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Mentoring Is The Cure

Glass-ceiling headache is the disease, by Maureen Sweeny, Chief Commercial Officer, Aristocrat Technologies

Mentoring Is The Cure

Since I recently joined Aristocrat Technologies Inc. in the new position of chief commercial officer responsible for our global Class III games and systems business, I have been excited to play a role in taking Aristocrat to the next level and becoming a part of the Global Gaming Women (GGW) community.

Moving to Aristocrat is a significant career and personal change, having spent the past 30 years at IBM. I began my career at IBM as an intern while still studying, and I later joined as a full-time sales trainee after graduating with my new—and untested—degree in business and computer science.

Think back in time and you’ll recall the IBM I joined in 1984 was a leading hardware and software company in a growing industry for many years. I spent my first year progressing through a series of sales and product training courses to prepare me to deal with real customers upon completion.

About 10 years in, I made the brave decision to move into a new segment of our business, services, and subsequently had the opportunity to shape and grow that business over the subsequent 20 years—both in the U.S. and globally across financial services, manufacturing, telecommunications, utilities, media and entertainment and industrial sectors.

During my time with IBM, the industry and the company were challenged, and continue to be challenged with many things the gaming industry also faces: new entrants, new technologies, consolidation, economic downturn and overall, continuing to be relevant to our clients and their success.

For individuals as well as businesses, one of the most critically important elements to successfully navigating and embracing change is mentoring. This is critical for developing one’s own career because it gives each of us the opportunity in a “penalty-free environment” to talk about strengths and weaknesses, and therefore, future development needs. Mentoring enables us to build our own individual personal scorecard regarding our development and to identify new experiences needed to build skills that have not yet developed. This is why the work of GGW, particularly its focus on mentorship, is important to me.

My history of mentorship dates back to when I was working to get promoted to my first executive role at IBM. I was working with my scorecard to identify what additional skills and experiences I needed to be considered for an executive role. While no one could tell me exactly what was missing, I was not being considered.

So I took a risk.

I asked for a meeting with the general manager of our division, and I opened the meeting with “I have a headache.” He offered me aspirin. I told him I didn’t need aspirin; my headache was from hitting my head on the glass ceiling.

What I needed was advice on how to get promoted. I had caught him by surprise, and after fumbling for a few minutes, he offered to appoint a mentor for me whom I worked with for the rest of my career.

Since then, I have had formal and informal mentors, a valuable combination of both men and women from different parts of the industry and across geographic locations. And as I advanced in my career, I understood it was my responsibility, and my pleasure, to give back what I had received,?which is what I hope to accomplish with GGW.

I have acted as a mentor to newcomers to the business world, both men and women, as well as to more experienced professionals. What I have learned is this: We all have something to learn, no matter where we are in our career. In fact, ongoing development and critical self-assessment are required at every stage of our careers, and our lives.

If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.

That rings true to women and men in business and has an added layer of meaning for the gaming industry. It is the advice I give to my three daughters who are in their mid-20s—a 27-year-old and 25-year-old fraternal twins?getting started in their own careers: one in hospitality, one in entertainment and one in investment banking.

Women of gaming, let’s start this new year with a joint resolution to not be afraid to take risks. After all, if you are feeling comfortable in a role, it is probably time to change and challenge yourself. And that is the positive takeaway from the current state of flux of our industry; it is ripe with opportunity for change and growth as a part of that change. Let’s commit GGW to mentoring ourselves and each other. It’s a smart business strategy, for individuals and businesses alike.

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