interVivos supports local, and so should you this holiday season

interVivos and our community rely on the small businesses at the heart of them. 2020 has been a tumultuous time for our small businesses with the impacts of COVID-19. 

Small businesses provide character and individuality to a community. They benefit their local communities in many concrete, quantifiable ways. Specifically, if you spend $100 at a local business, roughly $68 stays within the local economy.

Effective Dec. 13, some businesses will be required to close, reduce capacity, or limit their in-person access. These small businesses need our support more than ever as they’ve to pivot. Buy gift cards for friends and family, buy gift cards for your use in the spring, purchase packages and kit, write positive social media reviews, like their social media posts, post about them on your Instagram stories, access their curbside offerings, get delivery, etc.

During the Fall 2020 mentorship program launch, participants shared their favourite local business names. Check out the list below. You might discover a new gem in your backyard that you can support during the holiday season in 2020 and in 2021! We have also included our remarkable Fall 2020 program sponsors in this list. The interVivos board has even added their picks.

Remember to continue practicing safe social distancing, frequent hand washing, and following the guidelines put in place to keep everyone safe. 


Restaurants and Cafes

Other Amazing Businesses

Meet the Gwin Sisters

🎙️ Listen to Fall 2020 Mentor Shani Gwin talk about the BIPOC focussed mentorship program on Edmonton AM: interVivos looks to bridge the diversity gap at work (December 2020)

Shani and Teneya Gwin are a part of our first-ever Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (or BIPOC) focused mentor program. They’re also the first set of sisters to participate as mentors with interVivos. We are celebrating these milestones by showcasing them on our blog. Read below to find out more about the Gwin Sisters. We had the pleasure of having a physically-distanced interview with them in early November 2020.

Here is what they told us about their roles in the business world:

Teneya: We chose career paths that complement each other, and we can partner on projects. Being raised in a proud Métis family, we both knew it was essential to break down barriers and create spaces and platforms for Indigenous voices. There are probably very few times when we are together that we don’t bounce business or project ideas off of one another, and I admire her advice.

Shani: I’m proud of us. To think how far we’ve come in our journey from five years ago, there’s a lot to celebrate. As Teneya mentioned, our careers work well together, so it’s been a lot of fun and because we are sisters; we get to be brutally honest. It can be deadly! We help each other grow and see new parts in the work. I value Teneya’s insight. She recently trained some of my staff and she’s so great at what she does. We do have many mentors, Elders, and leaders we get to work with and learn from everyday. I’m very grateful to them all for their support and for sharing their knowledge with us.

We also asked about the best career decisions they have made: 

Teneya: The best career decision I have made was to leave a corporate organization and start my own consulting company. On my own, I had to believe in my skills, and I was finally able to see my strengths. I felt I was always trying to sell my services and explain why the Indigenous perspective was critical in my corporate role. Once I made the terrifying decision to go on my own, my entire life changed personally and professionally. The amount of growth I have gone through in 4.5 years is bananas!

Shani: I agree. Leaving my government job to focus on Indigenous communities, organizations, and projects was the best decision I made. It was scary to leave a salary, benefits and paid vacation, but I went for it, and thankfully, I haven’t regretted it. There comes a time when you have to make a leap of faith as an entrepreneur. It is a lot of work to make it happen, and I took it as far as possible while still working my other fulltime job. I appreciate the support and mentorship from Chief Tony Alexis during that time and even today. He was very influential to that decision and continues to champion me and the work I do. Ishnish Chief Alexis.

Then, we delved into the common challenges that they see in their work:

Shani and Teneya: When we come up against resistance, typically we find that the challenge is really about the other party not knowing or lacking general awareness about the issue at hand or the history between Indigenous people and Canada. There’s a lot of groundwork that goes into mitigating that resistance. We find that we are educating and sharing knowledge before we can even work on the initial problem. Once we can bring in that context, the resistance isn’t as heavy-handed, and we find people are generally more willing to understand and move past it. It’s essential to find someone to lean on when doing this work; it is emotional labour. We are lucky to have each other and help move each other forward because sometimes it can be exhausting.

