Three years ago, Lisa Blomeyer, senior manager, District Sales, and a leader of the Employee Resource group known as Women Empowered to be Exceptional (WE2) was looking for a way to deliver on a WE2 pillar for developing the workforce. The culture of mentoring within the Commercial function and within the WE2 field chapter promoted 1:1 mentoring, but it was unstructured and inconsistent.
Blomeyer connected with Vanessa Belozeroff, executive director of Program Management, then the Global Chair for WE2, who had developed materials for a WE2 mentoring program and in 2017, the field chapter launched their first pilot. Five teams of 4-5 mentees per mentor met regularly over the course of eight months. It was an astounding success. This year nearly 40 teams are embarking on the program.
For the 1200 members of the WE2 Field Chapter, opportunities to network outside of their business units are limited. Field facing staff, which are organized around therapeutic area within Medical and Commercial, were navigating the isolation of remote work long before COVID-19 made that the norm for many of us. Casual coffee machine interactions have never been part of their workplace.
Pam Storey, regional account executive, Market Access, was part of that pilot. “What I found intriguing was the diversity of people in my group. These were folks I’d had no previous interaction with. This program provided actionable ways to expand on my current skill set, develop extensive networks, and broaden my Amgen knowledge base,” says Storey, who credits the WE2 experience with helping her move into her current position.
The program has been successful for both mentors and mentees, based on the team’s survey results. Ninety-five percent of mentors said the program has met their expectations, not only providing opportunities for them to give back in developing talent, but also providing a fresh prospective to their work. Matt Walsh, manager, District Sales, and long-time WE2 member who now co-leads the mentoring program with Storey says the investment from mentors has been high. “Our mentors are pulled in so many directions, so I was surprised by how many have chosen to increase the number of meetings or added 1:1s with mentees.”
Nominations are required for staff to sign up as mentees and Walsh says the program pulls in high performers. Twenty-seven mentees reported getting promotions during the 2020 program year. Networking was by far the most valuable activity or topic for mentees followed by work-life balance, personal brand and leadership.
“A positive side effect of these groups coming together is the way it’s enhanced our sense of belonging, engagement, and interconnectedness. This is particularly meaningful for all our WE2 members in field facing roles,” says Blomeyer.
Mentoring Matters for All Levels
By her own account, Vanessa Belozeroff, executive director, Portfolio Management & Business Excellence, Biosimilars, is highly networked throughout the company. It’s a result of her four years as the WE2 Global Lead, during which time the Employee Resource Group (ERG) grew from six to 16 chapters, establishing a footprint in all regions. In 2016, she helped create the WE2 Amgen Thousand Oaks group mentoring program. Since that time multiple chapters have participated in the program. WE2 has now mentored more than 1,000 staff. After transitioning the global leadership role to Nada Obeid, executive director, Regional Accounts and the Amgen Thousand Oaks chapter leadership to Poornima Shubhakar, Business Performance Director, Belozeroff continues to support the mentoring program during the transition.
Amgen’s early mentoring for women leaders came through the Senior Women’s Advisory Council (SWAC) which was focused on mentoring women in high level positions. Belozeroff saw an opportunity to allow women mentored through the SWAC program to pay it forward and broaden the reach of mentoring to more staff levels.
“Mentoring can help talent actualize their potential and strengthens our workforce and business,” says Belozeroff. “We have to start mentoring at entry levels to engage and cultivate talent to think about their development and aspire to reach for a level eight and above.”
Belozeroff worked with former SWAC mentees to build the more expansive WE2 mentoring program. The first Amgen Thousand Oaks cohort met in 2016 with four cohorts and 42 mentees. In 2020, that has grown to over 20 cohorts with more than 100 mentees open to both women and men.
Over the years, the investment Amgen and WE2 have made in the cultural conversation about parity and workforce development for women has paid off. Belozeroff says that in the last sixteen years, she has seen Amgen evolve from having an absence of women in executive leadership to now having over 30 percent representation, including Lori Johnson, the first female executive vice president in Amgen’s history.
“We should take pride in these accomplishments. Empowering our staff to take on new personal challenges and grow professionally is a significant component behind WE2,” says Belozeroff. “We have to be asking ourselves how should we be developing people so we can strengthen our workforce for the next 40 years? Mentoring is a way to be part of Amgen’s future.”
Growing Globally and Inclusively
With global WE2 chapters in every region with Amgen presence, the diversity of experiences and challenges for women provide new opportunities for supporting professional development. As the new WE2 Global Lead, Obeid is building a team to address more of these intersections. For the first time, WE2 leadership includes a Global Women of Color Lead and a Global Regional Lead. As part of that expansion, WE2 is supporting a mentoring program designed specifically for investing in women of color.
According to McKinsey & Company1, Black women are particularly underrepresented in senior leadership and are promoted more slowly than other groups of employees. One of the goals of a women of color mentoring program would be to help connect high performing talent with senior leadership, providing opportunities for advocacy and sponsorship.
Vivian Ikupolati-Adeniyi, senior manager, Business Performance, and Vanessa Nortey, manager, Business Performance, and WE2’s Global Women of Color Lead, have both benefitted from the WE2 mentoring program. Ikupolati-Adeniyi also continues to be a mentor. Now they are helping develop a mentoring program designed to address the specific needs of women of color. “Black women tend to be over-mentored, but under-developed and under-sponsored,” says Ikupolati-Adeniyi. “It’s important to create opportunities for us to have interactions with senior leaders that normalize our presence in those settings.”
“Women of color often don’t have the opportunities for building strong relationships with leaders who can open doors for you,” adds Nortey. “A program aimed at coaching women of color would also offer opportunities for participants to showcase their leadership potential by generating solutions to business challenges posed by senior leaders.”
As the WE2 mentoring program becomes more expansive and more particular in its design and reach, Obeid hopes to embed training and development workshops that will elevate the competencies and skills sets so that development areas are nourished to become strengths.
“WE2 has been a powerful force for developing women at Amgen. It’s important that we make sure all women are represented and benefit from WE2,” says Obeid. “And as Amgen’s largest Employee Resource Group, we want to set the example for diverse representation, making sure we are elevating the leadership and voices of Amgen’s women of color as we develop the leaders of Amgen’s future.”