Audrey Gonzalez was advancing her cybersecurity career when, instead of looking to the next rung, she thought about leaving the profession altogether.\u201cI felt inadequate. I was feeling like I was not cut out for this type of work, that my peers were more qualified,\u201d Gonzalez remembers.Had she left, Gonzalez\u2019s departure would have been one more blow to a field that already suffers from too few professionals to meet demand as well as an underrepresentation of women.But before that happened, Gonzalez shared her self-doubts with her mentor who in turn shared insights about impostor syndrome\u2014the feeling of being not as competent as others believe you to be\u2014and how common it is.The conversation buoyed Gonzalez, who decided to stick with cybersecurity.\u201cThat was something I worked on with [my mentor], she coached me through that feeling,\u201d Gonzalez says. \u201cShe helped me understand it\u2019s OK to volunteer for stretch projects to learn and build up that confidence. The feelings I had are still there, but I now manage that; it\u2019s not something that\u2019s hindering me from setting goals and going after them and staying in security.\u201dGonzalez is now a senior information security analyst with General Dynamics Information Technology, a job she landed in March 2021 after a three-year tenure at NextEra Energy. She credits the work with her mentor back in 2019 with keeping her in cybersecurity and on the advancement track.Gonzalez credits the mentorship program, Lift, too. Linda R. Dolceamore, Director Leadership Development, Executive Women\u2019s ForumLift is the mentoring program at Alta Associates\u2019 Executive Women\u2019s Forum (EWF) on Information Security, Risk Management and Privacy, a leadership and learning community designed to advance women working in that space. It\u2019s designed to give mentees and mentors opportunities to build their skills, make new connections and accelerate their success.\u201cWe\u2019re equipping them to go back to their organizations as better leaders,\u201d says Linda R. Dolceamore, the EWF\u2019s director of leadership development.Goal-setting and accountabilityMentorship has been a longstanding professional practice recognized for helping junior workers learn the ropes, navigate challenges, and move their careers forward. One study, from Olivet Nazarene University, found that 76% of professionals involved in mentorship considered their mentors important or very important. Yet only 44% of those surveyed said they have ever had a professional mentor. And of those who have mentors, 59% described the relationship as \u201ccasual and loose\u201d with only 41% saying that their mentors helped them work toward formal goals. Some 61% said their mentors worked with them at the same organization.EWF took a different approach.Joyce Brocaglia, Alta Associates CEO and EWF founder, and Dolceamore had had in place a small peer-mentoring program that dated back a decade or so. In 2017 they decided to rework it, evolving it to a more structured program that is now known as Lift.\u201cWe just saw a plethora of talented, experienced and knowledgeable women and thought there was a much bigger opportunity to connect women one to one so they could harness the wealth of knowledge in our community,\u201d Dolceamore says.Lift offers two mentoring programs a year. With each program, Lift matches mentees and mentors who work together over a six-month period during which the pair agree to keep in regular contact. The timeframe creates a sense of urgency, motivating participants to get work done, Dolceamore says.Participants work on specific goals set by mentees; they outline targets and objectives to ensure accountability and progress. Mentees and mentors can access on-demand training and education through Lift, and mentors can earn an EWF Master Mentor designation as part of the leadership development opportunities offered. Mentees can also opt for 360-degree assessments.The spring 2021 session has some 165 pairs of women. There have been some 1,000 pairings overall, with many women who started as mentees later becoming mentors themselves.The value in elevating othersMultiple mentees, mentors, and their enterprise bosses say they get a lot of value from the program, something that brings them back year after year.That\u2019s the case with Target, which has a long-standing relationship with EWF and has had its female security workers participate in EWF programs. In fact, Target has had 42 team members participate as either mentors or mentees in all eight Lift program rounds; 23 of those workers have participated in more than one round, and 12 have participated as both mentees and mentors.Brenda Bjerke, a senior director of cybersecurity at Target, is one of the company\u2019s most active participants, having been a mentor in all eight Lift rounds. She was also the first EWF member and Target employee to complete the Master Mentor training. Brenda Bjerke, senior director of cybersecurity, Target\u201cI\u2019ve been a mentee since the very start of my career and each mentor has helped shape how I work and lead today. As soon as I could, I began mentoring others\u2014formally and informally\u2014so I could pass on all that I\u2019ve learned and help elevate other women. It\u2019s incredible how much you also grow and learn by supporting others in their careers. Mentoring relationships are mutually beneficial and important no matter what stage your career is in,\u201d Bjerke says.Target CISO Rich Agostino agrees.\u201cWe want all our team members to feel as empowered as possible to develop professionally as practitioners and leaders\u2014especially in a rapidly evolving industry like cybersecurity,\u201d Agostino says. \u201cIn addition to our own internal mentoring network at Target, EWF and the Lift program are valuable ongoing opportunities for our team members to connect with and learn from others in the industry with outside perspective and unique insights.