Diversity Equity & Inclusion Career Growth Women At VMware

Reverse Mentoring – The Wind In Your Sails

Next in our Reverse Mentoring series, we talk to Tasha Easton, VMware Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program Director, and Katrina Warburton, Vice President of Strategy, Planning and Operations, who started reverse mentoring in May 2022.

VMware’s Reverse Mentorship program has over 100 pairs of employees engaged in the program and anchored in a process that requires an individual in a less senior position to mentor an individual in a more senior role. A key objective for this program is that our mentees gain a new perspective, engage confidently with leadership, implement best practices for inclusive leadership on their teams and drive positive DEI outcomes for VMware.

Why did you get involved in the Reverse Mentoring Program?

TE: I wanted to support what I believe to be a very important initiative in building connections and networking across the organization. I want to be a model for others that leaning into an ambiguous and unknown connection could foster a great impact on my professional development. 

KW: My initial reason for signing up for the Reverse Mentoring program was to have the opportunity for self-learning and education. To have a mentee that I could ask questions to, seek feedback, and generate ideas around how I could better incorporate DEI efforts into our organization.

How would you describe your overall experience of the Reverse Mentoring Program?

TE: Free flowing, informative, supportive, and enjoyable.

KW: Way better than expected.  There have been so many benefits to being a part of the program that I would never have guessed – building relationships, and finding a thought partner to brainstorm ideas about how we can incorporate DEI into programming within and across our Marketing teams. 

Share an example of a topic of discussion or activity that you undertook as a mentor and mentee.

TE: Well, we practice the Vegas rule! (‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!’). Our conversations remain confidential. We have created a safe space through rapport building and authentic connection that allows us to say the things we may be nervous to say in other places. This includes testing language and/or how a message will come across to a team.  

KW:  I agree with Tasha — she has given me a safe space to ask questions, to be a sounding board for ideas, and to allow me to ask questions that could be awkward and uncomfortable in a different forum.  No question is too silly or outrageous as we both know it is coming from a good place of intentional learning.

What is one of your most memorable moments learning from your mentor/mentee?

TE: I greatly appreciated Katrina for being comfortable enough to ask for support around the topic of ‘language’. She was vulnerable enough to say things like ‘I’m not sure if it’s okay to say [X]’ and to seek my advice. It really showed her value in my opinion and highlighted how conscious she is and her understanding that language matters. 

KW: Without question, the best part of this program has been the opportunity to meet and get to know Tasha.  I’ve loved not only thinking of creating ways we can further expand our DEI efforts in Marketing with her, but the real highlight has been developing a relationship with someone who is amazing and who I likely would not have met otherwise. 

Why would you recommend this program to your peers?

TE: Anyone and everyone should join this program. It is a great way to expand your network, get connected across functions, and learn in the flow of work. Not only are we learning about each other’s backgrounds, but also each other’s functional expertise.   

KW:  This is a great opportunity to create dedicated space and time to learn, ask questions and think about ways we can drive our DEI initiatives forward.  An added bonus is the opportunity to create new relationships and find synergies that you might not have thought about before being a part of this program.  I highly recommend it!

Tasha and Katrina’s perspectives and endorsement highlight many of the long-lasting benefits of engaging in reverse mentoring. Take advantage of the opportunity to bridge the generational gap, challenge your perspective, and benefit from a safe space to candidly exchange your point of view and insights, shaped by your unique knowledge, skills, and experiences. 

Learn more about DEI at VMware here.

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