We wanted to find out about their mentors:

Shani and Teneya: There are so many mentors just in our family that we look up to and rely on for advice. Our mother, Carola Cunningham, has worked in justice, housing, family services, and consulting, specifically with Indigenous communities in Canada and abroad. Our father, Lloyd Gwin, has worked most of his career in skills development, training, and employment for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit across Canada and is very active in the Métis community as a volunteer. Our poppa, Chester Cunningham, founded Native Counselling Services of Alberta and has been critical in representing Indigenous folks in the justice system and was instrumental in decreasing Indigenous people’s incarceration rates. And our Kokum, Florence Gwin, who taught us the importance of education, sharing what little you have with others, and always lead with kindness. These are just a few of those in our family that we wanted to acknowledge. They have the most significant impacts on our lives and how we move forward on our journey.

They also shared how work and self-care go together, especially during the pandemic:

Shani: I was in a meeting the other day, and someone shared the importance of community care over self-care. We can talk all we want about the importance of bubble baths or going for a walk alone, yet many of us will not have the privilege to do those. Community care is helping take the load off others in your community and vice versa. I have two children, my partner works out of the house, and my company is the busiest it’s ever been. I had no time for self-care during the pandemic. I wanted to, but the extent of it was leaving to get groceries alone once my partner was home. During that time, I leaned hard on my community to help. My mom would drop off a meal once in a while, so I had one less thing to worry about.

 My sister took my kids as part of our cohort/bubble so I could get work and housework done. My dad would bring baked treats, and once it was safe to do so, he would babysit my children. Community care was self-care. It’s an important distinction to make. We can build our communities and rely on them when we need them. And vice versa. We delivered groceries and necessities to my parents during the pandemic; we brought over meals, and FaceTimed them with the kids. We had ‘bring your own hot dog’ fires outside with them once it was warmer. This was our way of taking care of them and their mental health during a difficult time.

Teneya: During this pandemic, it has been extremely challenging for me to find time for self-care, and I need to make more time for this. Unfortunately, most of my work takes place during naptime, and once my child is in bed for the night it’s exhausting, but I know I’m not alone. My partner works out of town and is a business owner himself, so we both know the importance of hard work.

I am mindful of when I feel lighter, and those moments are when I’m with my family, doorstop visits with my friends, tea and cookies with my parents, and backyard fun with my sister and her kids. These moments are my self-care, being with those that I love. As you can tell by our responses, our cups are filled with community care; it’s a great example of why we chose the career paths we did. 

Teneya is a first-time mentor with us, and we are thrilled to have Shani as a repeat mentor! We asked what they think is the role of a mentor:

Teneya: I value the importance of building relationships; as a mentor, I am excited to learn from and exchange ideas with my protégé. I have hired and worked alongside so many incredible people; seeing their growth or catching up from time to time makes me honoured to have been part of their journey, and I hope to do the same through this process.

Shani: I love meeting and connecting with new people and seeing people I know and care about succeed. This is an excellent opportunity for me to keep sharing my knowledge with others, but also I get to learn so much from my protégé. Their perspectives and expertise are just as valuable to me. My first interVivos mentorship experience was a perfect match. We were on different career paths, which made it enjoyable. I learned about the tech industry and the innovative projects they were working on, and I shared my skillset with them to help build their career. I found it extremely rewarding, and we are still in touch. We just worked on getting their company some air time on CBC radio.


If you’re interested in being a volunteer mentor with interVivos in 2021,  please email We are always looking for diverse mentors from all professional backgrounds. Stay tuned to our social media to find out more about the journeys of the Gwin sisters as mentors with our program.

interVivos launches first BIPOC focused mentorship program

Registration for Protégés is now open

interVivos is launching its Fall 2020 Mentorship Program on December 1, 2020. This Edmonton program will showcase Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) volunteer mentors. Ambitious professionals from all backgrounds are invited to take part as protégés in the ever-popular mentorship program.

Since 2006, interVivos has connected over 600 high caliber mentors and protégés through its mentorship programs. Mentors are highly sought after and come from a variety of backgrounds, careers, and perspectives. They are volunteers who are looking to give back to their community by sharing their ideas and experiences to assist protégés in their career journey. The Fall 2020 Mentorship Program is an opportunity for BIPOC mentors to empower the next generation of Edmonton’s BIPOC leaders.

“It is important to take proactive and purposeful action to ensure that different voices are heard, included, and supported across the spectrum of roles,” says Jason Syviaxy, former interVivos mentor and Fall  2020 launch event emcee. “If we fail to challenge the system, we perpetuate the norm, which means that we wait for change to catch up rather than embracing and meeting it.”

interVivos mentorship programs are offered twice per year and typically begin with an in-person launch event. Propelled by the virtual Summer 2020 mentorship launch’s success, interVivos will launch the Fall Program over Zoom. Mentors and protégés will connect through Zoom “breakout rooms” for group engagement activities, one-on-one speed rotations, and networking opportunities.

