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Tuesday, November 15, 2022

A Culture of Intrapreneurship: Developing Rightpoint’s Mentorship Program

By Amy Rumbarger — Design Director

In the tech industry, we always hear about entrepreneurs coming up with innovative business ideas and launching them into the world. But we hear less about how we can exhibit entrepreneurship as employees. How can we innovate within our organizations in a way that supports our individual career growth as well as our company’s success?

Thought: A Culture of Intrapreneurship: Developing Rightpoint’s Mentorship Program
A Culture of Intrapreneurship: Developing Rightpoint’s Mentorship ProgramDesign Director — Amy Rumbarger
Thought: A Culture of Intrapreneurship: Developing Rightpoint’s Mentorship Program

As someone who spent years struggling to make my voice heard in the big agency machine, I understand that it can feel impossible to make an impact—especially for those who don’t see themselves represented in leadership. But I’ve learned that if the path isn’t clear, you must forge it yourself.

I’ve spent the last two years co-founding and running Rightpoint’s Internal Mentorship Program—an experience that’s not only been incredibly valuable to me personally, but also to my colleagues and my company. This experience has helped me carve out my own leadership niche and exponentially grow my network of meaningful connections. And even better: our surveys indicate that participants feel more valued, connected, and satisfied after completing the program—several have even described it as the best thing they’ve done for their career. If you’ve ever wondered how to translate your passions into making a difference at your organization, I hope you’ll learn from my experience.

Steps to Take When Considering Intrapreneurship

Step 1: Identify the Need

In early 2021, I was thinking a lot about mentorship. There are several people in my life and career whom I’d consider mentors, but I never had the structure or tools to make the most of those relationships. Earlier in my career, I would never even think of approaching a more senior team member and ask if they could mentor me.

I knew there must be more people like me at Rightpoint: people who were eager to mentor or be mentored but didn’t know how to go about it. Particularly for women and minorities in tech, it’s crucial for us to have mentors in our corner. Even more broadly, in a remote working environment, we all need those connections more than ever.

“Mentoring programs dramatically improved promotion and retention rates for minorities and women—15% to 38% as compared to non-mentored employees.” – Forbes

Your experience is not unique. If you see a need for something in your own career, I guarantee you’re not the only one. Once you’ve identified that need, you’ll be able to find others who get it and work together to solve the problem.

Step 2: Find the Right Partners

After putting out some feelers, it was clear to me that mentorship was an unmet need in our community. Through my initial outreach, I was swiftly connected with Mickey Winter, VP of Design in our then-recently acquired commerce practice. Mickey had been running a mentorship program at the former Something Digital, and it was clear from our first conversation that we both had a shared passion and wanted to make a mentorship program happen at Rightpoint.

From there, Mickey and I founded the RP Mentorship Program with a group of enthusiastic volunteer committee members and the support of Rightpoint leadership. After a lot of research and brainstorming, we decided on our approach. The program would consist of three main components: facilitating matches between mentors and mentees, regular meetings between those pairs, and group roundtables on topics such as leadership, self-promotion, and goal setting in which the entire cohort could learn from one another.

Step 3: Pitch and Pivot

If you think you have it all figured out, get ready to throw all your plans out the window once you start socializing your ideas. The vision I had at the start for this program didn’t remotely resemble what it turned out to be. Once I started collaborating with Mickey and our committee, the result was infinitely better than what I had imagined on my own.

In months of planning and pitching, we went through many iterations of what the program would look like and how we would support it. Each time we thought we had a solid plan we were met with questions we hadn’t considered.

Even though the germination process was discouraging at times, we kept pushing because we believed in our idea. Not only on a personal level, but because we knew from our research that it would also have immense benefits at the organizational level. A formalized mentorship program can help to increase job satisfaction, reduce attrition, build community, and facilitate the spread of institutional knowledge.

“More than 9 in 10 workers (91%) who have a mentor are satisfied with their jobs, including more than half (57%) who are ‘very satisfied." – CNBC

Step 4: Test and Learn

Something I absolutely love about working at Rightpoint is that we support individual initiative, or what we describe in our core values as intrapreneurship. If you want to do something, don’t wait for someone else to give you permission—just do it! And as an agile organization, we’re all used to the test and learn model, so that’s how we approached this program.

In the fall of 2021, we launched a three-month experimental pilot program with five mentor-mentee pairs across business units, geos, genders, and levels. We did qualitative research and quantitative surveys of our participants and presented our findings to Rightpoint leadership: it worked! As we suspected, people were hungering for this kind of opportunity. We had participants tell us that the program changed their careers, and even their lives.

With the success and learnings from the pilot in hand, we launched an official, six-month program with nearly three times the number of participants. Now that we’re in our third cohort, we’re still learning new things each time. For example, we learned from one cohort that people were craving more structure, so we defined more concrete requirements. We’re also experimenting with the program length and timing to optimize the experience for our participants’ busy schedules. Since we hope this program will run indefinitely, our capacity to learn and grow is endless.

Step 5: Pass It On

The Mentorship Program has been in high demand since it launched. We have far more applicants than we can accommodate, and I’ve heard from folks who want to adapt the program for their own use. The double-edged sword of a good idea is that it takes on a life of its own and giving up control is hard for any invested founder. However, the best way to ensure that the impact of your idea is long-lasting and wide-reaching is to share it. 

In that way and many others, intrapreneurship isn’t all that different from entrepreneurship. The rewards are similar too: more ownership of your career trajectory, the satisfaction of building something from the ground up, and seeing your work make a difference in others’ lives. If you have an idea that solves a problem in your company or career, don’t wait for someone else to tackle it. Talk about it to anyone who will listen. Find your people and let them help you. Make a plan and take action. If you have the idea and the ambition, you can make it happen.