We get by with a little help from our friends. And when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder, working with a mentor proves beneficial. So says research stemming from a 2020 study by Brian Uzzi, a professor of Management and Organizations at the Kellogg School, which analyzes the careers of more than 37,000 scientist mentors and protégés. Data from the study shows that mentorship is effective “especially when mentors pass down unwritten, intuitive forms of knowledge” and “tacit knowledge gained through their work experience rather than codified skills.” Mentorship has been weaved into the fabric of the tight-knit beauty community for decades to help leaders hone strong skills and build on weaker ones on their journey to the C-suite. So, what’s working best for beauty leaders now, namely those who have been recognized for their leadership and achievement skills? Below, advice from several 2023 CEW Achiever Award Honorees on how mentorship — both on the giving and receiving end—has proved invaluable to their professional development.
Christina Fair, President of L’Oréal Dermatological Beauty Division, N.A., L’Oréal USA
“Mentorship has been one of the most memorable and influential aspects of my career, and great mentors (and champions) are essential as you grow in seniority and complexity increases. Yet, for many years I viewed mentorship in a very two-dimensional way, particularly as a mentee. Relationships were usually hierarchical and very problem-solution focused. This is OK in a silo, but what happens when you’ve come to a point in your career where you think you’re the actual problem to solve and no one has caught on? What’s the mentorship guidance for that?
Yes, I am talking about imposter syndrome – an all too familiar experience that stands in the way of our full potential. About seven years ago imposter syndrome was the most heightened in my career. In my new position [as VP Global Development & Marketing] my boss was my peer (in another role), and we quickly became partners on the business. Through informal mentorship, she took the time to learn and understand my strengths in different situations, and to identify the barriers I imposed on myself in critical moments. She gave me the space to feel authentic without fear of failure and brought out the confidence I thought I lost. She encouraged me to embrace what I thought was a weakness, which was being my real self in a big leadership position. I have come to realize that being genuine and real, is actually my greatest leadership strength and I was never willing to change that. As a result, today I see mentorship as one of the greatest gifts in anyone’s career. It takes many forms and shapes, and just as you can lead from any seat, you can also mentor from any seat. In short, mentorship is anything but two-dimensional.”
Hilla Ram, SVP, Global Hair Care Brands & Global Beauty Analytics & Insights Leader, P&G Beauty
“As one of my most significant mentors, I choose my dad. I know it is unusual, but my dad brought me up as a single parent since I was 14 years old. Despite all of us going through the grief of losing our mom and so many related emotional and financial issues, he always, always, saw me and believed in me. He saw a little girl and believed she could do anything she wanted. He told me daily, “You will always be successful. You will always get what you want.”
And by him seeing me, and acknowledging my potential far beyond who I was in these years, he built so much confidence in me. It’s something I still carry with me to this day, and also try to instill in others.”
Kory A. Marchisotto, Chief Marketing Officer, e.l.f. Beauty; President, Keys Soulcare
“We each stand on a ladder built by our own unique explorations, experiences, and encounters. We choose to add or subtract rungs from our own ladders. Every day we choose how high we climb on the journey toward our highest vision of ourselves.
I consider myself a work in progress. It takes a lifetime of learning to discern what is most important. I’m continuing to learn from teachers, coaches, mentors, and an orbit of inspiring humans who are willing to light the path for me. Role models and people who believed in me have added rungs to my ladder. I stand taller with a broadened perspective because others were willing to commit a part of themselves to my journey.
In the book ‘The Earned Life’, author Marshall Goldsmith references Sanyin Siang, one of many influential people who helped shape his journey. Reading Marshall’s words, I imagined what an honor it would be to learn from someone like Sanyin myself. Fortuitously, I had the privilege of meeting Sanyin at a Leadership Summit at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. E.l.f. Beauty’s CEO generously asked me to join him at the summit – an invitation that would add more rungs to my ladder.
I was enamored by Sanyin’s superpowers, especially her unique ability to disarm. With Sanyin, a relationship instantly transforms from stranger to stranger, to human to human, to soul to soul. I had the courage to ask Sanyin to be my coach so that I could continue to reshape my perspective, and I can’t wait to see how my ladder extends.
Alicia Keys reminds us, ‘We have two hands – one for giving, and one for receiving. Be just as willing to receive as you are willing to give, and just as willing to give as you are willing to receive.
As a lifelong learner and mentor, I have come to understand more clearly that the more I receive, the more I am able to give.”
Nikki Eslami, Founder & CEO, Bellami Hair and New Theory Ventures
“I find myself learning from all women. Regardless of stage, career, or age. Employees, friends, not friends. There have been so many people that have come into my life in and out of the industry that has helped shape and influence me.
Sometimes people come into my life for just a snapshot or a moment in time but they have a lasting impact. I met Annie Young-Scrivner from Wella and was so struck by how she held herself, was so present, and held space and power for women. She inspired me and probably doesn’t even know it because that moment was so brief, but I reflect back on it and try to bring those attributes into how I move throughout my own life and career.”
Alison Hahn, SVP Merchandising, Makeup and Fragrance, Sephora
“Over the length of my career, I’ve had some fantastic mentors and leaders looking out for me. They’ve all had a common thread — they were all strong and powerful women, but also empathic, vulnerable, and humble. Whether they knew it or not, I often learned from them by simply observing how they reacted to positive situations, and challenging ones, or how they led conversations in both situations. Learning for me is theoretical and practical. Candidly, my challenges have always been around my level of directness and patience, and many people have shepherded me through how to pivot a bit from those natural propensities. What worked best in my experience and what I try to do as an active mentor is celebrate my authentic self while showcasing how I can show up in a more effective way.
And honestly, the most important thing to me in finding a mentor is that they want to make you better. This is something Tracy Gardner [Principal of Tracy Gardner Consultancy] said to me over 20 years ago while I was at the Gap and has always stayed with me. As a mentor, I should be always in service to my mentee.”