Speed Mentoring Excellent to Inspire & Motivate


Mary Ann Dore & Megan VanSchaik greet guests as they arrive.

Mentorship. It can be an intimidating word for some and it evokes a pile of questions for many. What is a mentor? Do I need a mentor? How do I find a mentor? Can I be a mentor? What do I ask a mentor?

It was some of these questions the Ag Women’s Network sought to answer and hopefully also bring some clarity too at the recent speed-mentoring event.

“I do think the word, ‘mentor’ is intimidating to some people,” said Mary Ann Dore, one of the AWN Leadership Team members and organizers of the event. “People may feel they are too old for a mentor or too young to be a mentor. In reality, anyone can be a mentor or be mentored.”

Indeed, mentorship is often cited by leaders as one of the most important assets they had in their career. Mentorship was also identified by the Canadian Agricultural HR Council (CAHRC) recently as a means to prepare more women to enter leadership positions.


Katie Cheesmond speaks with a group about her career.

Mentorship itself can also take on many different forms. Katie Cheesmond, Director of Business Development at RLB, opened the evening by sharing how mentors, coaches and sponsors all play different roles in our careers. She challenged the group to consider these roles and how each of us may be able to play them at one time or another.

Often when we think of mentors, many of us think of the longer-term relationships with those who inspire us to be our best selves. Our parents may come to mind as the first mentors in our lives but as we progress in our careers, it’s helpful to have a few people you can seek out to help navigate the tough decisions.

Less talked about, but perhaps as important, are coaches and sponsors. Coaches often provide support specific to a skill or outcome we’re trying to achieve, like negotiating a deal or public speaking. Sponsors are like your champion or advocate. They may recommend you for a role in your company or a position on a board or focus group.

Whereas coaches can provide help with one phone call, mentorship and sponsorship both require some level of relationship to be effective. The mentor need not be in the same sector, or even industry, so long as there is a level of trust and comfort to discuss matters openly.


Steve McCabe shares his experience with AWN member Megan Hutchison.

As a result, the speed-mentoring event provided people with an opportunity to get to know a diverse group of leaders from across the industry through roundtable sessions. Mentors shared their stories and offered encouragement to attendees to seek out what they love, stick to their values and build their network. The goal was as much about networking as mentoring, and most people took advantage of the time afterwards to talk further.

Although not decided if or when another speed-mentoring event will be held, the feedback has been very good thus far. One attendee described it as an “excellent networking event to inspire and motivate you to be your best self!”

The Ag Women’s Network thanks RLB for hosting this event and everyone who participated, especially the mentors.


LtoR: Ann Godkin, Stewart Skinner, Steve McCabe, Elgin Craig, Joan Craig, Brad Adams, Denise Zaborowski, Kelly Ward, Kathleen Shore

New Year – Energized Focus

Happy New Year

As we celebrate our accomplishments in 2015 and look forward to 2016, the Ag Women’s Network blog is also celebrating our first year online.

Rather than reflect on the last year though, we’re excited to share where we’re going this year. We are still all about connections and learning, and we tweaked our mission just slightly to better reflect the intentions of the dynamic women with whom we are engaging.

Our Mission: Connecting and empowering agriculture leaders through sharing, learning and personal development. 

This means we are committed to not just hosting events but ensuring meaningful interactions can take place and people are able to get to know each other more personally. You told us these informal interactions were the most valuable part of the Ag Women’s Network, so we want to better enable these, both live and virtually.

Furthermore, we recognize there are time and travel constraints for many women to be able to attend events. As volunteers with many of the same constraints you face, we appreciate the importance of maximizing the time we commit. This is why we’re hosting a virtual event later this month, so you can participate from wherever is most comfortable. We are also looking at partnership opportunities which allow us to deliver our mission in a way that is more efficient for everyone. In February, we will work with the Innovative Farmers Association Conference to host an event.

Finally, we are super appreciative of your support and ideas over the past three years. With unlimited time or money, we would love to make them all a reality. In lieu of either, we depend on the generosity of our industry and passion of our volunteers to bring a selection of them to fruition.  So long as we are blessed with great volunteers and your encouragement, we will keep this up!


Ag Women’s Network Team