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AppianWomen Mentorship Program: Connecting Women and Supporting Career Growth

Christine Christine Danzi

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In the seven years I’ve been at Appian, I’ve worked as a Consultant, Product Engineer, and now as a Senior UX Designer. Through different roles, being a part of various teams, and through a global pandemic, one thing that’s been consistent is the community and connection I’ve found in the AppianWomen Affinity Group.

Connecting with other women in tech.

Flashback to 2015. I recently graduated from the University of Virginia and was starting my new role as an Associate Consultant at Appian . Transitioning from a full time student to an employee was challenging. For most of my projects, I was performing ad-hoc technical enhancements, so I didn’t get the opportunity to bond with a team like other consultants in the office. I enjoyed the work I was doing, but I wanted to feel more connected and involved. It made me realize just how important it is to create those early connections in a new environment. 

Thankfully, a year later, I had the opportunity to join the Women’s Leadership Program (WLP) board, now known as the AppianWomen Affinity Group. The mission of AppianWomen is to foster a community focused on connecting, encouraging , and growing successful women at Appian. I quickly made many connections with other women across teams at Appian and was inspired to get more involved.

On the board, I helped organize programs and events for the women of Appian. Little did I know, this was just the start. I ended up leading the development of our first Mentorship Program.

Caption: Throwback photo of the AppianWomen board when I joined.

Creating career growth opportunities for women.

Fast forward to 2017. I had been on the board for a few months and recently transferred to a new role as a Product Engineer. In my new position, I found myself looking for additional ways to contribute.

The board created a programming survey that allowed employees to provide feedback about the group.The survey revealed that my colleagues wanted programs to help them transition into new work environments and grow in their career. I knew from my experience how helpful AppianWomen had been for me, and wanted to be a part of generating more of these opportunities for other women.

We knew that having a company-wide mentorship program would be a big initiative! It would take a lot of time and planning, so we decided to start small with a program specifically for AppianWomen.

I accepted the challenge and crafted a program proposal to share with the board. And thanks to the help of friends along the way, we were able to incubate this project from its early stages to something greater than we expected. Special shout out to my grassroots support system:  Terri McCormick, Eric Thibault, Lisa Lundegard, Cathy Lazarus, just to name a few. Their guidance helped shape the future success of Appian mentorship and for that I’m very thankful!

The Mentorship Program: How it works.

The basic structure of the Mentorship Program allows us to match participants with mentors based on desired advising topics.

  1. Sign up for the program as a mentor, protégé, or both. You share what skills you want to improve on, or what expertise you have to offer. You can browse our list of mentors and select three mentors you’re interested in connecting with.
  2. Match with your mentor! Protégés work with their mentor to establish personal goals or come to meetings with topics to receive advice on. 
  3. Meet with your match. We recommend that participants meet for at least six months for at least an hour a month (an hour lunch, two 30 minute sessions, etc.)

Caption: The Mentorship Program application where you can browse mentors at Appian and select who you’re interested in connecting with.

Offering guidance, learning, and networking.

 Anyone at Appian can be a mentor, and we initially limited the protégés to AppianWomen members. The goals of the program revolve around three pillars: guidance, learning, and networking. 

Each of these goals are accomplished throughout the employees’ participation in the program. For guidance, employees have the opportunity to receive feedback and advice about their career path.

We like to emphasize that this is an opportunity for learning, our second theme, for both the mentor and the protégé. Just as much as the protégé learns from the mentor, the mentor also has an opportunity to learn from their protégé.

Especially if their protégé is in a different role or department, it gives the mentor insight on a different part of the company that they may have only limited experience with.  This ties into our last theme, networking. We encourage protégés and mentors to work with employees outside of their team and department asa way to network with new colleagues and foster professional relationships.  

Hearing impact stories across the company.

When we first launched the program, we received constant positive responses and employees across departments at Appian were eager to participate!

Over the past couple of years, we’ve made over 170 mentor-protégé matches with members participating from around the world (US, EMEA, APAC). It’s been rewarding to see the growth of the program and the strengthening of the Appian community..  

Since the program's inception five years ago, there have been constant elements of change.  From rebranding the group, scaling the mentorship process, to another career change for myself (I’m now a User Experience Designer), a lot that has been accomplished. And with these accomplishments, I have consistently felt joy in giving  back to the Appian community in this way.

I recently spoke with a colleague and she expressed that her participation in the Mentorship Program really made her experience working at Appian “so great.” It’s testimonials like these that motivate me to continually support building a better program. 

Caption: Mentorship Program past participants shared their testimonials and the impact of the program in their career.

Cindy Cheng, Senior Director, Marketing Communications based in London, UK even wrote about her experience moving from mentee to mentor in an AppianLife blog.

Using Appian software to automate the process.

One of the ways I’ve scaled the program was by building an Appian application to automate the signup process. In its first year, there were a number of manual tasks like sending surveys, organizing pairs in a spreadsheet, sending match emails, etc., that I knew could be improved. 

After recognizing  this time consuming process, I decided to use my Indie Time to enhance our efficiency.  Indie Time is time dedicated to side projects outside of normal tasks,   many employees have had success utilizing their Indie Time. Here’s more in our Tech Corner blog on how others at Appian are taking on side projects using our software.

I used this time to build an application where we could more easily gather, track, and manage participation in the Mentorship Program. A shout out to my manager, JC Chakravarty, who helped create the structure I needed to reach my application development goals!

Now, instead of having a set time of the year where we manually collect responses and send matches, participants can sign up whenever they want, and we can more easily manage matches through the application. It’s made hours of overhead turn into a seamless process using the power of the Appian platform!

Growing the AppianWomen Mentorship team.

Another big improvement was that instead of having a team of one, I now have an amazing committee that helps with brainstorming and organizing events for the program. A big thanks to my amazing members Reagan Redman, Merryl Gibbs, Celine Guan, and Noelle Gray who have helped keep this program a success!

Caption: The Mentorship Committee Members who help with brainstorming and organizing events for the program.

It’s now 2022, and we want to continue to expand on the program as much as we can. So far this year, we have deployed new enhancements to the Mentorship Application to give users more control over how they want to manage their participation. We also want to continue to organize smaller group events to allow participants of the program to meet and network with each other.

As we validate how well the program and application can scale, we want to plan expanding the Mentorship Program for all of Appian.

Feeling connected beyond your everyday role.

It’s important to ensure all new employees feel like they can create those valuable connections during their first few months here at Appian. 

This entire experience has taught me the value of feeling connected to something outside of your everyday role. I like that each day I can contribute to the company beyond the role of a UX Designer.

I look forward to seeing how far the program will grow and hopefully do the best I can to take it there with the continued help and support from our AppianWomen Affinity Group and the Mentorship Committee.

If I can help others feel that kind of connection by helping them find a mentor to reach out to, it makes all the development and planning hours worth every minute.

Christine

Written by

Christine Danzi

Christine is a Senior User Experience Designer at Appian.