\u201dHe adds: \u201cHaving a strong network of mentors has played a pivotal role in my career and I want others to have the same\u2014particularly those who have historically been underrepresented in cybersecurity.\u201dFemale by designLift only accepts women, who must be either individual members of EWF or part of organizations signed up as benefactors. It also only matches mentees with mentors outside of their own employer.Brocaglia said Lift\u2019s structure was deliberate and thoughtful. She explained that pairing professionals who aren\u2019t at the same company gave them more space to be their authentic selves and discuss challenges without worrying about how their comments could impact them at their workplaces. Joyce Brocaglia, Alta Associates CEO and EWF founder\u201cTo this day, it\u2019s one of the top benefits women cite about the program, the ability for outside insights and the safety they feel sharing their fears, their challenges, and their hopes. They have somebody who will listen and keep those things confidential and give a different perspective than someone internal,\u201d Brocaglia says.Ericka Wylie-Chambers, a senior security public policy analyst at Exelon Corp., first participated as a mentee in 2019, joining as part of a group of women from her company.Wylie-Chambers identified as one of her goals a desire to become a more effective team member. \u201cI had always worked as an independent worker, but Exelon is very collaborative and team-oriented, and that was different for me,\u201d she says, adding that she wanted to learn how to become \u201can approachable advocate on a team.\u201d Ericka Wylie-Chambers, senior security public policy analyst, Exelon Corp.Her mentor helped her work on that goal, discussing, for example, how to read a room and respond appropriately to others in such circumstances and how to be a leader from the position she held.Wylie-Chambers says Lift\u2019s design\u2014specifically the fact that her mentor was outside her own company as well as its goal-setting and accountability structures\u2014helped her more fully tackle these areas she targeted for improvement.\u201cMy mentor held my hands to the fire even when I was licking my paws, and I appreciated that. She held me accountable,\u201d says Wylie-Chambers, who remains active in EWF\u2019s other programs.As for the women-only aspect, Brocaglia and Dolceamore both say it allows participants to discuss the unique challenges that female professionals face.\u201cThey might be the only woman in the room, and they can learn from other women who might have experienced that. They can benefit from someone who already cut through that path,\u201d Dolceamore says. \u201cThere is a shared experience.\u201dCareer transformation aheadBrocaglia says the woman-to-woman pairing also helps mentees better visualize their career paths ahead.\u201cNot only does that show them someone who blazed that trail, it makes it real to them. It then becomes very relatable; they can see themselves doing those [senior] roles someday,\u201d she says.Stacy Mill started as a mentee with the earlier version of the EWF\u2019s mentorship program. She joined as a way to find people who could help her chart her path to the C-suite as well as expand her own insights.She says she found the biggest value in the accountability provided by Lift\u2019s structure as well as its policy of matching participants who don\u2019t work together to bring new perspectives to both mentee and mentor. Stacy Mill, chief technology officer, State of Kansas\u201cThere\u2019s no way I would have had the same access to the types of leaders I had if I hadn\u2019t been in Lift,\u201d she says. She says the time for introspection and mentor feedback outside the workplace were big benefits. \u201cIt made me more relaxed and open to the process.\u201dMill is now deputy chief information technology officer and CTO with the State of Kansas, a member on the EWF Board of Advisors and a Lift mentor. She still finds her work with the program \u201ctransformative.\u201d\u201cIt helps me think about how I\u2019m going to mentor both males and females within my organization,\u201d she says.Nazira Carlage, a director in security assurance at Salesforce and another longtime Lift participant, also credits the program with helping her advance her career. She signed up as a mentee when she was looking to move from a front-line manager role toward a director position, explaining that she was particularly interested in learning from more senior women how they determined their career paths.Carlage says her mentor helped her understand that what she did to succeed as a manager wasn\u2019t going to get her to the next level. \u201cThat helped me shift off some projects onto new ones to build what was needed to move up,\u201d she says.Her mentor also helped her find ways to get more visibility for her and her team which in turn helped Carlage land the right resources to be successful. Nazira Carlage, director of product security, Salesforce\u201cIt allowed me to build the program in a certain way, get more resources, get more of the responsibilities I was looking for, and then I got promoted,\u201d she added. \u201cIt allowed me to be more intentional about what I need to work on. It helped me focus on the right things.\u201dAfter two rounds as a mentee, Carlage became a mentor to give back. \u201cI felt I could help people moving from [front-line] IT to the management track and could help them do things to set them up to be successful,\u201d she says.