How Mentorship Fosters Inclusion and Professional Development in the Workplace
Lexi Zavras joined AlphaSights in September of 2013 after graduating from Dartmouth College with a degree in Government and Arabic. AlphaSights caught her attention right out of school because it offered the opportunity to see your immediate commercial impact and an overall rewarding culture. Lexi followed the Client Service career path at AlphaSights, moving from an associate to manager, and now acts as vice president of one of our consulting segments in New York. We sat down with Lexi to hear about her experience as a founding member of the Diversity and Inclusion initiative at AlphaSights and how she started a Mentorship Program in our North American offices.
Why did you want to establish a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Program at AlphaSights?
It’s important that everyone at AlphaSights feel included and accepted at their place of work. Diversity programs foster an environment that’s welcoming to different backgrounds and perspectives, increasing ideas, productivity, and overall employee satisfaction. Admittedly, we can improve on this front at AlphaSights. I wanted to play a part in establishing a formal, structured program so that all employees feel valued and know that they can succeed here. I approached our VP of Americas, Sean Corrigan, who also felt strongly about making our workplace more diverse. Luckily, a fellow VP on our Corporate segment, Sloan Danenhower, had the same vision, so we paired up and got to work!
How did you begin to form the D&I Program?
Sloan, myself, and a few other stakeholders took advantage of what AlphaSights does best, and conducted expert calls. Of course, diversity and inclusion are extremely complex and intricate topics with many moving parts. D&I isn’t a perfect science; it’s about people and their sense of belonging. The whole point of diversity is that no one person can see on behalf of everyone else. While we both represent different pockets of diversity, we definitely don’t represent all, so gathering as many other perspectives as we could to factor them into our approach was critical. We wanted to get this program right from the beginning to make the most positive impact. When we announced the initiative, we made it clear that it’ll always be a work in progress and so we welcome all feedback and input to continue forming as cohesive of a strategy as possible.
Why a Mentorship Program?
We chose to focus on retention and employee development at AlphaSights in Q4 of 2018. The most common suggestion across all the conversations we had was to build a mentorship program. Mentorship is an incredibly important part of one’s professional development; a notion that’s widely supported by experts and research alike. Studies have found that when leadership is white and male, as is the case in the majority of businesses today, junior white, male employees more naturally form informal mentorships with senior leadership because it’s easier to create a bond over shared experiences, perceptions, and views. Therefore, more structured programs support those who don’t yet see themselves reflected in senior leadership in creating key mentorships in the early stages of their career.
From a more AlphaSights-specific standpoint, as we continue to scale, it’s increasingly difficult to naturally seek out these types of relationships. A few years ago, we all worked on one floor with one kitchen, so it was easy to interact with everyone. But now, our New York office is split into four floors, so people can’t naturally meet or interact with everyone. This program serves to drive connection across a community that has scaled significantly in the past several years.
“Being a part of the mentorship program proved to be an incredibly valuable experience. I had the opportunity to gain insight, perspective, support, and advice from my mentor. On top of that, I truly felt honored to develop a lasting connection with an extremely seasoned and influential member of AlphaSights’ leadership team.” - Kadijah Mathews, Client Service Associate in New York
How does the Mentorship Program work?
We first trialed the program in Q4, pairing new associates with less than 6 months at the firm with Vice Presidents. We wanted to show the new joiners that AlphaSights is committed to D&I and professional development as soon as you start and we figured that forming a relationship with a VP early on would help them transition into the firm. We received feedback after the first round that it’d be more helpful to pair associates 6-12 months in tenure instead, because they’re already settled in, understand their main role, and can more effectively capitalize on a mentor relationship.
It was easy to get our VPs on board. The overwhelming view is that the mentor gets just as much out of the relationship as the mentee, if not more!
"It's been incredibly rewarding to zoom out from the day-to-day with my own direct reports and realize my own perspective and coaching abilities when partnering with someone brand new, in a completely different business function. It has reframed my understanding of the challenges and opportunities our new people face, and for as much as I hope I've left an impact on my mentee, I'm certain she's left an equal impact on me!" - Micaela Bloomer, VP of the Private Equity segment in San Francisco
“My mentee told me about a ‘Train the Trainer’ program and exercise that her segment ran and I was able to bring that awesome experience back to my team. An unintentional bonus of the program is definitely best practice sharing across business units.” - Lexi Zavras
Right now, the formal mentor/mentee relationship is limited to six months, but both parties are highly encouraged to stay in touch and maintain their existing relationship. The reason it has a time limit is so we can open the door to a brand new group of associates every six months to participate in the program.
What do new associates gain from the Mentorship Program?
Through mentorship, associates are exposed to the broader AlphaSights business. As our firm grows and becomes increasingly complex, it’s challenging to navigate or just be aware of all that’s going on. It’s also easy to become insular within your own business unit. An older, more senior mentor offers a connection to the broader organization, allowing the associate to identify where they can make an impact throughout their AlphaSights career. This bigger picture helps facilitate internal mobility, as mentees can determine if their current business unit is the place for them or if there are other areas in the business that they may be interested in pursuing.
“This program has truly exceeded my expectations. Throughout my mentorship, I was able to get a great sense of my VP’s journey at AlphaSights and how he grew his own Client Service Operations team. It was inspiring and correlated with my ambitions to start my own team within AlphaSights one day.” -Maxwell Kenney, Recruiting Associate in New York
Many mentor/mentee pairs are made up of one person on our specialist teams and one on our Client Service Team. Pairing people who work in different functions helps bridge knowledge gaps between teams and facilitates new perspective sharing. Associates of all backgrounds benefit from having a senior mentor with an objective stance on their personal career goals that can help their mentees understand how AlphaSights fits into their career ambitions.
"Micaela helped me gain the confidence I needed to be a better performer. She gave sound advice from her experiences that helped me evaluate my career goals and personal growth. I know I'll always be able to turn to her to gain insight from a unique perspective!" - Nicole Trucillo, HR Associate in New York
Eventually, AlphaSights aims to scale the Mentorship Program on a global level. We’re perfecting it first in our North American offices, but we’ll continue to brainstorm scaling strategies and potentially facilitate cross-office mentorship pairs as well.
Lexi Zavras joined AlphaSights in September 2013 and serves as a Vice President on one of our Consulting Business Units in New York.