Mentorship Adweek Mentors Share

What They Wish They Had Known Early in Their Careers

In preparing for the next exciting round of the Adweek Executive Mentor Program, we asked our 240+ Mentors for some advice to pass along to the future Executive Mentees. We asked: “what do you wish you had known earlier in your career?” and “what makes mentorship impactful?”

But first, why does mentorship matter at all? Quoting one of my mentors, Antonio Lucio, Global CMO of Facebook, “It is an unwritten commandment in the preservation and advancement of any craft or culture: knowledge has to be shared. Mentoring, therefore, is an obligation for those who love their craft. To know is to love. To love is to share. To share is to transcend."

Not only do we have an obligation to share, but there couldn’t be a more critical time to support each other.  I just read some staggering statistics this morning on the economic crisis that is already here and coming on stronger than ever documented before. The impact of this crisis is and will be catastrophic to many professions, including marketing, given so many still see marketing as “non-essential” to the business.  For those who actually understand marketing and the power of brand, they know that there is no better function to help unite and lift people up, and bring hope to the world. Yet, marketing is complicated and marketing careers already challenging to navigate pre-crisis.

"I think the dynamism of a marketing career is one of the aspects that makes it so attractive, but that dynamism can make it hard to navigate. I’ve loved being a mentor in this program [Round 1, and back for Round 2] and only wish it had existed when I was earlier in my own career." - Marisa Thalberg, Chief Brand & Marketing Officer of Lowe's Companies, Inc.

The Adweek Executive Mentor Program started as all-inclusive with an incremental mission to support diverse talent on their way into the C-Suite. That remains the focus, especially as D&I initiatives are also being compromised in the current crisis. Hence why we're also bringing forth the Diversity and Inclusion Virtual Summit on May 27, 2020 to reinforce the importance of supporting D&I now.

The Mentor program has evolved from 110 Mentors in its first round to more than 240 in its second round to further scale the impact. The deadline for interested mentees to apply for a mentor has been extended to May 4, 2020 to take into account the challenges we’ve all be facing in these extraordinary times.  Have a look at the gallery of mentors and soak up the advice these mentors had to share:

What do you wish you had known earlier in your career?

“I was told many times early on in my career that I was too ‘quiet’ and that I should speak up more. The truth is, I’m an introvert and I don’t like being the loudest person in the room. There was a time when I tried to change this. Now I realize, it’s my ability to listen and think deeply that has made me successful. ... be who you are and try to be the best version of your authentic self.” - Elizabeth Rutledge, CMO of American Express

“My favorite Maya Angelou quote, ‘If you're always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.’ - Gail Tifford, CBO of WW International

“The plane instruction, 'put your mask on first before helping others' is wiser than one thinks...  To be able to lead authentically and inspire others, we as leaders must be taking good care of yourselves first. This is not selfish. It is actually focusing on always bringing your best self to your team, family and friends.” - Patricia Corsi, Chief Marketing and Digital Officer of Bayer

" to value the risk/reward of different career opportunities with a longer time horizon. I think this would have helped me identify opportunities that could have step-functioned my career at an earlier stage."  - Steven Tristan Young, CMO of

“I wish I had known more of the financial business. Agencies didn’t do a good job of teaching that when I was young. I never really got agency finances or understanding a client’s P&L until I was an Account Director.” – Jason White, CMO of Curaleaf

“When it comes to managing your career, rely less on having a tight plan, and more on keeping yourself open to the serendipity of the unexpected opportunities for they tend to be the most exciting and the ones from which you learn the most.” - Brad Jakeman, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Rethink Food

“Your career isn’t a linear path. Sometimes you have to go down to come back up—and that’s okay. Taking risks is an important part of building a fulfilling career so don’t be afraid to take clear-eyes risks! Gather data, strip away as much uncertainty as you can and make your decision with conviction.” — Dara Treseder, CMO of Carbon

“I wish I had known earlier in my career not to focus on perfection because it doesn’t really exist. ... It’s better to spend energy keeping an eye on where you want to go and your growth will come from the learnings – good and painful – that come along the way.” - Allyson Witherspoon, VP, Marketing Communications and Media of Nissan Motor Company