After the launch, mentors and protégés are matched up based on their preferences. The matches will work together over six months to learn from each other, collaborate, and reach professional goals. The program runs from January to June 2021, and matches are required to meet at least three times, either virtually or in-person, with appropriate COVID-19 measures in place.

The following are the confirmed mentors for the Fall 2020 mentorship program:

You can register to be a protégé by visiting:

Read the FAQs about our Fall 2020 Mentorship program.

Program Sponsors

Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor: Park Power.

Thank you to our program sponsors: Incite, VSM Photo, Coffee Ring Studio, E & J Watch and Jewellery Repair West Edmonton Mall, Soni Dasmohapatra, JGR Communications, Leaders International, Anne McLellan, Doughnut Party, RSM Canada, and Altitude Investments.

The Importance of Mentors who are Black, Indigenous, People of Colour

Mentorship makes a difference. If you look through our blog, you’ll find plenty of reasons why having someone tell you that you are on the right track is a big deal. There is something to be said about connecting with a mentor who has had similar experiences as you, especially for professionals who are Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (or BIPOC). 

interVivos has chosen to highlight many amazing BIPOC volunteer mentors in Edmonton for our Fall 2020 Mentorship Program Launch to help amplify these community voices. 

When we asked one of our former interVivos mentors, Dr. Bonnieca ‘Bonnie’ Islam, about her thoughts on the impact of having more BIPOC individuals in leadership positions, she said that “it would give BIPOC individuals, especially females, more confidence to apply for these positions.” Speaking from her own experience, she said, “I have turned down opportunities in the past due to my lack of confidence in my abilities and questioned ‘why would people listen to a young-looking brown female?’”

Being a BIPOC professional brings its unique challenges in career development. BIPOC individuals are underrepresented in leadership positions. Systemic oppression makes it possible for others to make assumptions about your character, punctuality, or work ethic based on your skin colour. It can be incredibly challenging to navigate these barriers to success without the help of a mentor who understands your experience. 

As a former mentor, Bonnie shared, “I do believe mentors can share their struggles but also their accomplishments. Encourage the protégés that their race or gender should not hold them back. I always like to point out to protégés when I did not think race or gender gave me any disadvantage.” 

A relationship with a mentor who has also struggled with barriers and glass ceilings in their leadership journey is invaluable to a protégé. The insight from the mentor not only shows the protégé that it’s possible to move up, but the mentor can also offer tools to help overcome these challenges. When more BIPOC mentors exist, more BIPOC people will rise to leadership positions. 

Jason Syvixay, one of our Summer 2020 mentors and Fall 2020 Program Launch emcee, says, “Creating space for BIPOC individuals to meet, to gather, to connect, and to share stories may help in creating networks of support and amplify perspectives within an organization or workplace.”

With this program launch, we’re allowing BIPOC mentors with different backgrounds and perspectives to connect and empower the next generation of leaders. This is especially important as it will help increase the diversity of the leadership teams who will become the future decision-makers. 

To find out more about our BIPOC mentorship program, please view the program FAQs on our blog. You can register to be a protégé by visiting:

Fall 2020 Mentorship Program FAQs

Register to be a protégé by visiting:

Why is interVivos organizing a mentorship program focused exclusively on BIPOC mentors?

The interVivos board is thrilled to highlight many amazing Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) volunteer mentors in the Edmonton community.  We recognize the importance of diversity and support one another in creating a sense of belonging for all. interVivos is fiercely non-partisan, but diversity has always been one of our values. 

BIPOC citizens are generally underrepresented in leadership positions, leaving a gap in diversity and workforce perspectives. If fewer people mentor BIPOC people, fewer BIPOC people will rise to leadership positions. The program is an opportunity for BIPOC mentors with varied careers, backgrounds, and perspectives to empower the next generation of BIPOC leaders.

Who can register to be a protégé in this program?

Protégés from all backgrounds are welcome to register. We have always encouraged our protégés to pick a mentor who looks different from them and/or has a different professional background from them.  

Do I have to live in Edmonton to participate in the program?

Yes. interVivos is an Edmonton-based nonprofit, and our mentorship programs are focused on supporting our community. Although the program will launch virtually due to COVID-19, we are hopeful that it will be safe for mentors and protégés to meet in person in early 2021 for their match meetings.

