When Bob Froese was asked to be a mentor with the American Marketing Association’s Mentor Exchange Program in Toronto, he was hesitant at first given the time commitment and because he was already working with another mentorship program.
But when the CEO of Bob’s Your Uncle saw the list of potential mentees, most of which were in well established in the industry, he couldn’t say no. After the AMA teamed him up with mentee Mark Drager of video production firm Phanta Media, Froese realized he wasn’t the only one who would be learning something from the program.
“I immediately had as much respect for him as he appeared to have for me,” Froese said of Drager. “As a mentor, it puts you on your toes a bit.”
The pair missed just one monthly meeting during the nine-month program, and the conversations they did have often went into overtime.
Froese, recipient of the program’s 2016 mentor of the year award, said he not only offered advice based on his 30 years in the industry, but received a “good mental reset” for his own career.
“What I got out of it was that sense of ‘let’s never be complacent or take for granted what we’ve built or done,’” Froese said. “Someone is coming behind you willing to eat your lunch with a lot of energy, enthusiasm and skill. It puts you back into that phase of your life.”
The program, entering its seventh year this fall, has evolved to include more partnerships and participants. Today, it’s conducted in partnership with the Schulich Executive Education Centre, leveraging the Donohue Mentoring System.
The program has also become increasingly competitive, with about three people applying for each of the 50 mentor and mentee positions offered annually, according to co-chair Craig Lund.
It gives mentees “a level of awareness and education that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to,” said Dave Pullara, who is on the board of the Mentor Exchange Program, a judge for the awards, and was a mentee two years ago.
“It’s giving them a senior-level perspective that would otherwise take a decade of experience to acquire on their own.”
That includes career advice, but also tips on how to advance in the industry while balancing personal and family life — which Pullara said can be more difficult as you move up the ranks.
“To have your questions answered by someone who has been there, done that is just an invaluable perspective that you really can’t get anywhere else without going out and finding your own mentors,” Pullara said.
At the same time, he said mentors are gaining fresh perspectives from young people in areas such as technology and social media.
Philippa Thompson, director of sales operations at Zayo Canada (formerly Allstream), applied to be a mentee to gain some perspective on the industry and her career from a mentor outside of her company.
Thompson was matched with Helen Reeves, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Morneau Sheppel, who also worked at Allstream earlier in her career.
“She gave me some really great perspectives,” said Thompson, who was awarded the program’s 2016 mentee of the year. Advice include everything from balancing work and family life to handling difficult on-the-job conversations.
“It gave me more confidence in who I am and what I want to do,” said Thompson. It also “reaffirmed” the direction in which she’s taking her career.
Thompson plans use what she learned in the program to help support mentorship programs at her company. She also hopes to be a mentor in the AMA program in the near future.
“There is no question I would love to participate in the program again in some form or fashion,” Thompson said.
The AMA Mentor Exchange program is now taking applicants for the fall.