What is mentoring like at Blackman & Sloop? Find out from team members Laura Bennett, Yusif Al-yemeni and Rachel Bullock.

Q: How has a mentor played a part in your career?

RACHEL: Having the first two years of my career happen during COVID has been a struggle that I could have never prepared for. However, having a mentor and a coach to rely on has been a HUGE help! They have helped me figure out how to get even just my day-to-day work done when I feel overwhelmed. They have also been instrumental in helping me visualize what I want my career to look like long term. In the beginning of your career, it’s hard to know how to get to the next milestone and what steps are needed to accomplish your goals. My mentor and coach have been so impactful on my success and allow me to know what my “stepping stones” are to accomplish my goals.

YUSIF: My mentor has helped me to articulate and focus on my goals. Earlier in my career, I was on was a path to collect as many letters as I could (certifications). It was almost a challenge to spell out words (M.I.C.K.E.Y…). Instead, my mentor helped me establish realistic goals and a tangible plan to get there. My mentor makes a commitment to prepare for meetings and despite her extremely busy schedule, I know that she is always available to me. 

LAURA: I have had some wonderful mentors throughout my career, including a personal career coach. They have all played very important and meaningful roles in shaping my professional career and also in my personal life as a mother, wife, and friend to others as well. Mentors have contributed to my work ethic, career progression, and personal development in many positive ways. Mentors guide you and steer you in very important directions both professionally and personally. A great mentor can help shape you into the individual that wish to be.

Q: Why would you recommend a mentor to others?

RACHEL: I would absolutely recommend a mentor to others! When choosing a mentor, it helps to pick someone whose career path most closely aligns with what your own goals are. For me, I picked a female partner who also had kids during her career. At the end of my career, I would like to retire as a partner, but I don’t want to be so focused on my career that I miss out on the things I want for my own personal life. I am grateful to have a mentor who found a way to have both a strong family life and a very successful career. She is able to help me learn how to balance work inside and outside of the office.

YUSIF: Everyone needs someone to bounce ideas off of. Having someone that has an invested interest and knows you very well is a great person to help with your development. They also provide a level of comfort – it’s very nice to know that you have someone to talk to about your career! I would also add that the mentor you choose should be someone that at least has a cursory understanding of the material and direction you are working with/toward.

LAURA: I would recommend a mentor to others because they can provide you with insight as to what it has been like for them professionally and personally. Some of their experiences may  impact you as well. They are great to bounce ideas off of and to discuss any professional road blocks you come up against. Their experience can be life altering at times. In my opinion, no one can get through their career without at least one person to help guide and steer them in the right direction.

Q: What is the most valuable thing your mentor has assisted you with?

YUSIF: My confidence. My mentor has been extremely supportive. She is also an outlet to discuss workplace concerns or observations. I know that I can rely on her for discretion and honest feedback.  

LAURA: The most valuable thing that my mentors have ever given me is their time. They have all volunteered to utilize their own time or make a difference in someone else’s career. That is worth a million bucks to me. My mentors have listened to me when I needed them to and provided me with very worthwhile and meaningful words of wisdom by sharing their experiences with me as a professional/mother in the workforce. 

Q: What is the mentor program at Blackman & Sloop like?

RACHEL: The mentor program at B&S is what you make it. Your mentor will be as involved as you would like. You set the pace and the schedule. I have a weekly meeting with my coach, so meetings with my mentor are spaced out as our schedule allows. This allows for me to have the benefit of both without being overwhelmed with too many meetings. 

B&S allows for their employees to choose their mentor, which is awesome! You are able to pick someone who best aligns with whatever aspects of your career you feel needs mentoring. It also allows for the mentor/mentee relationship to be more comfortable and in turn much more beneficial for both parties.

YUSIF: It is like having an experienced advocate by your side. Often, people shy away from new ideas or taking a leap because they lack support. A mentor is a great resource to help take that leap of faith. A mentor is also helpful in making the workplace a less scary place (B&S is very welcoming. I am using scary as an analogy), as you know you have someone to turn to.

I would also add that the program is only as good as you make it. It’s a two-way street. You must keep your mentor updated with what is going on in your life. You must also keep yourself accountable for setting up meetings and providing conversation topics prior to the meeting. I invite the conversation. It is never unsolicited. If it was, then it would feel like a performance review. Instead, it feels like I’m coming to my mentor with a problem she can help me solve.

LAURA: The mentor program at Blackman & Sloop is one of a kind. It is a very active program and everyone that participates in it gives 110%. In my opinion, there are not many companies that put as much time and effort into their mentor program as Blackman & Sloop.The firm places a lot of emphasis on making sure their employees have all the necessary skills, resources, and support from leadership to make the most of their careers. It is the most positive place I have ever worked for and one of the most forward-looking companies I am familiar with.