If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulder of giants. -Sir Isaac Newton
“ ‘Mike, I will come work with you and be your assistant.’
‘You can come Julie, but as my associate and friend.’
My heart fills with gratitude when I remembers those words from a great leader, Mike Caslin, who mentored me and sponsored me professionally. Mike believes in servant leadership and felt that when the best leaders leave, people have full confidence they can do it themselves.
At a time when we want to advance more women and minorities in STEM careers, I ponder in hopes of replicating what did Mike do for me and so many others.
In 1992, I was having a bumpy transition from one of my first jobs at 21. At a conference, I learned of a growing movement to teach low-income children how to build their own businesses. Mike was a key consultant at the time to an organization called Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).
His office was over 65 miles from where I lived.
On our first meeting, Mike asked me to drive out to his office and stop on the way at the Boston Globe to secure three newspapers with a headline article on NFTE. The next day, he invited me to a meeting with him and four high level government officials 70 miles in the other direction.
I wanted to volunteer two days a week, but reflecting back, I cancelled interviews and never looked for another job, not for 20 more years. Initially there was no budget to hire me, I just knew this was the right mentor and the right course.
‘Trust in Your Mission, Trust in Your Team,’ Mike would say.
Later in advising on management he taught me the Ronald Reagan adage, ‘Trust and Verify,’ and we discussed Joseph Campbell’s hero path often.
My self-esteem was a bit low from some missteps I made in a corporate hierarchy, but Mike was oblivious to that, he wanted me to see myself as a leader. ‘Leaders lead, so lead,’ he would challenge. He had high expectations and sat with me at a shared computer to write proposals to start youth entrepreneurship programs in New Bedford.
Once funded, Mike selected our pilot to be the toughest alternative school in the region and me to be the teacher, he said ‘Great, now let’s train you to teach,’ and sent me through a week long certification training in NY. He also encouraged me to go to a student’s home and talk to her parents when she stopped coming to school.
I didn’t know where the path was taking me, but I followed my mentor and was open to where he led. Each day there was intensity, challenge, joy in the journey, and faith.
A few years later Mike had me training teachers in India and I became the youngest Executive Director at the age off 22 when Mike got a big national promotion. My salary was good and I felt we could change the world. I set up a new office closer to my home in Boston, no Mike there, now I had to fend for myself and grab coffees and inspiration with Mike when I could.
Mike and the Founder sent me to take over Washington, DC to build in 1995 and I started bringing in interns working to replicate Mike’s ‘belief in me’ style of management with sprinkles of high expectations and challenge to leave my professional comfort zone.
There were times in my career when I was at a crossroad or felt like drowning and Mike was always the one who showed me how to get back to shore.
Mike became our Executive Vice President and when Mike left after 20 years, he came to me in Washington and told me he wanted me to go for his job. He championed me and it led to some intense work with the Aspen Institute and to lead national leaders looking at scalability of youth entrepreneurship education in America. My heart soared in this great opportunity and growth.
So how do I thank Mike Caslin for the dozens of chapters in my book of life and the direction? For the belief in me (way before I believed in myself) and belief in the youth of our country?
I thank him with a challenge and a pledge to mentor five to ten women and men annually plus take on a few sponsees.”
– Julie, Founder and CEO, Twomentor
Julie Silard Kantor helps leaders build their living legacies through mentorship and sponsorship. She and her team at Twomentor, LLC are helping to build a much-needed mentoring revolution through thought living-legacy leadership work, mentor training, mentor culture building, Mentor Road Trip™ flash mentoring web sessions and more in many sectors. Two adages that drive her work are: 1] The people who mentor at your company are the people who drive retention at your company and 2] If you want more diversity (i.e. women in STEM), mentor and sponsor more diversely.
“You know someone has a positive impact on you when you can’t stop telling others about them. When I describe him to friends, colleagues, and even clients that I’m coaching, I start by saying, ‘Let me tell you about my favorite CEO to work with, Paul Cramer from the Lafayette Family YMCA’.