What kind of support does interVivos provide to protégés? 

interVivos is creating a safe space for all participants to share their experiences. We use an open-door policy to build trust and a supportive environment. The interVivos board has completed diversity and inclusion training to ensure the program is impactful and serves all participants well. We have several tools and resources available for protégés to prepare for the launch and throughout the program.

What will the BIPOC mentors get out of the program?

Our mentors are volunteers who are looking to give back to their community. Mentors will share their ideas and experiences as a BIPOC leader in Edmonton to assist you in your career journey. 

What will protégés work on during the program?

We understand that some of the protégés in this program may wish to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities associated with being a BIPOC professional in Edmonton. We welcome this, but our mentorship programs offer protégés so much more.

Protégés leave our mentorship programs with enhanced confidence and leadership skills. Others work towards concrete goals that they have set out for themselves, such as creating a business plan or a website.  To find out about the experiences of past protégés in other programs, check out our blog posts featuring Stephen and his mentor Nafisa and Giselle and her mentor Ken.

Will I find a job at the end of the program?

Our mentorship programs are not a platform to ask mentors for a job. This upcoming program is no different. Protégés should pursue this mentorship program if they are looking to elevate their career, change career paths, develop a specific goal, or solve a personal or professional challenge (for example, imposter syndrome). A mentor’s role is to listen, guide, provide constructive feedback, and help you achieve actionable outcomes within the program’s six-month duration. 

Why is there a cost to the mentorship program?

We are a volunteer-run nonprofit. Protégés pay a small fee to keep our operating expenses low and our programs affordable for all Edmontonians. For each program, interVivos uses a portion of revenue to offer no-cost protégé spots to diverse community organizations.  

Typically, interVivos charges our protégés $80 to participate in a mentorship program. We are hardly in a typical time, and the virtual mentorship program’s price reflects the economic reality. interVivos is proud to provide protégé spots on a sliding scale of either $50, $60, or $70 to allow you to pay what you can for a protégé spot. 

How does a virtual mentorship launch work?

We had our first virtual mentorship launch this past summer on Zoom. Mentors and protégés could connect by utilizing the “breakout rooms” feature in Zoom for the speed rotations and networking. 

How does interVivos recruit the protégés?

interVivos protégé spots sell out quickly and the program often has a waiting list.  

All interVivos protégés self-select to be a part of the program. Many hear about the program through social media, our mailing list, our board members, and past mentors and protégés. Some are even repeating protégés who want to work on different goals with another mentor.

How does the organization select the mentors?

Our volunteer mentors are referred to us by former mentors, former protégés, board members, the interVivos Advisors, sponsors, and volunteers. We select mentors for each program to ensure that we have mentors representing diverse professional backgrounds, genders, ages, and racial backgrounds.

Some mentors have reached out to interVivos directly and asked if they can participate. We do some informal screening to ensure that protégés get the best mentors available in the community.

We are also excited to have some former protégés become mentors over the years. And some mentors ask to mentor again! If you know of any potential mentors for future programs, please email at any time.

Will mentors and protégés be able to meet in person during the 6-month program?

interVivos advises that all mentors and protégés follow Alberta Health Service guidelines and City of Edmonton bylaws (check their websites often for the most up to date information). During the program, matches must meet at least three times. This may be done virtually or in-person with Covid-19 protocols in place (physical distancing, mask use, etc.). 

Read more about The Importance of Mentors who are Black, Indigenous, People of Colour.  

Register to be a protégé by visiting:

Meet our new interns!

interVivos is pleased to welcome two youth interns. The interns joined the board at our September 2020 bi-monthly board meeting as voting board members until March 2021.

We are a placement organization with Volunteer Alberta’s Youth at the Table program and the University of Alberta’s Non-Profit Board Student Internship Program. The youth will be joining our organization to get first-hand experience of how boards work. They will participate in meetings, learn basic non-profit governance, and will each work on a small project connected to our strategic plan.

interVivos has hosted youth board members for several years. We are delighted that one of the previous youth, Madison Lorenz, has been a board member since May 2020 and will be mentoring our youth this year.

Our vision is a generation of inspired and informed leaders. Initiatives such as this support that vision and work to support youth as they transition from their studies to careers. COVID-19 has impacted many people in the community, but in particular youth dealing with so much uncertainty. Our board interns will be participating in the upcoming Fall 2020 mentorship program to build broader connections during this disconnected time. Their mentors will also help them work on their professional goals.

