My job requires quite a bit of blue-sky thinking – I am very much a creative individual – so I wanted someone to help me take those concepts and apply them to the business.
Five or six years ago, I decided to find a mentor. It wasn’t part of a formal mentoring scheme, more a question of me choosing someone, then approaching them. At that time I had a dotted-line responsibility to the person I had in mind, and she is now my boss. You might think there would be a conflict there, but it hasn’t worked out that way. In an ideal world, a mentor would be separate from your role, but if you have a strong, open relationship, and are both transparent people who can give and take constructive criticism, it will work. I know I’m in a unique situation.
I picked Cindy Nicola as a mentor because she heads up the talent acquisition at EA – she has overall responsibility for recruitment and helping drive thought leadership. I hoped she would mentor me in my creative thinking, both on a European and a global basis.
Although she’s my boss, the mentoring has continued. We still have brainstorming sessions where we look at my performance and my current workload, and she will coach me on the best way to make a difference to the business.
This relationship really helps further the new ideas coming into the business, so I definitely want it to continue. If I left the business, Cindy would still be my mentor. If I had to find another mentor, I would want someone with honesty, transparency, the ability to give constructive criticism, and a tendency to challenge the status quo, rather than just accepting the existing situation. I would also want someone who is up for blazing trails.
I have been a mentor, too. There are people who have now left EA that I still keep in contact with – we discuss career decisions and current business situations. I try to give them the benefit of my experience, so they can make informed decisions.
I have a number of people I like to call my inner circle. There’s Cindy, then a former university professor, who I use as my career guide – he will look at any decisions I have to take from a very independent point of view. And I have a very close group of friends who will challenge my thinking. My philosophy is to challenge anything I do – if my idea is sound, it will stand up to the challenge. If it isn’t, it needs to be amended. It’s important to always be open to being challenged.