In conjunction with the Birmingham Women in Technology’s new Speaker Series, we will be doing a follow up Q & A with the speaker after each event. Our first Q & A is with Cheryl Ross, Director of Programs for MOMENTUM. Cheryl spoke at our February 17th event.
MOMENTUM is a nonprofit agency focused on women’s leadership development. Every day is different! Right now we are in the home stretch for our MOMENTUM Awards & Conference on March 2 & 3 (www.momentumleaders.org), so days are filled with phone calls, emails, and work on program sessions, continuing education credits, and the conference bookstore.
Briefly tell us a little bit about your history. Any significant events that shaped your character/personality?
I have always loved learning. Reading, writing, and teaching are part of who I am. I was one of those nerdy college students who spent quite a lot of time in the library. At the same time, though, I was involved with a student organization that strongly emphasized the importance of mentoring others. It was in college that I first realized that no matter where I was in life, I always had something to offer someone who wasn’t as far along the road as I was. I have taken that philosophy with me throughout my career in nonprofit work, higher education, and faith based organizations and always try to invest in others.
Speaking of mentoring, what’s required for a successful mentoring relationship? Is there a certain level of commitment, time, etc.?
I think the main commitment required for mentoring is caring about people. Being a good question asker- and listener- are essential. Knowing how to give healthy feedback is crucial. Although time together is important, it is the quality of the time that is essential. And…don’t take things TOO seriously – take time to laugh and enjoy each other!
If you had to create a structured formal mentoring program what would the program be like?
The program would involve ongoing training for both mentors and mentees about how to be good communicators and build trust. It would address setting goals and boundaries. It would offer suggestions on resources and topics to discuss. It would provide ongoing support to both mentors and mentees about how to get the most out of the relationship. The program would encourage and support the mentoring pair as much as possible – but also give space for them to create a unique relationship.
If you had the chance to be mentored by anyone (formally or informally) who would it be and why?
One of my favorite author is Brene Brown. I know I could learn so much from her about research methods and writing, as well as the human spirit, if I had the opportunity to spend time with her.
In term of your own career development, what do you wish you had done differently and why?
This is an interesting question. While I love what I have been a part of in my career, I do wish I had gone back to school for my doctorate earlier. I loved every minute of the process and just wish I wouldn’t have put it off for so long!
What motivates you?
I am HIGHLY motivated by making a difference. This is probably number 1, 2, and 3 on my list! I want to know that what I do matters in terms of impacting both individuals and groups of people to think more deeply about their lives and their relationships. I want to be known for being a person of love, understanding, and grace – as well as a hard worker!
Tell us a little about yourself outside of your career. Family? Hobbies?
I met my husband, Nate, our freshman year of college in Calculus class! We have been married for 24 years. We love to travel, as well as to serve others together and have done so a number of times in East and West Africa.
Although I’ve always been athletic, I hated running until my early 30s. Now, I run all the time and have completed many marathons and half-marathons. In 2015, I set a personal goal of running everyday – and I did it! (One day involved running in place in a hotel room in Nairobi after almost 24 hours of travel!)
I also enjoy reading, good food, nerdy podcasts, and laughing until I cry with friends.
Anything else you’d like to share with us about your career?
I love to teach and train others about mentoring, public speaking, and interpersonal communication. I have found ways to incorporate these passions into almost every position I have had and always enjoy helping other groups and individuals with this.
Any final comments?
There is still time to register for the MOMENTUM Conference – but only a few days (Feb. 25th at midnight is the deadline). The conference will be a wonderful opportunity to hear fantastic keynote speakers, Judge Glenda Hatchett and Diana Nyad, as well as more than 40 outstanding women panelists from around the state. Check out the website for more information: www.momentumleaders.org
Thank you for sharing with us, Cheryl! Click HERE to see the slide presentation from this Speakers Series event.
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