Meet our interns:

Khadija Memon is our Non-Profit Board intern, and she is currently in her third year of an Arts degree in Psychology and Economics. She volunteers with the Peer Support Centre and works as an English Language Facilitator. Originally from Pakistan, she is passionate about diversity and community engagement. 





Victoria Pearson is our Youth at the Table intern and graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science specializing in psychology, with a research certificate. She works as a part-time legal assistant and explored launching a Parenting Support Service with a law firm. When Victoria was in school, she started regularly volunteering with her NDP constituency association, which turned into running the association as President.  She then revived the NDP campus club to get more youth involved in politics and established a lasting board framework that allowed the club to continue, even though there is high membership turnover in a school club.

PODCAST: How to be a great mentor

This Kellogg Insight podcast is based on insights from Diane Brink and Carter Cast. It can be found at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Getting the right words of wisdom at the right time can make all the difference to your career. But how do you make that happen—both for yourself and for others around you?

In this episode of the Kellogg Insight podcast, we hear from Diane Brink, a senior fellow and adjunct professor within the Kellogg School’s Markets & Customers Initiative who served as CMO for IBM’s global technology services about her own journey from protégé to mentor. Then Carter Cast, a clinical professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at Kellogg, describes how you can solicit advice that can help accelerate your career even in the absence of a mentor.



Podcast Transcript

Jessica LOVE: Early in her career, Diane Brink was labeled a high-potential future executive. Her employer put her on a senior leadership development track. She was hungry to become an executive. And there was a point when it looked like it was finally going to happen.

Diane BRINK: I had, in my view, based upon all of the input that I had gotten from my management, done everything that I could have possibly done. My next job was going to be that executive job. Checked off every single box in the development plan. My manager came to me and said, “We’ve got this great opportunity. We want you to be the executive assistant to the CFO of North America.” And I wanted to scream, but I didn’t.

LOVE: Executive … assistant.

No, Brink didn’t scream. Instead, she did something much better. She got some career advice.

BRINK: So, I called this man, who I had worked for, and he listened to me. He listened to my frustration. He said to me, “So Diane, how long do you think you’re going to be working for?” I said, “Well, I don’t know. Maybe 25, 35 years.” He said, “These EA jobs are typically 12 to 18 months. So, do you think that there might be something that you’d learn in those 12 to 18 months that might help you down the road?” I literally put my head in my lap because what he was saying was so obvious. It was right in front of me, and I didn’t see it.

LOVE: Brink took the executive assistant job. And as her mentor predicted, what she learned and who she met ended up being incredibly valuable. From that position, she eventually rose to become IBM’s chief marketing officer for global technology services. She’s now a senior fellow and adjunct professor within the Kellogg School’s Markets & Customers Initiative.

Getting the right words of wisdom at the right time can make all the difference to your career. But how do you make that happen?

Welcome to the Kellogg Insight podcast. I’m your host, Jessica Love. Today, our producer Fred Schmalz talks to Kellogg faculty members Diane Brink and Carter Cast about how to find and develop trusted sources of career advice. That can mean establishing a formal relationship with a mentor. Or it can mean seeking out less formal feedback from colleagues and higher-ups about what will help you advance in your company. Stay with us.

Fred SCHMALZ: Diane Brink has gained so much from being mentored that she now routinely mentors others. From her experience on both sides of that mentor–protégé relationship, she’s developed a rock-solid sense of what a healthy, productive mentoring arrangement should look like.

Perhaps the most important thing mentors can do, she says, is to offer nonjudgmental support.

BRINK: The whole idea behind the mentoring relationship is that it’s a penalty-free environment. But unless you create an environment that is open and trusting, you might not necessarily get really what’s on a person’s mind or what’s bothering them or something they really want to ask you but they don’t feel comfortable asking because you happen to be somewhat more senior than they are.

SCHMALZ: A good mentor is also someone who prioritizes being a good mentor.

There are plenty of people who would be glad to act as a sounding board … in theory. But when it comes to making time on their calendar, things just never seem to happen.

Or maybe they show up physically, but aren’t really present.

BRINK: Some mentors fail because they haven’t really embraced the role. They’re there just to listen but not to engage. That’s not very helpful. It’s a missed opportunity for the mentor, and it’s also a missed opportunity for the protégé.

