WISE Mentor Circles a Valuable Resource for WISE Partner Companies
Since its inception, WISE has focused on providing valuable professional development resources for its partners and members. The WISE Mentor Circles have been a true success in bolstering professional skills and widening networks for their participants.
WISE Mentor Circles are designed to provide professional growth opportunities by enhancing self-confidence, further developing communication and leadership skills, and increasing networking skills for participants. Beginning in February, circle participants meet virtually, every four to six weeks, for sixty to ninety minutes. Each circle has an experienced leader who keeps the meetings organized and members engaged. The leader also designates a circle member to lead at least one meeting during the year to fine tune meeting leadership skills. This program is only available to WISE partner company employees. Participation is open to any partner employee regardless of gender identification or position.
Abby Vander Wyst, Director of Sales Operations at Great Lakes Cheese, participated in a WISE mentor circle in 2021. Abby summed up her experience by emphatically stating, “It exceeded anything I thought I would experience.” In fact, she valued the experience so much that she has volunteered to be a mentor circle lead for 2022, and she has nominated a colleague to participate in a circle so she can in turn grow from participation.
The WISE mentor circle engagement was different from any internal program Abby had experienced because she was able to meet with professionals from different organizations, involved in different roles, and positioned in different parts of the U.S. In fact, her circle included an international participant. “We found common ground in shared experiences,” says Abby. “An even bigger value was that we all felt like we could reach out to one another and use each other as a resource outside of the circle time and topics we were covering. These women are now all resources I can use. I value their opinion.” While Abby was quick to stress the importance of internal, employer-sponsored mentor programs, she found the WISE program beneficial in a different way. “Internal mentors are extremely important. They know who the key players in your company are and understand the internal issues. Outside mentors, they have a whole new way of thinking that is outside of your day-to-day scope. The approach to issues can be more open minded.”
Abby believes that her participation in the WISE program has opened her eyes to the fact that women in her company and others need to be open to resources outside the organization to grow. Her group touched on topics as diverse as working through COVID, the change to hybrid and remote positions, and working with varied personality types. “I loved my group! It was a new way to explore important topics and I want to help others reach out,” says Abby. In leading her own circle, Abby is excited to meet and work with a new group to not only mentor but also continue her own learning process.
In summing up the benefit of the Mentor Circle Program, Abby described it as a clear business case advantage as any good operations professional would. “If you’re looking at it as a math equation, the investment to gain ratio is in your favor. It’s a pretty low commitment compared to how much you benefit, grow and gain from the situation. Your company will also gain; you will be more industry aware and open minded.” If you are an employee of a WISE partner company and would like to participate in or to nominate a colleague for the 2022 WISE Mentor Circle Program, please contact Judy Clark at Judy.Clark@freshtx.com or (708) 829-9371 by January 14th.