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Mary Knight – Meet the Mentor

A generalist with deep knowledge in Product Design, User Research, & Product Strategy. I'm a deeply feeling, loyal, nurturing – seeker and lifelong learner. Called to support people in bringing their ideas into reality.
Mary Knight

Head of Product & Design, ideas42Ventures

Why did you decide to become a mentor?

I decided to become a mentor for a few reasons. First, I really missed mentoring designers in my current job. Previously I hired and managed a team of designers and worked with them on both their hard and soft skills which brought me a lot of joy. In addition, I also really love my current job. I work at a Venture Studio and I get to support entrepreneurs in building new businesses. My day-to-day is really hands-on and high touch with the entrepreneurs at the studio. I started wondering if I could increase my impact by supporting more entrepreneurs looking to build businesses but in a lower touch way - supporting them by taking a few calls a month (the answer was yes!)

How did you get your career start?

Actually, my career start story is pretty unique! I moved to San Francisco after school for a six-month internship that I thought for sure would hire me after – but they didn’t. I spent the next 8 months living in the most expensive city in the world just trying to make rent and picking up any consulting work I could. I was approached by someone I knew about some consulting work for a start-up he was building. It was just him and a co-founder at that point. The contract was for one month but I continued to work for them after that, they raised capital, hired me full-time, and 1.5 years later we got acquired. I worked there for a total of 4.5 years – from employee number 1 wearing so many different hats to building out the product and team. It was a wild ride and I also always say that it 10x my career because I got to experience every stage of early startups and play such a pivotal role in the growth of the product, team, and company.

What do mentees usually come to you for?

I have two different mentee types. I work with designers that are looking for a new job or are feeling stuck and need support making changes within their current job. I also work with mentees who are entrepreneurs building brand new businesses or are looking to grow their existing business. No matter the mentees background or needs, we start with a “get to know each” session where we both make sure it’s a good fit. I’m asking questions to understand what their needs, expectations, and goals are and to be sure that I have the skills and expertise to support them. I always encourage potential mentees in this session to talk to a few mentors to make sure they find someone that’s a good fit for them too. After that first session, I typically have a pretty good sense of what the mentee's needs are and we start meeting weekly or bi-weekly to work towards meeting their goals. Sometimes our meetings are really structured and I suggest tasks to do in between our meetings, if say someone is job searching. On the other hand, if someone is building a business, we might meet weekly and I let them bring what their needs are that week. I’m open to the format and work with my mentees to understand what they want!

What's been your favourite mentorship success story so far?

My favorite mentorship success story so far is that I worked with two co-founders of a small boutique design agency. When I started working with them, they were drowning in work. They both had full-time jobs and the agency work on the side. We started talking about what they wanted in the future and what it would take to get there. We implemented a new project management system and I coached them on the importance of celebrating their wins (even the small ones!) as well as on the importance of boundaries for their work. Now they are thriving! They’ve hired someone to do admin work, one of them is full-time at the agency and the other is working towards being full-time at the agency work but down to half-time on her other job. All in all, they have healthier boundaries with their work and I couldn’t be more excited to see what’s next for them!

What are you getting out of being a mentor?

This is a good question. For me, I’m filled with joy and a sense of purpose when I get to support mentees in reaching their goals. I also genuinely enjoy meeting new people and learning about their work environments or businesses! I'm actively taking on new mentees so if you've gotten this far, you're looking to grow and develop yourself or your business, reach out and schedule a free intro call! I look forward to speaking with you.

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