SCHMALZ: Brink has advice for protégés too.

Let’s say you’ve found a mentor who truly makes time for you and who maintains a supportive, nonjudgmental attitude. What should you expect out of the relationship?

According to Brink, the answer may not be as transactional as you think.

BRINK: For example, there was a time I was paired with someone, a young woman exec, who was in the marketing function. A lot of times in function, you do a lot of mentoring to make sure that you’re succession-planning and your talent development is moving into new jobs and opportunities. When we met, she sat down, and not even two minutes into the conversation was a conversation about the next job that she was going to get and how I was going to help her get there.

I had to stop the conversation and say, “Wait, mentoring is not about finding you your next job.”

That’s not your role. Your role is to help that individual realize their potential, offer them perspective for assignments that they might have considered, talk about where their strengths are and maybe work a little bit more on their weaknesses. It’s not about finding this person their next job.

SCHMALZ: As with so much in life, what you get out of mentorship mirrors exactly what you put into it. Brink remembers one protégé who asked to meet monthly. Each time, one week before their meeting, he emailed her an agenda. Not only did that impress the heck out of her, it also demonstrated that he was committed to making the relationship as productive as possible.

Protégés also have to be ready to discuss what they want out of their own careers. A mentor can do many things, but they can’t tell you how to live your life.

BRINK: The first thing I start with is a discussion around, do they know what they want? Do they know what’s important to them?

I talk about the fact that they really drive their career. That they’re going to have a lot of people providing their point of view on what you should be doing with your career, and it’s not their decision. It’s your decision.

One of the things that I will do throughout my mentoring relationships is to encourage the individual to think about where they see themselves four or five jobs from now.

I think it forces the person to think more broadly about their development plan and the types of challenges and potential assignments that they should consider so that they can get there.

SCHMALZ: If both mentor and protégé work at the relationship, it can truly change the trajectory of the protégé’s career.

But Brink is also quick to point out that the benefits of mentoring go both ways. And the rewards for mentors go beyond just feeling good about helping someone else. For instance, mentoring can be a great way to learn about new developments—in your organization and in your industry.

BRINK: You get insight in terms of how the power structure is perceived and the political environment. You get a sense of how the culture is working in the organization. If you’re in a senior position, you don’t necessarily get to see front and center all of those different dimensions of what’s happening at whatever level, whether you’re mentoring a professional, whether you’re mentoring a new manager, or whether you’re mentoring another executive.

I think the other insight is how well is the company communicating the strategy to the employees. I think it’s pretty clear from my seat, but when you’re having a conversation, a business conversation, and you begin to appreciate the fact that, wow, that individual missed this aspect of the strategy—that’s an important learning because it helps me to be better at what we need to do to improve to make sure that we’ve got the engagement in place.

SCHMALZ: In addition to having eyes and ears on the ground in a different level of the company, mentors can benefit from protégés in more practical ways.

BRINK: I was recently paired with what I would characterize as a digital native, who’s just incredible on the social and digital aspects of marketing and the techniques and the tools and just really leading edge. She was working with startup companies out in Silicon Valley. She was dealing with a high-growth, unstructured environment. I was paired with her to help her not go crazy, to kind of say, “There’s a way that you can work through this where you’ll be successful and you’ll thrive in this kind of environment, but let’s talk through how you get there from point A to point B. Never a straight line, but point A to point B.”

What she brought to me was an ability to stay current, more current in the digital universe, because there was no way in my role that I could continue to stay apprised of all of the new tools and techniques and the applications and this and that. Just by talking with her, it allowed me to stay current in an area that was interesting to me and essential to my role.

SCHMALZ: Of course, the satisfaction of helping a young colleague learn and grow is pretty awesome all on its own.

BRINK: The best mentor is the one that really works to understand who you are and is not there to judge you, but is there to just help you realize your full potential.

It’s about giving back. It’s not just about taking. The more that you can understand that and incorporate that into who you are, I think the happier and richer your life is going to be.

SCHMALZ: It’s hard to beat personalized career advice from a long-standing, trusted mentor. But mentors can be hard to come by in some companies or professions. If that’s the position you’re in, here’s some valuable career advice that should apply to just about everyone.

Carter Cast is clinical professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at Kellogg. He’s also the former CEO of and the author of The Right (and Wrong) Stuff: How Brilliant Careers are Made—and Unmade, a new book that asks why some talented people flourish while others see their careers stall.

He says that people who excel share three behavioral traits.

