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Musings On Mentorship from 7 WiT Mentors

By Amy Thompson, EVP & Chief People Officer at Mattel and WiT Board Member


Mentorship plays an important role in advancing women in the workplace. I’m energized by the impact that the Ruth Handler Mentorship Program for WiT has made, and continues to make, to support career growth for women across the toy industry through mentorship, coaching, professional development and learning. 


The global program is underwritten by The Mattel Children’s Foundation and named after Ruth Handler, Mattel’s co-founder and creator of the Barbie brand, who served as a mentor to many and whose legacy continues to inspire women to reach their full potential.


Participating in the Mentorship Program is a gift that keeps on giving, for both the mentor and mentee. While the program has had a profoundly positive impact on mentees, the mentors have also greatly benefited and grown from their experiences. In fact, many mentors return time and time again to take on additional partnerships. 


What motivates someone to be a mentor, and what do they find to be most rewarding about their experience? Get the answers to these questions and more, from some of the many mentors who are participating in the Ruth Handler Mentorship Program for WiT. 


  1. What motivates you to be a mentor? 

GAYE DEAN – Senior Licensing Executive:  For me, it is to see the growth and development of female executives in our industry. I have been fortunate enough to have mentored a variety of strong women over the past several years. I'm currently in my 5th partnership in this program, and all my mentees have been smart and savvy executives who wanted a neutral sounding board and a place where they could express their true thoughts without judgment. They wanted a place where they felt safe discussing some of the challenges that they have faced in their organizations. I think collaborating with these women has given them affirmation that they are all exceptionally good at what they do, and has empowered them to make solid decisions for themselves and their organizations. It has been extremely satisfying and rewarding for me to meet with these women. It is so important to share our knowledge and to provide thoughtful and practical guidance for our future leaders. This program makes me so proud to be part of an industry that recognizes a need to help others. I have loved being a part of it!


  1. What do you find most rewarding about mentoring? 

SKIP KODAK – President, LEGO Systems, Inc.:  Mentoring gives me the chance to support someone unlocking their own potential and accessing personal and professional growth. Each mentoring experience gives me new learning and growth perspectives, re-shaping my own biases and personal beliefs. What do I enjoy most about mentoring? I’m excited whenever I get to mentor someone with different lived experience and different subject matter expertise than me – for sure I will learn from them. I grow by practicing new ways to build safe and trusted shared spaces with new mentees. I am always inspired by my mentee’s creativity to problem solve and unlock their potential. I am learning that successful mentoring relationships don’t depend on what I know. I enjoy figuring out what the best question to ask next is, and to be alongside my mentee as they discover and explore their own “right answers.” Mentoring is an incredibly cool way to make a difference with others while I’m made better for the experience.


  1. What do you consider to be your biggest strength as a mentor?

RATNA KIRPAL – SVP, Global Consumer Products, Activision | Blizzard:  It’s hard to say there’s a specific strength that I lean into as a mentor, because I first try to understand the mentee’s objective and support them in their needs.  When I don’t have a certain skill that they are looking to improve, I tap into my network of resources who can better assist the mentee.  But when I do have that skill, I have a lot of fun and passion sharing.  My experience in global consumer products, business development, marketing, brand management, retail, product development, and licensing – as well as my experience as a parent, spouse, sibling, child, and friend – all work together when I guide a mentee.  Someone once told me, “We only have one life….work or personal…you can’t separate them…,” and I try to bring that perspective when I’m with a mentee, because finding balance in everything we do is so important.  As a minority and an immigrant, I also value sharing that perspective when the situation fits.  And having over 25 years of business experience along with my own life experiences, giving perspective and opening a mentee’s perspective is one of my goals in every mentee relationship.


  1. How did your career experience prepare you to be a mentor?

KRISTA BERGER – Vice President, Barbie Global Marketing and Brand Partnerships, Mattel:  I have had the honor of being guided through this industry by amazing women, giants of their discipline, who understood the deep impact they could have by reaching a hand back. As a result, my career experience is rich with new developmental opportunities, leadership rotations, and new business challenges. Giving of my time, talent and expertise not only honors their investment in me but continues to help pave the way forward for the next generation of talented women in toys. As a mentor, I pull heavily from the shared experience I had as a mentee to provide a richer dialogue and meaningful experience.


  1. How would your previous mentees describe you?

JESSICA JACKMAN – Senior Manager, Retail Development, Paramount:  “You would make a really great leader!” is a comment made by one of my mentees that encapsulates the type of professional I have been striving to be throughout my career. I have been complimented on my knowledge of our industry and on my ability to motivate my mentees with the guidance they need. As someone they can trust, I find that they openly connect with me to discuss challenges they may be facing, and I guide them to find solutions and navigate their way to focusing on positive outcomes. Goals and vision have always been important to me, and supporting my mentees in concentrating on and developing their goals and vision both professionally and personally has been rewarding. The best part about this dynamic is that they do know my door is always open to connect as their mentor, a role that will never expire.


  1. Can you share a mentee success story? 

AMANDA CORREIA – Director, Global Brand Strategy & Marketing, Hasbro:  Being a WiT mentor has been such a rewarding and inspiring experience. I have been matched as a mentor with a number of motivated, smart, accomplished women. One particular mentee was a student at the time of our partnership, and had already published her own children’s book, A Shark Tooth Fairy Tale (which is adorable, by the way). She did everything end-to-end herself, from writing the story, to hiring the artist to bring the story to life, to finding a publisher, to marketing the book online and in-person with local bookstores & libraries. Her creativity, aspiration, vision, intellect and bravery is truly inspirational and has stuck with me ever since!


  1. Tell us about a mentor who had an impact in your life.

TAMMY SMITHAM – VP Communications & Corporate Citizenship, Spin Master:  During my career I have been fortunate to have a number of influential mentors. One of my current mentors at Spin Master has been very impactful in my career here. She regularly gives of her time as well as making herself available ad hoc when I need her input. She is a true sounding board; ready to jump in and provide a fresh perspective when tackling a problem. She exudes executive courage and has helped me to strengthen my own influence style. Mentors can diagnose situations from an objective viewpoint and reveal insights that you are often too close to discover yourself. The best mentors are those who can be direct and candid in their feedback and provide ways to counterbalance your weaknesses while playing to your strengths. In every single interaction I have with my mentor, I leave with at least one (and many times, several) key actionable takeaways that in turn, I can share with others.

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