PM360 recently spoke to Carrie Schaal, Director, U.S. Specialty Care, Commercial Learning & Development at AstraZeneca, about life as a mentor.
PM360: What are you most passionate about outside of your day-to-day work activities?
My passion for the last 20-plus years has been mentoring women in how to navigate the workplace and balance a happy, healthy home life with their professional development on their way to forging a prosperous and successful career—whatever that means to them.
What made you want to become a mentor?
My father was a school principal and took an active role mentoring others throughout his career. I saw the impact it had, as well as the happiness and friendships his activity forged.
What makes a good mentor?
Throughout my career, I’ve learned that all relationships are a collaboration and benefit from listening, asking questions and meeting the mentee where they are emotionally or professionally. These actions will ensure the conversation is occurring in a safe place—allowing real communication. Often, the hardest part can be listening without judgment and reserving your opinions until the right time.
Sometimes people get stuck in mental models that prevent them from achieving their desired goal. That’s why asking questions that help the other person reflect upon their own ideas is important. Then armed with an increased understanding gained through listening and asking questions, I find I’m able to provide targeted and meaningful advice for that person.
How has your approach evolved over the years?
Early on, much of my mentoring focused on supporting friends who were also new in business. As I gained experience and a broader network, I connected with other women at different stages of their career and we learned from each other. Over time, I was better able to see more and coach individuals to their strengths.
Did your mentors teach you how to approach your own mentees?
My core approach has come from a variety of people in surprising places. As a middle school teacher I had 30 mentors in my classroom reminding me that success was about helping them get where they could go—not where I wanted them to go. As a field sales manager, a subordinate taught me the importance of work/life balance, creating and running an innovation development program taught me how critical questions can be in breaking our self-limiting thinking, and as a business partner I learned how important true collaboration is to accomplishing the goals of the individual and the business.
What is the secret to managing a happy work/life balance?
If I’ve discovered any secret, it’s this: Build supportive relationships around you at home and at work. That way, when someone sees that I am running thin, they feel comfortable asking if they can help or can just call me out on overdoing it. To balance the often hectic time at work, I enjoy spending time with my family, spoiling my Belgian Malinois, working out (I love Bikram yoga) and traveling.