connections Program?
Joy: I have been a mentor before for the DC chapter, and other organizations of which I am a part. I really enjoy working with others to help them achieve their personal and professional goals.
Justina: My teachers and colleagues have always stressed the importance of building business relationships and establishing long lasting connections as a means to move up in this industry. But what motivated me the most was an eagerness to learn about the experiences and stories of the people who are currently in the positions I dream to be in. I would also like to prepare to give back in the future as the mentors have done here.
AMA: What has worked for you in terms of making the most of the program? Have you followed the guide that you received at the beginning, or have you found your own way of working?
Joy: I think what was most helpful was our first meeting in which we laid out our expectations of how we thought we would best work together. I could tell right away that Justina was a rock star, so I really did not have any concerns that I needed to address. Still, it was helpful to make sure we both knew how best to work with the other so we could maximize this opportunity.
Justina: The guide was incredibly helpful as a way to get started. Laying out goals, expectations, and sticking to a schedule has been tremendous in keeping us focused. Now that Joy and I know each other much better, we feel more comfortable straying away from any hard and fast rules, but that speaks to how motivated I believe we are as a team.
AMA: Joy, as the mentor, what is your measure of success for your role in the program?
Joy: I went into this knowing that the mentor can only offer guidance, but it is up to the protégé to act. So, for me, it was not so much of having quantifiable goals like Justina developed. It was more making sure that she was getting the most out of the program and looking for any ways to improve what I was doing. For example, I did not have a pen at our first meeting! So, it became a goal for me to always show up with pen in hand!
AMA: Justina, what were some of your goals? What did you hope to be the outcome of your participation?
Justina: Joy was incredible in working with me to improve my overall business profile as a means to make myself more marketable. I have successfully achieved several of my goals as a result, including; updating and improving my LinkedIn profile, making more connections, landing a new position, and obtaining several certifications. I am also in the midst of working with Joy to explore more volunteer opportunities. I hoped to be more experienced and marketable by the end of this, and these outcomes surpassed my hopes.
AMA: How were you connecting prior to the COVID-19 crisis? In person or by phone/video chat/other?
Joy: Prior to the crisis, we were meeting twice a month, once in person for an hour or so, and then once via phone for about 30 minutes.
AMA: How has the COVID-19 crisis detracted from your experience? How has it enhanced your experience?
Joy: Not totally sure it has made a difference, other than cutting out travel time! It probably has enhanced it a bit, only because there are fewer distractions meeting online, and nobody needs to worry about being late due to traffic issues.
Justina: Not too much of a difference except, we are both active AMA members, and I imagine we may have had some opportunities to attend networking events together, but now that is no longer possible.
AMA: Have you done any unique exercises, had any fun experiences, or anything you’d like to share about your experience?
Joy: Hmmm…we did not, but this is making me think that next time I would work in some fun ice-breakers – don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.
Justina: Well, I think COVID put a damper on this one. Those in person networking events hosted by AMA were a lot of fun. And while not an exercise, it would have been fun for us to attend as a mentor and protégé. That’s a great point though. I will search to see if there’s a virtual experience similar for us to do!
AMA: What tips do you have for anyone participating in the program in the future?
Joy: I think mentors should be open to learning about themselves in their work with protégés, to determine what strengths they bring, as well as areas they could improve. I think this only enhances the mentor’s abilities, and ends up benefitting the program, and themselves in the long run.
Justina: As with most things in life, this is experience is what you make it. If you as a protégé put in the effort, good things will come out of it. This program really provided me the structure and guidance to act on the things I knew I was capable of all along.
AMA: Thanks to you both for participating in this Q&A. We have some great tips to carry with us as we head into the 2021 program!
The AMA Baltimore Mentor Connections program is accepting applications through January 17th, 2021. Learn more about our mentorship program and apply here.