Mentor Tribute

The Intuit Career Development team invited me to share a story for the launch of an internal mentoring website. Enjoy!

It’s 6:15pm on a Wednesday. 

She walks by my desk, looking tired and stressed. “Got some time to look at that project?”

“Sure,” I reply, grabbing my notebook as we walk to a team room.

“Sorry I’m so distracted,” she confides as the door closes. “I’m on 4 projects right now and new ones keep coming up. I’m kind of losing my mind." 

On a typical day, I’d feel guilty about not being able to help. But today, I find myself thinking, what would Stephen do?

Stephen Gay has been my mentor for the last five months thanks to the Intuit Loop Mentoring Program. Loop pairs XD mentors and mentees to "support the development and retention of great people, foster the design community, and cultivate a lasting competitive edge through mutually beneficial mentor/mentee relationships that are trusting, open and aspirational.” I’ve participated in the program as a mentee three times since joining Intuit, and I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful. In addition to meeting wonderful people, I’ve learned a lot about corporate culture, communication, design, and myself.

At this moment, I’m realizing that one of the things I haven’t learned is how my mentors work their special magic. If Stephen were here right now, what would he say?

I think back to the last time I told Stephen about a problem I was having at work. He didn’t just offer sympathy– he asked lots of thoughtful questions and reflected back what he’s hearing. This helped me to see the problem in a new light, and approach it in a more rational manner. After we identified the problem, he helped me own the solution, rather than just telling me what to do. We brainstormed some possible approaches, and he helped me gauge which was the most appropriate for my situation. By encouraging me to own both the problem and the solution, he gave me the confidence to deal with the problem successfully.

It feels a little uncomfortable, but I decide to give it a try: I start asking questions. As she describes her many projects, I jot them in my notebook. She finishes, and we both look at my notes.

She starts laughing. “Oh, wow. I didn’t really realize how crazy my life was!”

We walk through the notes together, grouping and circling related activities. Then we discuss where she’s been spending most of her time and energy, and how that’s different from her personal passions.

She observes, “Maybe it’s not just about having lots of projects. I need to think about this a little more.”

I tear the page out of my notebook and hand it to her as we walk back to our desks. I feel a little disappointed that I couldn’t make her problems disappear, but I assure her that I’m available if she’d like to continue the discussion.

It’s 9:30am on a Monday.

She walks by my desk, a big smile on her face. “Just wanted to let you know I showed those notes to my manager. The conversation went really well and we came up with a few changes we’re going to make!”

I smile back and make a mental note to pass her thanks on to Stephen.


Many thanks to Stephen and all of the other wonderful mentors in my life.