With just one year of A+E Networks' new mentorship program in the books, the company already has seen clear proof that it is having the intended effect.
Late last summer when A+E debuted the program, David Dunlap, Senior Director, Broadcast and Media Solutions, signed up to serve as a mentor, while Caitlin Moore-Penaskovic, Business Analyst, Enterprise Media Solutions, threw her hat in the ring as a mentee.
Dunlap had some experience with mentorship, having worked with the National Center for Women & Information Technology as an advisor. (The nonprofit organization works to advance innovation by increasing representation in the fields of computing and technology.)
"This was something I was interested in because I would have the ability to mentor someone within A+E, which I thought was very valuable," Dunlap said. "I've been doing this for a very long time and had experience both good and bad that I thought I could impart to somebody who wanted to be coached and mentored."
As part of her application to the program, Moore-Penaskovic set some specific goals. Dunlap was her top choice as a mentor because she felt he was the best fit for what she was looking to achieve.
"It wasn't something I entered with expectations," she said. "It's not something you can assume will lead to XYZ. You have to have luck on your side and opportunities opening up at the right time."
Moore-Penaskovic had spent the first decade or so of her career working in and around ad sales. She was interested in making a move to Information Technology, and she wasn't entirely sure how to go about doing that. While it's always hard to meet and form relationships with people while working within a big corporation, that's become even more difficult during the pandemic with everyone working from home.
"I was making steps towards [a move into IT]; I had joined a coding boot camp, for example," Moore-Penaskovic said. "When I saw the notice for this mentorship program, I knew it would be a great way to meet people outside of ad sales."
Once her application was accepted, she was introduced to several mentor options. Dunlap was her first choice because his experience and current position closely matched the career move she was looking to make.
Besides meeting with her regularly, Dunlap also set up one-on-one conversations between Moore-Penaskovic and other executives at A+E, including some in A+E's IT department. He invited her to sit in on department meetings to see what they did and how they operated, as well as educated her about A+E's business requirements, technical deployments and more.
"It was an evolution based on our conversations, and I was very proactive as far as taking David up on every opportunity that he offered me," Moore-Penaskovic explained. "I have had experiences in the past where I didn't have a clear-cut goal, but this was a very different experience because I was hungry for something. I was looking for something specific."
In the past few months or so, a position opened up in A+E's Enterprise Media Solutions. As a result of the mentorship, Moore-Penaskovic felt qualified to apply. After a rigorous interview process -- which did not include Dunlap -- she got the job and became a business analyst in A+E's Enterprise Media Solutions department. There, she operates as a liaison, working with producers, sales teams and developers as she supports the media-asset management solution IPV ClipLink.
"It's such a gift to have a mentor, and I was lucky to be matched with someone who was willing to go the extra mile for me," she said.
While Moore-Penaskovic now works for one of Dunlap's direct reports, she and Dunlap keep their mentorship relationship separate from her day-to-day job. She does not plan to re-enter the mentorship program this year because she's busy learning how best to perform her new job, but Dunlap does plan to take on a new mentee.
"What I've learned is that you've got to be prepared, because you don't know when opportunities are going to present themselves," Dunlap said. "Caitlin did all the right things and was receptive to my coaching and recommendations. She was hungry to change career paths. She just didn't know when or if an opportunity would present itself."
"I wish I had a mentor early on in my career," Dunlap concluded. "I had to go through a lot of trial and error. While that's valuable, I think if you have someone who is not your direct supervisor or a parent who can come in and provide you with guidance, that's also extremely valuable."
A+E Networks is launching year two of the program in late August.
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