Carter CAST: One, they take the initiative. They dive right in. They take accountability for joint outcomes. So if they’re part of a team and there’s a job to be done and things are falling through the cracks because people say, well, that isn’t my area of accountability, and someone else says, well, that’s not my area of accountability—they dive in and do it.

Secondly, they’re good at building relationships. They listen well. They’re open-minded. You know, Saint Francis of Assisi—“They seek to understand before being understood.” And as a result, they engender trust with other coworkers, and so they’re able to enlist them to their cause because they’re a good teammate.

And third, they drive for results. If they say they’re going to get it done Friday, they stay ‘til midnight if they have to to get it out the door on Friday.

“Mentoring is not about finding you your next job.”

— Diane Brink

SCHMALZ: Got that? Take initiative, build relationships, and drive for results, and you are on your way to success.

But what does success look like in practice? Specifically, what should it look like in your job? And no matter how much initiative you take, or how strong your drive for results, do you have the underlying skills—technical or interpersonal—to actually pull it off?

The best way to find out, says Cast, is to actually … ask.

CAST: It’s incumbent on us to ask our boss, “What are the key competencies in this position that really are important that I need to develop?”

SCHMALZ: And if your boss doesn’t seem open to this type of conversation….

CAST: I’ve always gone to peers or people that were a level above me who’ve been there before. Because they can really help you develop that roadmap of success. And generally, they’re flattered when a younger underling says, “I really admire your career, your career trajectory. Can I buy you lunch and can you talk to me about what you’ve learned and what’s important for me to build from a skillset standpoint?” I’ve never had anybody say no when I’ve done that.

People will talk all day about that stuff; they love talking about themselves.

SCHMALZ: Once you have your answer, or better yet, many answers, it’s time to get methodical.

Cast recommends compiling a list—an actual, written list of the skills that you need to have to do your job well—and then grading yourself on each and every one.

CAST: I was in brand marketing and I had a list of about, I think it was 14 activities or skills that I needed to be able to do. For example, I needed to be able to do regression analysis. I needed to be able to do a break-even analysis. Then there was a whole category of strategic marketing, segmenting markets, figuring out how to position products competitively by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the competition…. You get the point.

So there were 14 of them. And then I put, here’s where I am now—a C here, a D here, a B+ here. And then I looked at the areas where I had big gaps, and I just slowly but surely went about trying to narrow that gap between what I knew and what I needed to know.

SCHMALZ: If you need help grading yourself on some of these skills, particularly softer skills that are harder to self-evaluate, why not turn to others? Ask them directly: Do I have the attitude or working style to truly succeed at this company?

When Cast was a senior product marketer at FritoLay, he had a conversation with his boss that dramatically changed his trajectory. Cast had thought he was on the fast track at the company. But in reality, he learned, he’d gotten a reputation as uncooperative. Unmanageable. In other words, unpromotable. He also realized that the only way to change his reputation was to take that feedback—those grades—and put them to use.

CAST: It was up to me to say, OK, I tend to have a problem when the heavy hand of authority pushes on me. How am I going to get better at dealing with authority figures?

SCHMALZ: If that sounds like a painful process, it was for Cast. No one likes to find out that they need a major course correction. But as Cast points out, pain is often the impetus for change. And being able to change … well, that can make a huge difference—both in the way you approach learning and in people’s perceptions about your willingness to take criticism.

CAST: Learning how to be learning-agile is the most important thing you can do for your career.

So what does that mean? It means being open-minded and listening and not talking all the time. Innovators have a six-to-one ratio of questions asked to statements made.

And they’re critical of their own performance and reflective about it. How could I have done that better? What could I have done differently? And they ask people for feedback.

So, having this humility about knowledge and never thinking that you’re on top of your game, always feeling a little bit paranoid that there’s a lot you don’t know and that you’re in a state of beta with yourself and your career. I’m 54, and I’m always in this state of testing and trying new things because I don’t know very much.

LOVE: This program was produced by Jessica Love, Fred Schmalz, Emily Stone, and Michael Spikes. It was written by Anne Ford.

Special thanks to our guests, Diane Brink and Carter Cast.

As a reminder, you can find us on iTunes, Google Play, or our website, where you can read more about how to find the best sources of career advice. Visit us at We’ll be back next month with another episode of the Kellogg Insight podcast.