One might ask what makes him special, why do I go out of my way to tell others about him? Well not only does he have a refreshingly positive outlook on life, he also does something I rarely see in my part of the world, he treats everyone with respect. He acknowledges people in a way that makes them feel that they have purpose and he truly wants those around him to be their best selves.
As a woman, and even more so since I’ve become an entrepreneur, I find it difficult to find male allies that support me. This is what makes Paul’s approach unique.
He’s my client and I am as his HR Business Partner, which means we often must discuss challenging situations inside the organization. But no matter how much time we spend on solving important work-related issues, I have never left the conversation without him asking, ‘Kelly how’s the business going. How can I help support you? Are there any potential clients you would like me to reach and speak with the CEO?’ And sometimes he’ll even get out his pencil and pad of paper and start mapping out a plan for me.
In my opinion, this is a male ally. But I’m not the only one. I’ve watched him provide mentorship, coaching, and educational opportunities to the women that help lead his organization. I would like to say he does this because he understands the benefit of investing in his staff, and that is part of it, but as man who successfully embodies the YMCA’s culture of respect, responsibility, honesty, and caring, he knows that to lead an innovative and growing organization those values must be applied to all people.
I feel lucky to have connected with Paul and I will continue to sing his praises, so others know that male allies like him really do exist.”
– Kelly Pallanti, CEO and Founder, HR Nonprofit Consulting
Kelly Pallanti is a mission-driven HR consultant. She believes that people (humans) are the invaluable driver that advance the mission and values of an organization, and that HR should be there to support them. Her extensive work with YMCA has led her to work with over 500 Cause-Driven leaders by sharing her ‘Y Story.’ Kelly is Founder and CEO of HR Nonprofit Consulting.
“I am an equalist—and one able, feisty woman. I am proud to say that this is due in no small part to my male mentors and allies. I celebrate one in particular, LtCol Kevin Korpinen, who was Commanding Officer of my Marine Corps unit during my second deployment to Afghanistan. I was a rising Captain when I met him.
LtCol Kevin Korpinen did not have the makings of a feminist at first glance. As a prior reconnaissance-Marine-turned-air traffic control officer, most of his professional life had been spent with 18 to 20-something year old ‘dudes’ whose idea of a good time was running 10 miles in the pouring rain with 100 pounds on their back. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that he was a staunch feminist!
Once I joined his unit, I knew that this man would be one of the most important people in my life. I found that LtCol Korpinen was actually interested in finding answers to the challenges faced by women in the Marine Corps. When we discussed Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, he said, ‘I want you to teach our unit about that!’ What? A senior military officer wanted me to talk about gender parity, in front of Marines?!
LtCol Kevin Korpinen became my greatest champion, no matter the circumstances. He was a leader that made time to help me become a leader, despite criticism from his peers that it was not ‘professional’ to mentor a junior female officer. When I became a Uniformed Victim Advocate and educator about sexual assault in the military, he created opportunities for me to teach and made certain I had all the resources I needed to be the best one I could be. Most importantly, LtCol Korpinen made it clear that he believed the sky was the limit for me in this world.
I know that, without his insistence, support and mentorship, I would not be working at Facebook in a job I love. I would not have founded several Lean In Circles or be on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Museum of California. In short, without LtCol Korpinen, I would not be the equalist that I am today.”
– Susannah, Communications and Culture Manager
San Francisco, CA
Susannah Rose Stokes was born on a blueberry farm in the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia. At an early age, she discovered her drive to serve and decided to become a US Marine, graduating from the US Naval Academy as a Second Lieutenant in 2011. While in service to the country, she completed two deployments to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, advocated against sexual assault as a Uniformed Victim Advocate, and broke culture boundaries as a Family Readiness Officer. In 2016, Susannah made the exciting transition to Facebook, where she manages Communication and Culture initiatives for the Global Data Center team and leads Partnerships for the Facebook Veterans and Allies Resource Group. She is an active member of the Women’s Museum of California board of directors, is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, and is passionate about promoting equalism around the world.