“My First Mentor Changed My Life”

By Lakecia Gunter, Chief of Staff, Intel Labs

When I first joined Intel, my manager went out of her way to help me quickly build my network at the company. A 27-year veteran at the company, Pam Lusardi gave me a list of people to meet immediately and sent personal notes of introduction to start the dialogue. I affectionately call this initial small group of seasoned, smart and successful employees “my personal board of directors.” Along with Pam, they provided me with an invaluable insider’s view on how to get things done and navigate Intel’s large, complex landscape.

Pam signed up to be a key partner in my success, and because of the network she helped me build, I was able to make an impact early, setting me up for long-term career opportunities that I’d eventually pursue. Tragically, Pam died in a plane crash six months after I arrived at Intel, but she’s always been with me in spirit and I often reflect on how she gave so much of herself to help me and others.

To the Rescue!

Loss is a part of life, as we all know. However, it presents a particular challenge when you’ve lost a work colleague as organizations must address the immediate need to fill the void left behind and keep teams on track while at the same time giving employees time to mourn and grieve. And here’s where my network quickly became the major cornerstone of my career—and a lifeline. I experienced tremendous pain and trauma when losing Pam, who had become an amazing friend. I really began to feel like a ship without an anchor and honestly didn’t know how I was going to be able to make it at Intel without her.  But my network rallied around me and committed to help me accomplish the goals Pam had envisioned for me.

In our last one-on-one meeting, Pam advised me that I would be a great technical assistant (TA) to a senior Intel executive. I didn’t know at the time that she also shared this goal with my other mentors. Pam explained that a TA plays a vital role to an executive in that he or she becomes a trusted technical advisor to the executive, assisting him or her and the staff in defining the organization’s strategy and technology priorities and leading the charge for various projects and initiatives on the executive’s behalf. I was intrigued and decided that I should seriously investigate how a TA role would become part of my career path at Intel.

My Support System Comes Through Again

When a TA opportunity for Intel’s chief technology officer (CTO) hit the radar, several individuals in my network immediately reached out to me. What’s more, when they were asked by the CTO and his current TA who would be a good fit for the role, they all “wore my T-shirt” by advocating for me and communicating my interest, which provided me with instant credibility. Without their endorsement, I may not have even had the opportunity to interview for the job since I was unknown to the CTO and his TA. It’s important to note that when opportunities like this come up, one has to be ready to react quickly, and that certainly was the case here. I was one of the last candidates to interview for the role but ultimately I was the one selected.

Talk about a game changer in my career: If it were not for my network, I would have never been able to seize to this opportunity. If it were not for those valuable discussions with my “board of directors,” I may have never taken that risk to leave a perfectly good job where I was thriving to do something completely different.

My network has been paramount to my success in navigating Intel and in building a successful corporate career. I can’t underscore enough the importance of nurturing your relationships and strengthening those connections for the long haul—and paying it forward by mentoring others. As the famous Bible verse says, “A man that has friends must show himself friendly.”

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