Successful people often give credit to their mentors for their triumphs. But where do you get one of these magical career guides? And once you find one, how do you make the most of the relationship?

On this episode, Patrice D’Eramo, vice president of the Americas Field Marketing Organization for Cisco Systems, talks about the importance of mentoring for women in their lives and careers. D’Eramo is a member of the leadership council of Million Women Mentors (MWM), a nonprofit initiative aimed at increasing the number of high school girls pursuing undergraduate STEM degrees, and improving workplace retention of women through mentoring programs.

“We’re not born with a book on how we are going to be successful in life. A lot of it is by learning, by observing, by reading,” says D’Eramo. “Mentors have been critical in my success. I’ve looked at mentors in a couple different areas — whether it’s been the types of jobs they have had, the types of leaders they are, and working moms — those have been the general categories I looked at throughout my career. What I’ve done is attach myself to those particular folks depending on where I was in my career.”

D’Eramo notes that there are formal and informal ways to find a mentor, but it’s critical to understand why you want a mentor and commit to dedicating time to the process before starting that relationship. Some other points:

  • Mentors don’t have to be mirrors. Great advice doesn’t just come from senior leaders in your industry, or people who are of the same gender or racial background. Smart business advice may come from someone in a completely different field, or career strategy from someone who believes in your potential, but is not intimately familiar with your line of work. Peers and younger colleagues also can offer incredible support and insight.
  • Give as much as you take. Let your mentor know you took their advice, the outcome, and when you pay their generosity forward. Whether it’s paying for meals, making introductions, or supporting causes they believe in, mentorship is not a one-way street. Make sure your mentor knows how much you appreciate them. Good vibes fuel their gift of advice and support.
  • Expect to do the work. Be willing to invest the time to study, shadow, or meet with your mentor. You should expect to do much of the work because it’s your career.

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Articles by Emma Johnson

About the Series


While a majority of Americans believe that children fare better when their mothers stay home full-time, most American moms work – and research suggests having a working mom benefits children. Still, moms often experience guilt when choosing a career and motherhood. The Working Moms Mean Business series dives into the research, insights and success stories of this complex issue.