Podcast

Lauren Stiebing 10 August 2020

Building Your Network Through Mentoring with Nancy Rooney, VP of Marketing at PepsiCo

In this episode of the Career Success Podcast, we have invited Nancy Rooney, VP of Marketing at PepsiCo, to speak with us about her experience with mentors and as a mentor.

During her career, she has spent a lot of time mentoring people and she knows how important it is to choose the right mentor. This helps you build your weaknesses and a strong network.

She defines a network as the best way to keep meeting new people, to learn from them, and to maintain relevance in your field.

Topics Covered:

Which is the difference between mentors and sponsors?

– Is it better to have an assigned mentor or to choose one?

– What makes a great mentor or sponsor?

– Why is it important to have an extended network?

– Tips for young individuals who are looking for a mentor or a sponsor.

 

Lauren Stiebing:

– So welcome Nancy.

Nancy Rooney:

– Hey, how are you? Great to see you.

Lauren Stiebing:

– Yeah, good to see you too. So yeah, if you could start out by just telling me a bit about your experience with sponsors and mentors and how as well you would define each of those.

Nancy Rooney:

– Absolutely. I think in my career, I spend a lot of time mentoring people, and a question I get asked a lot is around networking. And as you think about networking, what you want to do is develop relationships with people who are mentors and people who are sponsors. And the difference between the two is very specific. Mentors, you tend to be one level up is kind of where I would target it in terms of position in the company and also a level more senior than you, but it’s a relationship built on high trust. I prefer, rather than formal mentors programs where you’re assigned a mentor, I prefer for you to select one, ’cause it’s based on relationship, it’s high trust, and what it allows you to do is to be very vulnerable, to disclose, “Hey, I have a knowledge gap and can you help me fill it? I have an issue that I’m trying to deal with can you coach and counsel me through it?”, et cetera. And so mentors are really become close in and help you fill those gaps, help you network effectively. Sponsors are different because they tend to be in, on average, about two levels up. And those are people who are helping you further your career or helping you overcome more of a business challenge in that respect. And so in those relationships, you’re not going to be as vulnerable per se, because it’s more about a value exchange of you’re trying to profile yourself. “Hey, look, I’ve tackled this complex issue. I’d love to bounce it off you and get your thoughts.” You achieve a couple of things that way, you get their input, which helps you have a more effective plan and it helps you influence the agenda. But it also gives them a chance to see, “Hey, what have you made of it? And maybe I would be a great candidate on a team that you’re recruiting for down the road.”

Lauren Stiebing:

– Sure.

Nancy Rooney:

– And so that’s the difference. Both of them involve a value exchange, which should make you very comfortable in the relationship, but they’re distinct and different.

Lauren Stiebing:

– Okay. So one of them is, let’s say, more based on trust and friendship, not friendship necessarily, but more based on a trust relationship. And the other is more of, let’s say, a working relationship if we can put it that way.

Nancy Rooney:

– That’s right.

Lauren Stiebing:

– Okay. And what do you think makes a great mentor or a great sponsor? How would you identify the best people for yourself?

Nancy Rooney:

-Yeah, there’s a skill called stakeholder mapping that I myself am still learning to do as well. But I think if you were to put yourself in the center of a circle and draw the kind of functions around you in my role as a marketer, I will interact with sales and finance, supply chain, et cetera, legal, R&D and so on. And if you build your map, then you can start to write the names of the people you know within each of those functions and do them by level as well. And what you’ll quickly realize is you may realize within your stakeholder map that you’ve got some blind spots of, “Hey, I’m not really wiring well with field sales.” or so on that I have a group of stakeholders that I want to use for a knowledge base. Once you start building your stakeholder map mentors, I think then naturally emerge, because mentors can help you if let’s pretend I ran a business, I was having major supply chain issues. I might seek out a mentor within that area to help me with my knowledge base to help me overcome those barriers and to make me a more effective leader. And so that’s one way you can kind of start to identify who are the right people. Sponsors are a little bit different because they’re more connected to what’s the job I want to do next. So for example, if I was in marketing, but I was like, “Hey, I really have a bias for sales. That’s where I feel my skill set and my career path’s more ideally suited.” I would naturally seek out a senior member within the selling organization so that I could start to potentially do special projects. I could start to get feedback from them of, “Hey, what skills are you looking for and how do I position myself for roles when they come up?”

Lauren Stiebing:

– Sure. Okay no, I think that that makes sense. And also developing your internal network is definitely key and especially for new learnings being promoted, et cetera, what do you think about also developing your external network?

Nancy Rooney:

– Absolutely key and Lauren, you and I are now have extended our network as a way to kind of meet people and help each other and share ideas. And so I think, it keeps you, can keep you relevant and sharp to learn from other industries, learn from other people. So I think it’s essential. I think what you find is when you have really effective mentors, you tend to manage them over your career. And as you change jobs, they actually become external mentors. But I think, for all of us, it’s really important for you to connect within your industry, within even friend networks. So you get, you just will get a broader understanding of what trends are really happening in the world. What skills are relevant, where’s the landscape moving in, either your career path or your specific industry. But that will just, it’s get your head out of the sand and look around a little bit and you’re totally gonna benefit from that.

Lauren Stiebing:

– Sure. And have there ever been instances, ’cause you’ve been many years in PepsiCo where you specifically tried to develop a certain skill by using an external network? Or how do you usually go about, let’s say, benefiting from that external network?

Nancy Rooney:

– Yeah. I developed a relationship, a couple of relationships. I met a woman who ran a PR firm and I just thought she was exceptional. And I really nurtured that relationship. I loved her business model. She, she was an entrepreneur, very agile in terms of the style of how she was running her business. And I just want to connect with her, ’cause I just thought she was super interesting. And that turned into a couple of things for me. I ended up attending some of her team meetings to talk about what I knew as a brand marketer and how I could help them have perspective within their business. We did book exchanges of like, “Hey, have you read this? As a working woman, this is something great that you should read.” And opened up the door for me, even on platforms like LinkedIn of starting to get some confidence to write some articles and share a point of view and start a more meaningful dialogue within a broader network routes which LinkedIn can ideally provide. And so I think is just, I think it’s a great experience and I highly encourage it.

Lauren Stiebing:

– And yeah, I mean, just before closing, are there any last tips and tricks that you would suggest to, let’s say, younger individuals that are really looking to find mentors and sponsors in their career?

Nancy Rooney:

– Yeah, I mean, it seems, it feels like it’s hard to get started, but you already know people. They could be if you’re young, they could be your parent’s friends who work in an industry that you think is interesting. It could be someone on LinkedIn that you follow and maybe they don’t have time to connect with you personally, but you’d like to listen to their podcasts or read their articles and you’ll start to, the more you put yourself out there, you’ll start to meet people. And I think people often feel like it’s highly uncomfortable. Like I don’t like to book coffees and talk about myself. I can’t wait until we can book live coffees again, just for the record. But you know, people feel uncomfortable. Put the lens on it as it is a value exchange, because I know myself, particularly connecting with young people, it keeps me relevant and current, it keeps, it helps me understand what’s on their minds and I love to help people, people we’re all wired to help each other. So, for those just starting out, don’t feel like it’s a misuse of time. It’s what we’re, it’s part of our job to help people. So lean in and know that you’ve got a lot to bring to the table too.

Lauren Stiebing:

– Well, thank you, Nancy. Thank you for sharing.

Nancy Rooney:

– Thanks, Lauren. And Hey, I’m delighted to be part of your network. You reach out to me anytime.