How interVivos launched a mentorship program during a pandemic

interVivos has connected over 600 high-calibre mentors and ambitious protégés in the Edmonton area through our mentorship program. The program is offered twice per year and typically launches with an in-person event. When COVID-19 hit in March, we knew it was impossible to launch the summer 2020 program the traditional way. We also knew there was still an appetite among Edmontonians to work on their professional goals despite the pandemic.

interVivos wants to continue to inspire and engage Edmontonians during this disconnected time. That is why the Board came together and worked quickly to modify the program. We reduced the number of participants and decided to deliver the launch over Zoom. 

The virtual launch event emulated the elements of an in-person interVivos mentorship launch experience. Mentors and protégés were prompted to get to know one another on a deeper level through group engagement activities, one-on-one rotations, and opportunities for post-event networking.  Over 100 breakout rooms were created during the event to allow mentors and protégés to meet one-on-one and determine who they want to be matched with during the program. There was even a 50/50 raffle and group trivia challenge.

Emcee Jeff Samsonow says, “the interVivos board really put something great together.” Former interVivos protégé, Soni Dasmohapatra, returned as a mentor in the summer 2020 program and was also joined by 2 repeat protégés.  

In the background, interVivos volunteers pulled out all the stops to make the event a success. This included providing support to anyone who ran into technical difficulties. Mentor Terry Tobin says, “if there were any minor apprehensions, they were blown away. We were so well supported.”  Even Peg, the interVivos mascot, supported the launch by moderating the chat box. 

A virtual mentorship launch was a first for interVivos and it was a huge success. The next mentorship program, launching in November 2020, will feature exclusively Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) mentors. interVivos invites protégés from all backgrounds to register. Follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter) or join our mailing list so you don’t miss out on your chance to register. If you are interested in being a mentor with interVivos for this program, please email us.

Success Story: Our Partnership with Edmonton Heritage Council

Last year, our friends at the Edmonton Heritage Council (EHC) reached out for our support to pilot a mentorship program for heritage-sector professionals. interVivos immediately saw the value of sharing resources and expertise with EHC and partnered with them to support their goal of elevating diverse voices.

EHC is a local non-profit organization that connects Edmontonians to the stories of their city through leadership, support, and programs. In an effort to build professional capacity for Heritage professionals and to aid with succession and sustainability planning in the sector, interVivos mentored EHC in developing the structure for the program and hosting the mentor and protégé matching event.

Overall, the pilot mentorship program was a success and serves as a great example of how organizations can maximize their resources and experience through sharing.

You can read more about our collaboration with EHC here.

If you are interested in mentorship opportunities in Edmonton, our Summer 2020 mentorship program launches on July 14, 2020. Check out our events page for more information on how to register.


Remembering A Provincial Affair

On the one year anniversary of our event, A Provincial Affair, we decided to look back at the event and its impact on attendees.

interVivos’ Provincial Election event, A Provincial Affair, was a sell out in April 2019.

We welcomed a diverse crowd of attendees, all of whom share a passion for political action in our community. We were also fortunate to have many first time attendees, including Derek Volker.

Derek was the first person to register for the event. We caught up with him to ask for his thoughts on the event; this is what Derek had to say:


Q: This was your first time attending an interVivos event, and you were the first to register. What prompted you to attend the event?

A: An invitation from a board member and also an awareness of events from following interVivos social media.


Q: What do you think is the most important political issue facing Albertans?

A: I think the topics selected at the event were a good representation of the important issues.


Q: How can others get engaged in the democratic process, and what can we all do to encourage others?

A: Write your MLA or elected official, follow the democratic process in the news, watch Assembly feeds online (including bill debate and not just Question Period), and join an advocacy campaign for an issue you are passionate about. Having conversations is critical, even if just high level. Politics shouldn’t always be avoided as a topic of conversation. That can lead to further polarization and/or lack of engagement if there are never discussions about it.  Respectful conversations can be both informative and engaging.


Q: This was your first time at an interVivos event. What did you think?

A: The event was well planned and had good discussions with varying perspectives. I’m looking forward to attending other events in the future.


Q: What was your biggest take away from the event?

A: That there are a lot of people who want to engage in policy discussions on matters that may not be the top ballot issues at any given time, but are still important to discuss and for people to be aware of. I.e. getting past the rhetoric of politics and into real policy discussions/debates.


Next up for interVivos is our Summer 2020 Mentorship Program launch that will take place virtually on July 14, 2020! Stay tuned for more information and make sure to check our events page often.

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