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DocuSign Innovates: Women’s Speed Mentoring

Heather P., DTM Standards and Trust Communications

Our “DocuSign Innovates” blog series places the spotlight on employees and teams who create and innovate in many different and unexpected ways. Some build cool tools, analyze data or and write code in new ways. Others may redesign product and processes or create clever marketing campaigns. Still others may figure out a way to make a positive impact on the communities in which we live and work. We’d like to celebrate those individuals and teams here. This week we sat down with Heather in DTM Standards and Trust Communications at DocuSign to learn more about how she innovated with this initiative.

How did the idea for Speed Mentoring at DocuSign originate?

As team members in a fast-growing cloud company, employees are challenged to advance their skills rapidly, pivot as new opportunities arise, and develop an executive presence in a highly dynamic environment. Many employees look for mentorship in the organization beyond their direct managers. In fact, in a poll of 305 women at DocuSign, mentoring rose to the top of the priorities from the group – with 71 percent expressing an interest in a mentoring program.

I volunteered to explore the idea and think about a way to capture the benefits of mentoring in a way that was compatible with our culture and size. After talking to different people at DocuSign about their mentoring experiences and hearing about the idea of a successful speed mentoring event run by another organization, I thought this kind of program could be impactful and fun. DocuSign is a fast-moving company with a dynamic environment so it also seemed like a good fit culturally.

How did you operationalize speed mentoring at DocuSign?

We held a kickoff speed mentoring event in San Francisco. The event provided a good way to capture the advantages of networking across a group while allowing exposure  to a lot of different mentors over a short period of time. We wanted to create a fun atmosphere to help support sharing of experiences and questions with new people so we leveraged a “rocket ship” theme. Everyone here is familiar with our leadership’s very accurate characterization that “DocuSign is like a rocket ship” and this fast, exhilarating theme was brought into the mentoring arena.

Can you describe the format?

We provided an introduction to the event, followed by an hour of speed mentoring, and capped off  by a happy hour. Each speed mentoring table had two mentors with five or six women. The mentors talked with their group  for 20 minutes. At the end of 20 minutes, we rang a bell and then the mentees went to the next table for 20 minutes, and then the third table for 20 minutes.

What kinds of questions were asked?

The attendees were given a list of questions in advance to stimulate discussion, but they could talk about whatever they wanted. Key hot topics included guidance on professional development and advancement, balancing professional and family life, how to deal with conflict, and developing an executive presence.

It sounds like the event was a hit. Can you share some of the comments you got?

Yes, people found the experience valuable and 100% of the people who responded to our survey said they would attend additional speed mentoring events. And we got great feedback – people liked the quick pace, moving from table to table. One said, “I liked the short sessions… It was just the right amount of time to have a focused conversation.” And they liked the mentor pairs and how they could play off one another. As one attendee commented, it helped provide  “a range of perspectives from senior women in various functions and backgrounds.” Another commented that they liked “meeting a bigger number of mentors rather than just one” and  “also liked the networking after the fact, to be able to talk to more mentees and not only make more internal connections, but learn more about their own struggles.” We were glad to hear that attendees also felt that the group sessions helped people feel like they could open up easily.

It seems like both mentees and mentors got a lot out of the experience. 

Some of the mentors said they hadn’t really realized how much they’ve learned and grown until people asked them questions. It’s been so phenomenal to work with so many talented women across the organization and to see how this has been received. It’s really just getting smart, experienced people together with motivated professionals who are looking for guidance and providing a format to share experiences and learnings. It’s been a lot of fun.

Were you able to accommodate everyone who wanted to participate?

Yes, and it was fully subscribed. We had about 65 registrants in the San Francisco speed mentoring event, and then about 75 for a second speed mentoring event that was held in Seattle.

Did you collaborate with others in implementing the idea?

It was absolutely a team collaboration. I raised my hand initially and said, “Hey, I would be happy to try to further mentoring.” We now have a mentoring steering committee, a group of women who are interested in mentoring in some capacity and helping guide the program. Then we had five women who said they specifically wanted to help with the speed mentoring event in San Francisco. Thank you Audra Liron, Andrea Lodzieski, Gillian Macmannis, Daniela Rivera-Alvarado, Amy Wong for digging in and making this happen!

Going forward, will you continue with the same format or will there be any changes?

We plan to run future speed mentoring events using a similar format and we’re looking into other mentoring initiatives too that fit our interests and culture such as one that allows for one-on-one time with mentors over a cup of coffee.

Describe the culture of DocuSign that encourages this type of innovation.

DocuSign supports and enables those who identify opportunities to add value to the organization and to the DocuFamily. I have a friend who’s trying to start a mentor initiative at a much bigger software company, and she can’t get it off the ground because the company requires considerable deliberation prior to allowing her grassroots effort to proceed.  Here we were able to come up with the idea and make it happen during the time she’s still having the initial conversations. At DocuSign, taking initiative is supported and rewarded. And having opportunities for individuals to learn and grow quickly benefits everybody traveling on this rocket ship at warp speed.

1 Comment

  1. I love the idea of speed mentoring! I am curious to know if participants were paid.

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