Global Ambassadors Program: Lessons Learned in Poland
Zoë Dean-Smith, Senior Director, Global Programs
From Haiti to India to South Africa, in each opening session of the Global Ambassadors Program, my wonderful Bank of America colleague and friend Pam Seagle welcomes everyone with a statement saying that each program is always better than the last. After each closing day, we hold a staff debriefing session to discuss how to evolve the program so that it consistently provides global best practice in the mentoring of great women leaders around the world.
When we selected Poland as our host country and opened up the mentee application process to women leaders from Poland, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, I have to admit to having a small amount of trepidation about how the program would unfold, given the current situation taking place in the region which challenges the economic stability of each of these countries.
As you read in our previous blogs, we had fabulous mentees coming from a variety of organizational backgrounds in both the for-profit and non-profit worlds and across sectors ranging from IT to business incubation services to agriculture and working with internally displaced people.
The support, mentoring, advice and guidance offered throughout the week by our wonderful Global Ambassadors, trainers and consultants facilitated breakthrough thinking and, sometimes, unexpected epiphanies. In a couple of cases, the mentees discovered during the week that perhaps they had reached the glass ceiling within their existing organizational infrastructure. This prompted a shift in professional priorities in terms of succession planning and where they want to go next within their own career path.
The newest component that was included for the first time in Poland was an exhilarating session on the power of social media, facilitated by Guatemalan social media guru, Karla Ruiz Cofiño. To describe her special energy as similar to that of a Whirling Dervish is an understatement. By the end of Karla’s session on why it’s important to use social media for both personal and organizational branding and awareness, the entire room looked shell-shocked and, at the same time, emerged with an urgent sense of motivation to become far more actively engaged on the various social media platforms.
The Global Ambassadors Program in Poland certainly lived up to our expectations and the week sealed many new strong bonds of friendship and sisterhood across nationality, age, language and cultural divides. In Karla’s words, “You can be the best solo violinist, but you are part of the orchestra.” The extraordinary women leaders who participated in this program created a beautiful and unique ensemble.
Key takeaways and lessons learned from Global Ambassadors and mentees:
Galina Melnikova, owner and managing partner, HR Partners, Ltd. and the Open Door Club (Russia) with mentee Tatiana Semikop, head of the public movement “Faith, Hope, Love” (Ukraine)
Galina worked with Tatiana on strategic planning for her non-govermental organization (NGO), building brand identity to reach global audiences and to raise awareness of the situation with internally displaced persons in her region. Her immediate goal is to provide mobile legal and medical services for people who have left their homes due to the ongoing conflict. “Doing what she’s doing requires such a great soul, heart. She’s such a kind person,” said Galina.
Anna Colton, Retail Banking region executive, Metro New York/Mid-Atlantic, Bank of America (USA) with mentee Victoria Butsich, director, ITMINE (Belarus)
Branding and messaging training helped Victoria fine-tune her mission, vision and values to better position her IT company. Brainstorming with several participants, she refined her vision: “Customers and workforce in Belarus will more effectively compete in the world market.” On the technical side, Anna helped her think about a revised pricing structure for services and the inclusion of in-person instruction to her online training module.
Eileen O’Connor, former CNN correspondent and lawyer (USA) with mentee Natalia Skobnikova, CEO, DSF Logistic (Belarus)
After five days together, Eileen’s coaching enabled Natalia to take a step back and prioritize her personal and professional goals. Founder of a highly successful construction logistics firm doing business in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and Austria, Natalia will consider ways to take her company in new directions while allowing herself to develop skills and pursue other interests. “My goal is to gain more confidence as a woman and business leader,” she says.
Lorna R. Sabbia, head of Managed Solutions, Global Wealth & Investment Management, Bank of America (USA) with mentee Agnieszka Bilińska, CEO and co-founder, Vital Voices Poland
Agnieszka Bilińska is a partner at RSQ Management, but participated in the program in her capacity as volunteer co-founder of the Vital Voices Poland chapter. Lorna noted the organizational structure was solid but that a functional audit needed to happen, and new opportunities pursued, including online fundraising, customer mapping, online trainings and other offerings. Anna and Karla both urged Agnieszka to tell local success stories through social media.
Beata Pawlowska, managing director, Oriflame Poland with mentee Katerina Cronstedt, founder and CEO, Katerina.ru (Russia)
Katerina goes home to Moscow armed with a new investment strategy and a commitment to using focus groups to expand the customer base for her dinner kit company. “Focus has been the thing that has been missing,” says Katerina. “Opportunities and ideas come to me all the time, but I have to focus in order to move forward.” Other ideas discussed for building Katerina’s brand include connecting with Global Ambassador Galina Melnikova in Moscow and serving as a judge on television cooking shows.
Beata Mońka, owner, Business Consulting BMBC (Poland) with mentee Elena Lyakh, head, Togliatti City Agency of Economic Development (Russia)
Mentee Elena Lyakh leads a business incubator in Russia that served 7,000 young entrepreneurs in the last year. As the first woman director, she’s still getting used to a more public-facing role. “When I first filled out the application before the Global Ambassadors Program, my first goal was about me,” says Elena. “After this week there’s a transformation, and it’s about inspiring other people.” Her mentor Beata coached her to be decisive, to focus more on strategy, networking and building contacts.
Lidia Adamska, business consultant, Lidia Adamska Business Consulting (Poland) with mentee Joanna Janczycka, advisor to the president, ARMA (Poland)
Warsaw native Lidia Adamska played key roles in Poland’s transition to a new economy. She dedicated a considerable part of her career linking foreign investors to Polish companies, and she served as CFO of the Warsaw Stock Exchange. Her wealth of experience made her an ideal match for mentee Joanna Janczycka, a rising player in the trade union scene. Group discussions focused on how to package her skills and interests in social dialogue, arbitration and mediation into a marketable service both in Poland and the region.
Sheri Bronstein, human resources executive, Global Banking and Markets, Bank of America (USA) with mentee Olena Galushka, partner and international development director, Association of Private Investors (Ukraine)
Sheri and Olena worked on reforming the private investment association Olena founded, specifically the organizational structure and package of services. “We came from business, we didn’t understand how to set up an NGO,” said Olena. Sheri’s prescription is to become a powerful think and do tank advocating for inventors and leveraging communications and fundraising, as well as social media.
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Photography: David Hume Kennerly