“A quote by Mark Twain that I love, 'Twenty years from now, you will likely be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.'” - Jennifer Breithaupt, CMO, Global Consumer of Citi

“I wish someone had told me the importance of 'the how' not just 'the what.' - Doug Zarkin, CMO of Pearle Vision, Luxottica

"I'm borrowing from something I heard a few years back which I wish I had known earlier in my career: 'Negotiate on your way in, on your way up and on your way out.'"  - Elisabeth Charles, former CMO of Rodan + Fields

“Your voice matters, your point of view matters. Don't worry about what you think people want to hear from you. Spend the time thinking deeply about what you think are strategic questions that lead to new insights and new ideas. Constant curiosity and courage will lead you to clarity.”  - Minjae Ormes, CMO of Visible

"Being assertive and giving direct feedback is more effective than just being nice". - Beverly Stotz, former CMO of illy caffe North America, Inc.

“More than ever, marketers should embrace the idea that change is a constant and that learning should never end.”  - Jason Klarman, EVP, Marketing of Fox News Media

“Two of the most valuable things we have are time and our relationships with other people. Include people, be good to people. Get back to people. The smallest things mean the world to people. Acknowledge and appreciate your team consistently. ...  Thoughts influence emotions and emotion influences thinking. It's a good reminder to lead with gratitude.” - Lauren Gallo, Senior Director, Brand Marketing of Nike

What makes mentorship impactful?

“[Mentors] are most effective when two things are present: a goal and vulnerability. A goal that you have in mind and that becomes the center of the calls with your mentor, and vulnerability to get true stories and thoughtful questions on both sides.”  - Andrea Perez, Global VP and General Manager of Nike, Jordan Brand

“I’ve always had a mentor through my career journey. Someone that I trust, respect and admire. And in some cases, more than one. Getting advice and different perspectives is key to where I am now.” - Robyn Streisand, Founder and CEO of The Mixx

"The first 15 years of my career were shaped by mentors, mostly female. I was lucky enough to be handed from one to another and most were my bosses. That’s why there isn’t one experience, it’s almost ALL of my experiences. Day in and day out. That’s why I feel so lucky." - Jason White, CMO of Curaleaf

“As an Adweek mentor, I have an opportunity to be who I needed when I was younger. I am grateful to be a part of this program and look forward to having a positive and uplifting impact on someone’s path. I am so hopeful about the next generation of marketers and their willpower to build better brands for a better world. Let kindness be the guide.”  - Benjamin Lord, CMO of Mira Beauty

"I think about a phrase my mom used to share with me, 'If not now, when? And if not me, who?' and I’ve tried to apply that in my career–solving problems and gaps, and raising my hand for opportunities. I think it’s a really helpful perspective that allows for a protagonist mindset and can-do attitude." - Arielle Gross Samuels, Head of Business Strategy & Engagement of Facebook

"A leader doesn't point you in the right direction of the door to get to the next level of your career, they hold that door open for you.” - Eric Toda, former Head of Marketing of Hill City

"The lasting impact a mentor can have on your perspective, informing how you connect with the world and the people around you, is significant.  The best counsel I received, I embed into everything I do: Build trust. You can't achieve anything without trust.” - Andrea Sengara, SVP Consumer Planning and Innovation of Moët Hennessy USA

“Not one of us gets to where we are on our own.  We all needed help along the way.  I have a philosophy that it is my obligation and privilege to give back to those who are charting their path.  Happy to do it.” - JaMese McGowan, Director Media Investment of Facebook

"Never stop learning, always cherish an opportunity to teach, and always remain open to being taught."  - Matt Kerbel, Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy of Canoo

“Now more than ever, paying our collective knowledge base forward is one of the most valuable currencies we can exchange. It truly takes a village and is critical to ensuring we are ready to take on the seemingly daunting task of returning us to normalcy.” - Jesus Gonzalez, former SVP Brands & Partnerships of Universal Music Group

"As an executive mentor, I feel like I got even more out of the program than my mentee did. It was so rewarding to meet a future CMO and to spend time with her discussing where she is in her career and where she’d like to go. It’s really all about learning from and supporting an emerging marketing leader and making a new friend!" - Susan Vobejda, CMO of The Trade Desk