In continuation of feature on mentorsips, this week we interviewed one of Mila’s mentors, Cassie Looker. Cassie is From Whidbey Island, Washington and graduated from GU in 1995, with a degree in journalism and minor in Philosophy. After graduating, she moved to Portland and found herself at Nike. She has worked there for over 20 years now, including a small break to get a Master’s in Teaching from University of Portland. Her current position is as the Global Product Director for Men’s and Women’s Golf Apparel.
Did you use a mentor when you were in college, and how did you go about making that connection?
I had more mentors from Gonzaga versus outside of school. There was no internet and email was not necessarily a thing [at the time], so there was a lot more face to face meeting with people. It is a lot easier now, but back then it was hard to talk to mentors outside of Spokane, so I relied more on professors and classmates. Once I graduated and moved to Portland, and started to get out into the workforce, I had more of a career mentor.
Do you still have a mentor now?
I do, several. For me, one big theme is getting help with managing people. It is nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, ask how I can improve, and help if I get into a situation I do not know how to manage. It is nice to have a neutral person. Some are from Nike- current employees that are mentors- which can help with producing new strategies, plans for business innovation, and new product types. It has been nice having a group of people that can make me feel confident about any topic.
How many people do you currently mentor?
At least ten people, a mix of Gonzaga and Nike people. I also am a mentor for my nephew at Gonzaga.
What are some of the career and networking assistance you provide?
I try and really listen to what they are interested in and what they are working through. Hopefully, I can give them some advice and provide more names for them to network with, which might be more specifically connected to what they do. Mainly, I like to listen and connect.
What is the most rewarding part of being a mentor?
I think being able to see people grow and do amazing things. I work with female mentors and mentees, and in the workplace it is really important to empower women and clear the path for them to do whatever they set their mind too. It has been rewarding to see them do really amazing things. I love to see them succeed, to see a project or product on tv, or if they give a good presentation. It is always so exciting.
What is the most challenging part of being a mentor?
The challenging part is not having an answer, if I feel like I cannot help. You really wanna help someone, and when you hit a dead end it is hard. I try to connect them with someone else who I feel can help though.
What are tips you have for students looking to have a mentor and how should they reach out?
Really take the time to sit down and think about what you are looking for from a mentor. Some of those things might be career advice, stages in that person’s career that you are interested in, or they might be a part of business you are interested in. Someone who is closer to your age might be a different conversation and is another thing to consider.
Take the time to think when you read about someone or connect with them, “What do I want to walk away with?” It is good to be prepared, and when sending your message, it is nice to be on the shorter side: introduce yourself, what you are doing in school, your interests. One example could be, “I see you work at Nike in apparel, I’m interested in that because I like innovation.”
Show them, this is who I am, what I am looking for, and I see this connection because of three things. You should form a narrative, help me understand what they are looking for coming into the conversation.
What are important traits for students to look for when choosing a major?
Initially ask if this is a good fit for me, is it interesting to me what they are doing and it is good to have some emotional reaction. It also does not have to be related to your field, it can be in a completely different field, you never know what you might be interested in. Most things that I’ve done, I did not know about it until being immersed in it for work, so it is good to learn about something new. Most of all, know that you can see potential in that relationship.
How do you feel about using ZagsConnect?
I like using ZagsConnect to talk to mentees. You can talk like an email and it does not feel like an email. There is a history of conversations, so you can scroll up and see what you have talked about.
I also interviewed Mila Yoch, who told me about her experiences as a mentee. How would you describe your mentor/mentee relationship?
I was a good sounding board for her as she was formulating what she might want to do for her in the future as a good resource and maintaining conversation as she continues to have questions and keep providing that loop of information.
You can connect with Leslie and numerous other mentors by logging in to ZagsConnect using your Gonzaga University log in. Get started today!