Blog Archive

Friday, March 29, 2013

Women’s History Month Mentoring Session

by Vanita Kataria
Vienna, VA
Senior Associate – Risk Advisory

McGladrey’s Washington DC Metro area offices organized a mentoring session with the offices’ successful leaders on March 29, 2013. In the Vienna office, this mentoring session turned into an open, honest and empowering question and answer hour with Dara Castle, the Washington Metro managing partner and the partner-in-charge of the private equity practice in the Mid-Atlantic region as well as the firm’s government contracting practice.

Dara was asked questions by an audience of 25 women and five men about her work-life balance as a working mother, leadership qualities and skills, the roles her mentors have played in her life, experiences within the firm and with clients, compromises and adjustments women make, her goals and achievements and many more! Dara’s successes, achievements and experiences were reflected in the excitement with which she answered these questions. She stressed that she does not view gender difference as a negative or positive trait – it just is what it is. Gender, racial, religious, or any other differences need to be appreciated and set aside in a professional environment. Dara also empowered the women and men in the room by sharing several examples from her professional and personal life where she has treated differences and changes as opportunities rather than challenges. She drove the point home that in communications with anyone, we find commonality and that’s how relationships evolve. Below are a few of the questions Dara was asked during the session.

Q. How did you develop leadership qualities or were you born with them?A. A little bit of both; I’m naturally an extrovert. Leadership is not something you arrive at; leaders are continually learning and honing their skills.

Q. As a working mother, how do you gracefully leave a meeting when you know your little child is waiting for you?A. It depends on the situation; you can communicate a hard stop to a client or coworker. The reason does not necessarily need to be explained. Everyone can have external commitments and it is okay to meet them.

Q. Tell us about your mentors.A. Mentors have been a big part of my career; people feel hesitant to ask for a mentoring relationship, however, mentors feel grateful to know that you seek their advice. More than one mentor is needed for different aspects like leadership, being a mom, a woman, etc. Mentors that are the best are your strongest champion when you’re not in the room and your strongest critic when you are. Integrity, honesty and open-ness are required in that relationship.

Q. How do you find balance between work and family?A. Balance is different for each person. You have to know yourself and understand the role you take on in your career. My balance perspective is always changing.

Q. if you could look back and talk to yourself, what would you tell yourself knowing what you know now?A. I think there are two things that I wish I had understood better earlier. I wish I had earlier in my career grasped the importance of dedicating time to people who are junior to me in order to develop them. Second thing: you’re never ‘done.’ I used to get frustrated with how frequently things changed in the firm, with how often softwares changed; I wish I had gained an appreciation for the fact that the world and business environment are ever changing earlier. For many years now, I have run toward change and one of the prequalifications for being a leader is being very adaptable to change. Treat change as an opportunity rather than a challenge.

Q. Anything more to add to your journey (for new associates)?A. You probably don’t have the full appreciation for our brand yet; you represent the company to the client as you spend the most time with them. You’re largely dealing with people a bit older than you. Remember that cultural norms are different for them and you. You have to adapt to them. Example, don’t sit in the conference room and email your client… walk up to them and talk. Misinterpretation of a tone in an email happens all the time.

Q. How do you set goals and achieve them?A. I am always seeking a new challenge. My goals are around acquiring new skills and challenges. I always have my eyes on the path less traveled; if no one is going towards it, I will.

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